Right now I’d say my current activity is “dipping my toes back into the water,” but so far I am finding that water inviting and comfortable. Northern Mirkwood is absolutely gorgeous and a complete 180 from the dreary landscape of Mordor. I’m very much looking forward to questing more there while trying to resist the urge to roll up an alt that I’ll never be able to fully level at this point.
For me, the wide-open beauty of Middle-earth’s landscape in this game is its biggest draw. It’s what makes this MMO “feel” so different than any others that I’ve played, and I am applauding the efforts of Standing Stone Games to continually add to it. I spent a full night doing nothing but touring around the Halls of the Elven-king and geeking out about its mentions from The Hobbit. It’s such a beautiful location and a great example of how the team is not phoning it in during LOTRO’s 11th year.
Speaking of the anniversary, LOTRO just hit its “elvenses” this past month. We enjoyed a couple of nice 11 year rewards, including a really cool pinwheel fireworks item, a new title, and an emote. These hit on a more playful tone for this year’s birthday versus the huge to-do that they made for the 10th.
I’m also very glad to see that SSG made good on its promise to continue to add to the anniversary scavenger hunt. It’s a brilliant concept for a long-running game and one that I would love to see carried over to other MMORPGs. The 11th year quests took us on a trip around ruins, a scavenger hunt given by Ents, and a visit to Gollum’s past. The reward of a Gollum festival mask was inspired, too.
And while it may be too late for this year’s anniversary event (unless it comes back for a reprise, which it sometimes does), the studio is going to patch in Eriador-only versions of the scavenger hunt cards so that lowbies can finish them. This was a huge point of contention last year, and it’s great to see SSG becoming more accommodating with it.
This seems like a good time to talk about the new patch, Update 22.2, which is currently on the test servers. Certainly the main topic of conversation with 22.2 is the start of class changes. SSG has said for a while now that it’s wanted to do a class balance pass, and I guess that time has come. While only six of the classes are currently getting adjustments, more are certain to follow.
It’s a lot to absorb and difficult without testing and live operation to see if these will be a net benefit or loss to the game. There’s certainly a lot of anxiety over the changes, particularly if they impact a class a certain player mains, and I’ve seen a lot of concern expressed over whether or not SSG really knows what it’s doing here. Many traits are being moved and tweaked, some classes are getting buffs, others are due for nerfs, and various builds are being realigned with a more specific purpose. I have no strong feelings one way or the other, but I would definitely appreciate some developer diaries on the subject.
Strangely enough, I was more interested in a few other additions and changes that were mentioned in the 22.2 notes. The studio is prepping some sort of new summer activity — a picnic — that’s going to be accessed in a similar fashion to skirmishes. That festival is also getting a redesigned Thrang boss fight. So some fun stuff coming this summer!
Did anyone else notice that there are a lot of changes being made to the Who and Open Fellowship panels, particularly in regard to looking for fellowship functionality? I’m wondering if this is laying down the groundwork for more extensive renovations to the whole LFF system, which has needed serious improvements and promotion for a while now.
Google, plot a course to the Shire
I’m also really glad to see that a new version of the “Google maps” Middle-earth is coming back. It was one of the best features of MyLotro back in the day and genuinely helped players navigate the world when the in-game maps proved to be too vague or lacking detail. I can see having this open all the time while I’m questing in the game. It’s a large enough world as it is without getting lost all of the time!
Ever since I was handed this column eight or nine years ago, I’ve had a loose tradition of reminiscing about LOTRO’s history around the time of each of its anniversaries. By now I fear that there’s really little I can say that I haven’t already (probably several times). It’s been a terrific — though not perfect — game with a great run, and I mark it up among the top five MMOs I’ve ever played. I’m truly happy to see that it is still growing, that there is still a passionate fan base, and that the whole game world has been used as an educational tool for the works of Tolkien.
So since I can’t recall anything new to share, why not turn over the mic to you? What have been your favorite or most vivid memories from LOTRO over the past 11 years? Share with us in the comments!