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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.