With major content updates only coming to Lord of the Rings Online two or three times a year now, it’s a big deal when one arrives. I found myself bouncing into kinship chat shouting, “Happy Patch Day!” when Update 26 arrived — and I meant it. Sure, it was pushed through public testing too fast with too few fixes, and sure, the lag was horrendous, but more story and more adventure is always something to celebrate.
Wells of Langflood
As I mentioned on the podcast earlier this week, LOTRO’s Middle-earth feels a lot more natural than the artificial zone themes of other MMOs. So while each area has a distinct feel, there’s also some overlap and natural flow from one place to the next. As such, Wells of Langflood — Update 26’s new zone — is more of a northern extension of Vales of Anduin than its own unique beast. It has a bit of North Ithilien in it as well, what with the deeper gorges that the branches of the river cause.
I’ve heard some griping about Wells of Langflood’s layout, mostly because of the steep cliffs and some difficulty in traversing the terrain, but I didn’t think it was that hard to navigate. The quests pretty much lead through the area in a common sense fashion, and the four milestones and stable masters are spread out nicely in this smaller region.
It is kind of small, I’ll admit. I was kind of amazed how quickly I went through it, but at least there was a good flow to it. And in a nice twist, the devs offered two ways to quest through the Wells. You can accept and follow the landscape questline, which proceeds from south to north, or you can jump on the next book in the epic, and start in the north and work your way south. I’ve yet to do the epic, but the zone quests are interesting (mostly about investigating the history of Rohan’s influence in the area).
Two areas are a definite highlight here. There’s what initially looked like a golf course in the middle of nowhere, but upon closer investigation, turned out to be a stencil of a giant white mare on a hill. It’s something that would look amazing from the air, if we could fly.
The other is the not-so-hidden Hobbit village of Lindelby. But that’s a subject for a different section.
So yeah, let’s talk Lindelby! Outside of Bree-land, the Shire, and lower Evendim, there isn’t a lot of Hobbit civilization in the game. A long while ago, the devs added another secret village called Maur Tulhau to Enedwaith that featured isolated, back country Hobbits. Lindelby is similar in its isolation and setup, although these River-hobbits seem more cultured and self-sufficient.
Lindelby is such a great treat to discover, both a flashback to the classic Shire questing (you even run a pie at one point, which had me chuckling) and a new vision in itself. The sprawling Hobbit village is tucked into the mountain valley and is just gorgeous to behold. Even better is the music and the personalities of these pastoral residents. These Hobbits may have never met their western cousins, but they share a simple life full of basic pleasures and silly frivolities.
Of course, it’s not just the novelty of getting a Hobbit settlement this late into the game that’s of great interest. Earlier this year at PAX East, the developers teased the development of a playable Hobbit variant, named River-hobbits, for fans. Presumably, this would be similar to how both the Elves and Dwarves have received a for-purchase race option that contained some different visuals, starting experiences, racials, and class options.
We haven’t heard anything about River-hobbits since then, but with the addition of Lindelby (near the river, mind you), many are speculating that this will be the starting village of this upcoming race. With that in mind, I was checking out how Lindelby’s Hobbits looked in comparison to the regular race. They’re not quite as chubby and round, but kind of like… pint-sized Scottish or Celtic settlers. I kind of like it, and my mind is hungry to know what their racials will be.
Could River-hobbits get another class option (or two)? So far, Hobbits have been denied the opportunity to be Captains, Champions, Lore-masters, and Rune-keepers. Any of those would be an exciting development.
Finally, let’s get off the subject of the update (for now) and talk about the big promotion that SSG has been running as of late. Ever since COVID-19 triggered a worldwide lockdown, many MMO studios have stepped up to bid for the attention of homebound players with various giveaways and events. For SSG, it was completely removing all of the content walls for both DDO and LOTRO, allowing anyone and everyone to play every zone, quest, and expansion for its MMOs.
The initial announcement of this really well-received, and with the crisis going on longer than previously thought, SSG made the surprising decision to extend the promotion from April 30th to May 31st. I kind of thought it wouldn’t do this, considering that it had just released two content updates that it could otherwise sell, but I’m very glad the studio went this route.
I think it’s smart for many reasons, the biggest of which is that price has been an overwhelming obstacle to getting into LOTRO and progressing through it. I’ve been very vocal about SSG needing to rethink its business model and tear down the content walls, and as such, these two months have become a glimpse of what that would actually look like. People are grateful, are flooding into the game, and are even subscribing.
I know that there are some players who are pushing hard to race through as much content as possible so as to not have to buy it come June 1st, but my hope is that SSG will look at this promotion-slash-experiment and see it as more beneficial and profitable for the long term and decide to keep quests and zones aside from the newest expansions completely free. After all, it’s how a vast majority of MMOs handle access to past content, and it’s high time that LOTRO made the switch.
In any case, we have a solid month of free questing ahead of us, and for those who are subscribed, there’s even the added bonus of a caryall to help with inventory woes. So happy questing in Middle-earth, no matter where you are, and make the most of the time you’re given!