LOTRO Legendarium: Lord of the Rings Online’s prettiest and ugliest places

    
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Depending on how you count it, at the present Lord of the Rings Online boasts somewhere around 45 zones — a vast improvement on the eight or nine original regions of Shadows of Angmar.

During all of that expansion, the design and art teams have put in a staggering amount of work to bring Middle-earth to life. We have areas of high civilization and places of low barbarity, as well as desolate wilderness. We have delved deep into Moria and galloped across the plains of Rohan. With all of those places, it’s to be expected that there is a range that flows between striking beauty and stark ugliness.

For fun, I thought I would look over all of the zones in the game and subjectively pull out the three regions that I thought were the most beautiful to behold as well as the three that were eyesores in the extreme. Take a look, so to speak, and then let me know what your picks are in the comments!

Most beautiful: The Shire

The simple pastoral beauty of the Hobbits’ home land has captivated LOTRO players ever since the game’s release. It got a minor touch-up last year, although in my opinion the Shire didn’t need it; it’s still a lovely stretch of farmland with a surprising amount of biome density, including bog, woods, hamlets, hills, and even a quarry.

Most ugly: Angmar

You can hear that sound in your head right now from looking at this picture, can’t you? Angmar is what depression looks like if you had to make an MMO zone out of it, and it’s among my least favorite places in the game. Everything is dreary, difficult, dead, and dull. Add an unsettling sky and that screeching warble on the soundtrack, and it just repels players more than attracts them.

Most beautiful: North Ithilien

In my opinion, LOTRO’s art team has been bringing out some of its absolute best and most unappreciated work in the last few years. I absolutely fell in love with North Ithilien when I first set foot in that region, as it reminded me of the best vistas from the American west. With tower pine trees, lush flowers, a clear blue sky, a crisp river running through, and a downward slope, there are so many picturesque views as to fill up a hard drive with screenshots.

Most ugly: The Wastes

Mordor as a rule is an ugly place, but perhaps the very ugliest of all is right on its doorstep with the Wastes. It’s a shocking transition out of North Ithilien, as players venture into this battle zone that’s kind of like a toxic radioactive dump. Mordor didn’t really spring for a lot of great interior decorators or architects, either, so don’t expect to see anything attractive in the few structures that dot this landscape.

Most beautiful: West Rohan

“What blasphemy is this!” you rage, flexing your fingers in preparation to write an 800-word treatise on why I should have included Lothlorien, Ered Luin, or another personal favorite here. And while there are several other pretty zones, for me I have to go with West Rohan as one of my favorite places when it comes to the eye candy. I love the wide open plains, the log cabins of their towns, and especially the valley camp of Dunharrow.

Most ugly: Talath Úrui

I was torn between the aftermath of Mount Doom’s explosion and the tree-stripped Isengard, but in the end Talath Úrui won out for being nothing more or less than yet another MMO lava zone. I had lava zones. They strain my eyes, make me feel claustrophobic, and have nothing to look at other than red, black, and grey. I couldn’t be done with this place soon enough, a feat that was made more difficult by its horrid layout and lack of stable points or milestones.

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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ratstewcruz

I really love Forochel. Some of my best screenshots are there, me on my proud steed silhouetted against a snowy vista, with aurora borealis in the background. Probably took more screenshots there than anywhere else in game except Rohan.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Rocky Mountains and snow is in my blood.

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George Wilson III

A great article. Picking the prettiest places in LOTRO is hard because there are so many. As for the ugliest, you nailed it. Even as old as this game is my wife and I will sometimes just stop to admire the beauty.

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teppic

There’s the Trollshaws too. It’s often overlooked, but it’s a beautiful zone, and really quite big. With alternative areas to do (e.g. Evendim) people don’t tend to spend much time there and miss out on some of the higher level sections of it.

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Bannex

I need to reinstall this game. I just don’t think I can push through the mounted combat stuff… it’s so sloppy

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Anstalt

My favourite was the North Downs. Had similar rolling green hills to the Shire but with the added benefit of of more variety, a cool orc camp, the dangers of Fornost and great big shaggy Aurochs!

My least favourite / ugly is Mirkwood (i count it all as one zone as it was so small). Mirkwood stopped being a virtual world and became a horrible gamified pile of garbage. It didn’t fit with the rest of the game world, didn’t have the same feeling which is why it stands out as being so ugly in my mind.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

They ever update player models?

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Louie

Yes, I believe for every race at this point (maybe minus Hobbits?)

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2Ton Gamer

I always liked Lothlorien as well.

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Hirku

that screeching warble on the soundtrack

Haha, oh yeah! I discovered that this week when I went into the passage between North Downs and Angmar to kill some worms. My first taste of Really Big Bad Evil Soundtrack.

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Phubarrh

West Rohan definitely took my breath away.

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