LOTRO Legendarium: Taking a fresh look at Lord of the Rings Online’s early zones

    
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One of the unexpected benefits of jumping onto Lord of the Rings Online new progression servers is that it’s giving many of us a refreshed look at old favorite zones that we haven’t visited in many years (save for the occasional festival). Over the past month I’ve been exclusively dwelling in Eriador, romping across the Shire, Bree-land, and other old haunts.

The fun of this is that in addition to remembering places and quests I had long forgotten, I’m also discovering new stories and vistas that I had missed the first time around. The legendary server format means that there’s really no reason to rush to the top, so there’s more psychological freedom to slow down and simply explore. One of my missions this time around is to complete all of the quests in a zone, even if I don’t need them for rep or even XP. I’m certainly not regretting this decision.

So in today’s column, I’ll be offering some observations on the first seven LOTRO zones that we’ve all been going through on this server. What’s your favorite?

The Shire

As both a Hobbit and a fan of the game, I was nervous to head back to the Shire and see what Standing Stone Games had done with its recent touch-up of the zone. Turns out… that it was more or less how I remembered it, albeit with more sunflowers. Lots of sunflowers. Must’ve been a good crop.

The Shire still has the largest collection of non-combaty quests in the game and is perfect if you want to indulge in the goofy simplicity of Hobbit culture. And yes, I ran the pies. And the mail. And the bees.

Ered Luin

Apart from the beauty of the Elvish area and a welcome blast of winter weather up near the Dwarves, I continue to be less-than-impressed with this two-for-one zone. It doesn’t have as much of an identity as the other ones do, and both the Elvish and Dwarf sections feel really rushed.

Bree-land

I don’t think I ever really consciously noticed this before I was going back through Bree-land, but this zone is huge. Like, really, really immense. It’s about the size of three Lone-lands, and when you look at it as a whole, you’ll see why. It’s got the Man lowbie area, plus the major town hub of Bree, plus the joint 15-20 leveling area, plus Buckland (AKA Mini-Shire), plus the Old Forest, plus the Barrow-downs. And a lot of the northern and western regions offer a lot of off-the-beaten path wilderness that doesn’t get a lot of player traffic.

Lone-lands

Lone-lands is a bit more streamlined and accessible than what it used to be, but it’s not that exciting of a zone visually or narratively. Aside from Weathertop, it’s a lot of brown and ruins and red swamp. I think it gives players a feeling of being away from civilization for the first time in the game, and that’s important, but I ended up being very middle-of-the-road on this place. At least the red swamp had some decent challenge to it and resulted in a lot of players teaming up to quest and survive.

North Downs

This is such a strange zone. It can be bypassed if you like but probably shouldn’t. North Downs is notable for its large and expansive regions, of which it’s made up of about three (west, central, and east). I do like how it has three of the four cultures in it and briefly examines their differences and connections, but very few of the stories gripped me outside of the haunted battlefield of Fornost and a treasure hunter who had gone mad.

Evendim

Good old Everswim wasn’t as swimmy as it used to be before the boats. What it continues to be, however, is absolutely dense with quests. Egads, I can’t think of another region in the game with as many quests as this zone, and it took me the better part of a week just to get through Evendim alone. Fortunately it’s a pretty good-looking place with some cool narrative threads, some Hobbit culture, and loads of Rangers before they all flub to their deaths later on in the game. Could have done without the Northcotton Farms maze, however.

Trollshaws

The autumnal feel of Trollshaws makes this a must-visit even if you weren’t required to go here (which you are). I feel that by the time I get here, I’ve gone through all the seasons of the game and am in one of the best there is. It’s not the best zone in terms of quest layout, but I don’t really mind since it means that I get to meander through beautiful foliage and see a few Lord of the Rings tourist attractions.

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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Sleepy

I really liked some of the subtle structural work they did with Bree Land, like far Chetwood connecting directly with the Chetwood lowbie zone. There are a few areas like that that have been de-walled to make them seem more natural. The Old Forest seems to start more naturally in a few places too rather than going straight from grass to an impenetrable wall of trees.

Just finishing up Evendim and about to head to the trollshaws with my captain, really looking forward to it.

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Neurotic

Hey Justin, have you ever had a chuckle at the thought that Bree-land is named after the big boss? :D

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Bannex

If there ever was a game that deserved a remaster…

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Ironwu

I certainly agree with you here. That and new sever hardware/netcode. Heck, I would settle for just the new server hardware/netcode and the ‘fixing’ of the NPCs that walk around looking like they are carrying a load in their pants. :)

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aYates

I’m looking forward to exploring some of those zones for the first time.

I really encourage newbies(like me) to give this game a shot. It’s high quality and full of content. The game looks older, yes, but it doesn’t look bad and it runs well on most cpu’s.

I’ve just been trying different classes, so far…finally settled on Dwarf Champion..it’s fun, hack ‘n slash, heavy armor, so good for survivability while exploring Middle-Earth.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Totally agree about Ered Luin. It’s lacklustre. I don’t level there at all anymore. Even if I have a dwarf or elven character, I hot foot it to the Shire as soon as I can get to a horse.

I generally go back in the mid-30s or so, because it is rich in easy grinding for virtues. And then again in the 50s for Sarnur. And that’s it.

The moment you cross the bridge into the Trollshaws, that music starts up, those stirring chords that set the mood for the whole region. This is sort of the gear-check zone for LOTRO. Filled with elites and dangerous mobs, it provides just a bit more challenge than other zones and makes sure you’re ready for what’s to come.

Cadaver
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Cadaver

Bree-land is massive. I’ve been playing through the Shire and Bree this week, and came across the Nen Harn quests. I couldn’t recall this area from the last time I played Lotro. I’m pretty sure I never previously ‘discovered’ that narrow strip of land that takes you round the lakeside and into the Lone Lands. Finding that made my day.

I really love that this game has these areas of wilderness that more progression-focused players would view as pointless. There’s little reason to visit them but I’m really glad that they’re there. My only concern at this point (having never played past Shadows of Angmar) is that the rest of Middle Earth will not have had the same degree of care and attention that was lavished on these early zones.

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Dividion

If you’ve never played past SoA, then you’re in for a real treat if you ever delve into the vast caverns of Moria and then get to experience the golden woods of Lothlorien. Gondor also has some beautiful zones, and the wicked feel of Mordor is spot on, so much so that you’ll want to take breaks from it and do other stuff for a bit. Thankfully the new Dale and Lonely Mountain areas look fantastic and can provide that relief. Rohan is pretty much as expected, with vast rolling hills, but it’s also packed with quests, and a great progression of hubs. Also, rebuilding an entire town via daily quests is really rewarding and unlocks good class gear. That’ll be more important on the new legendary server because you kind of outlevel it before you can finish rebuilding the town on the regular servers.

Cadaver
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Cadaver

Thanks! That’s exactly what I wanted to hear :)

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Lucky Jinx

Well, I have some good news for you. I don’t play anymore, but used to up until Gondor. They do maintain the same care and attention. Moria alone is amazing, although some people complained it being too dark, but then again, it’s Moria. Take it for what it is.

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Ironwu

Yes, Moria is really one of the most fantastic expansions in all of the MMOs I have ever played. It is not for everyone of course, because of the nature of the environment. But it is large, cohesive, and has a ton of interesting things to do. It is as if the expansion is just one huge dungeon. It is unique.

Cadaver
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Cadaver

Cool. One of the reasons I’m leveling up a couple of classes in parallel is that I think the environment of Moria might not favour my hunter’s MO i.e. I need space to kite. My guardian is slow going in the landscape, but I expect him to do well in Moria (and he’s a dwarf ofc)

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Barantor

There are a lot of little ‘out of the way’ places in breeland that you miss if you run through where it guides you and don’t really step off the path. Also a lot of things going on with class quests that happen here.

Nen Harn is up there, but also the Far Chetwood that is only really seen during the ride from Saeredan to Candaith. The Starmere lake, unseen by most and without a quests as well as the ruins of Ost Barandor high above to the west.

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Viktor Budusov

Fortunately Turbine/SSG is still good at worldbuilding. Moria is incredible, Rohan is huge and vast, Gondor is majestic and in war, and so on, and so on.