LOTRO Legendarium: Looking back at the road we traveled in 2017

    
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“The road goes ever on” is one of the most well-known phrases from Lord of the Rings, alluding to the ongoing journey of the characters, life in general, and even the fandom that poured out of this franchise. That road took us through 2017 and one of the most interesting years for Lord of the Rings Online since the MMO’s debut in 2007.

After all, this was the first year that saw Standing Stone Games handling the title since the studio’s formation in 2016. We lived through the 10th anniversary, went to Mordor, and lived to tell the tale. It was a year of ups and downs, of mistakes and successes, and one of continued life for LOTRO.

As we walk down the road and get ready to cross the border from 2017 into 2018, I felt it would be appropriate to look back at the year that was and the road we traveled. What great memories did you make in the game — or the game made for you — this year?

January set the tone for the year with a roadmap that took us to the expansion and beyond. Massively OP spoke with Standing Stone Games about the formation of the new studio and its direction with LOTRO. We heard a little bit about the upcoming Wastes zone, All VIP subbers enjoyed the gift of a free premium mount, the Steed of the Eldar, as part of a push to get players to subscribe. I talked with the Tolkien Professor about his new in-game lecture series and posted my wish list for 2017. MOP’s Eliot chose LOTRO for his CMA series this month, beginning his journey as an Elf, complaining about a depressing road trip, and calling out a few nice things. LOTRO’s sister game, Asheron’s Call, was taken offline by Turbine. Testing commenced on the housing improvements. The month ended with a shocker, as SSG revealed that most of the expansion would take place after the destruction of the One Ring.

Housing improvements finally came to the game in Update 19.3 in February, and I was thrilled to explore the possibilities that these offered. SSG gave the community a signal boost with the debut of its weekly LOTRO Beacon. Eliot wrapped up his Choose My Adventures journeys in LOTRO, and I cobbled together a list of 10 things we knew about the Mordor expansion.

The Spring Festival arrived in March to ward off impatience over the anniversary and expansion secrets. There was also the addition of the Wastes in Update 20, which brought players to the very doorstep of Mordor. I was still a little annoyed at all of the tech issues that plagued the game and gave voice to that, especially following the patch’s rollout (some players couldn’t even subscribe to the game during this time). One player shared how to farm 570 LOTRO points in under three hours, and I whipped up a guide to starting fresh in the game in 2017.

April was all about LOTRO’s 10th anniversary. I interviewed SSG’s Rob Ciccolini about the occasion, Chance Thomas talked about his score, and the game rolled out its brand-new scavenger hunts (30 in all, spread over two-and-a-half months). Not all players were happy, as some lowbies felt discriminated against due to the wide-ranging requirements of the quests. I mused about how it was OK to be second fiddle to the famous Fellowship during the course of the game and shared 10 little things I love about LOTRO.

Players continued to enjoy the 10th anniversary quests throughout May, and the MMO Book Club made the game its temporary home. We got the welcome word that Composer Chance Thomas was slated to return to score Mordor and a multi-boss raid was confirmed to be on the way as well. A small patch at the end of the month supposedly laid the foundation for the forthcoming expansion. My travels took me through the conclusion of the Bingo Boffin questline, which became one of my favorites in the game.

The long silence over Mordor finally ended in June. Standing Stone Games finally revealed all of the key information about what the expansion would contain, and testing on Mordor was in full swing by the end of the month. Meanwhile, I gushed about Mirkwood and pontificated on seven abandoned features. Players uncovered a secret anniversary quest and enjoyed the release of the 10th anniversary soundtrack.

Swanky.

Both SSG and the LOTRO community was gearing up in July for Mordor. Pre-orders went up, and I was not alone in calling them flat-out ridiculous. The studio prepared players for the next chapter of the epic story, expanded the pre-order FAQ, educated fans on the light and shadow mechanic, and explained the allegiance system. We also got our first look at the High Elves. I wondered what we would find when we did head into the infamous country. There was even a new wallpaper! The Summer Festival and Winterstock IX took place this month, giving antsy players something to do. The month ended with a bit of a bummer, as Mordor was hit with a short delay that kept it from releasing on July 31st.

Mordor finally arrived in August, taking us into the land where evil never sleeps. The developers were aware that Mordor’s gloom would become an issue, which is why that the game keeps sending you out of the country. In honor of Mordor’s launch, I took a trip back through all of the game’s expansions to date. Update 21.1 came along to offer quality-of-life improvements, especially to the High Elf race. The month ended with a brisk outing at the Farmer’s Faire.

September continued the theme of shining a spotlight on Mordor’s big baddies. I wondered if Mordor was too difficult and speculated a few places that LOTRO could go after Mordor — and some of this turned out to be true just two months later! Players brought back the Harnkegger Games, which were basically insane Olympics. Testing continued for Mordor’s upcoming dungeon cluster.

Halloween and the return of Bilbo’s Haunted Burrow made October a fun time to game. There was a new twist to the holiday in the form of a Bingo Boffin questline that left us with a tantalizing cliffhanger. The studio added best-in-slot gear to lockboxes and then defended the moveUpdate 21 arrived and caused no end to headaches, even with a new dungeon cluster. SSG seriously bungled some dungeon gear’s prices, making the situation even worse with a mid-month patch. The studio did give interesting insight into why it destroyed the ring early on in the expansion. I gave the MMO a report card and reviewed the Mordor soundtrack.

Standing Stone Games surprised us all in November with a state of the game post that included a preview of the major content additions coming in 2018. The studio also finally made High Elves and Mordor available for LOTRO points and the Mordor soundtrack went on sale. We got word that Amazon was making a Lord of the Rings TV series, although it is supposedly a prequel to the books.

Finally in December, Update 21.3 arrived but initially lacked the raid that made up its centerpiece. I wondered how the game could fix its grouping problems. The Yule Festival returned with a few new rewards (including those majestic Winter Elk mounts). And to end the year on a high note, LOTRO won “Best Holiday Event” and “MMO Theme Song of the Year” during Massively OP’s annual awards!

What were your favorite updates, memories, and experiences in LOTRO from 2017? Share them in the comments and see you all in the new year!

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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MesaSage

I bought the High Elf. With points. That is all.

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zoward

It absolutely kills me that SSG created an awesome well done, faithful representation of everything about Mordor, totally nailed it … and it just isn’t much fun to play. A week after I got it, I found myself spending the bulk of my playtime doing festival quests.

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BalsBigBrother

I had a lot of hopes for Mordor and was very excited about its release when I first heard about it. Sadly things didn’t exactly go to plan with regard to the reality of the content and its really not hitting any of my own personal fun spots. At this point in time I consider it a waste of my LP’s that I spent on it.

I hope that SSG will take another look at how they set Mordor up and maybe walk back some of the decisions that they took that are actively making it harder to go through that content if you didn’t get in on it right at the start.

Fortunately Lotro has a large depth of content so I still have plenty of things to sink my teeth into and with the exception of Mordor I really do enjoy any time I spend in the game.

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cruzader

I’m going to cheat a little and mention something that was actually added in 2016 but which I didn’t experience until 2017: the zone of North Ithilien. After so much doom and gloom for so long, and the excitement-turned-monotony of the Minas Tirith grind, North Ithilien was one of the biggest breaths of fresh air I’ve had in the game for a long time. The beauty of the zone reminded me of playing in Eriador, where it feels more like there’s a nice world to be explored. I even didn’t mind picking up all those flowers, at least until I discovered that by the time I had enough to trade for sweet gear, that sweet gear was about to become obsolete by later zones anyway.

Unfortunately, North Ithilien leads to The Wastes and then Mordor, another long stretch of doom and gloom. I understand it had to be that way for the story, but I’m really hoping that we get more zones of beauty like North Ithilien in the post-Mordor content.