LOTRO Legendarium: Ranking LOTRO’s expansions from worst to best

    
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LOTRO Legendarium: Ranking LOTRO’s expansions from worst to best

Every once in a while, it’s a lot of fun to sit down and rank things in your favorite geeky franchises. A while back, I did a ranked list of Lord of the Rings Online’s festivals, a list that is now obsolete due to the addition of a new festival and the merging of two others. But still — that was fun!

So why not do a list for the game’s expansions? That sounded like a fun exercise and a sure way to unnecessarily upset you as a reader. But seriously, I have given this a lot of thought, and I’d be interested in your thoughts on it and your own ranked list (so feel free to comment on this!).

For this ranking, we’re going to start at the bottom of the group and move toward the top. I am not going to include anything outside of named expansion packs, as much as I’d like to make Gondor an “unofficial expansion” at this point. So here we go, the seven expansions from worst to best.

Swanky.

Worst: Mordor

There is no doubt that Standing Stone Games was very ambitious with Mordor, creating the notorious land of the enemy post-One Ring destruction and roping back in composer Chance Thomas, but the end result was the mother of all volcano zones. It was ugly and oppressive, it had far too few stable masters, and it was a long, trying slog to get through. It definitely didn’t help that SSG refused to grant players the new race, High Elves, as part of the standard edition.

Rise of Isengard

Mordor is the only expansion of the game I actively dislike, so these next couple entries are ones that I have mixed feelings about. Rise of Isengard was serviceable but honestly not that exciting. We mucked about with various barbaric tribes for a while, got a meme or two out of the deal, and called it a day. The best thing about this expansion was becoming a prisoner of Isengard for a memorable stretch, although some folks really hate that part.

Helm’s Deep

The problem with Helm’s Deep wasn’t its zones or story. In fact, getting western Rohan was a treat, with great scenery, Edoras, and some fantastic storylines. The problem here was that the studio went all-in on epic battles for this expansion’s climax, and that system bombed pretty much as hard as anything in the game ever did. The devs expected us to grind epic battles for jewelry, but after going through them just to progress the epic story, I think many of us said, “Thanks but no thanks.”

At least as of 2020, we have the option to skip these battles, so that does help address this weak flaw.

Minas Morgul

I really debated putting Helm’s Deep above this one, but I’m going to give the edge to LOTRO’s most recent expansion because it really is quite good overall. It’s Mordor 2.0 in a way, done with a tighter focus and a fascinating crawl through a city of the dead, coupled with a trip back in time to see what Mordor looked like before its fall. The expansion also added a new race, the Stout-Axe Dwarves, and included that with all the editions.

Siege of Mirkwood

OK, if there’s going to be a controversial entry on this list, it’s sure to be this one. Some people really, really do not like Siege of Mirkwood, claiming that the studio created half of an expansion. And that’s true: This pack only really covered one zone. But the reason I have it as my #3 pick is that it’s a fantastic zone with a lot of variety, great scenery, and a strong story. Plus, this expansion added the skirmish system, which actually did offer a whole lot in terms of replayability and fun.

Riders of Rohan

While mounted combat never rose to the expectations that were set before it, Riders of Rohan succeeded on nearly every other front. It brought us into this wild, open land, made us fall in love with its beauty and culture, and delivered some of the game’s best music to date. It was such a terrific addition to LOTRO as a whole and a significant rise in quality over the lackluster Isengard chapter.

Mines of Moria

Yet for the top spot, I’m going to have to give it to Mines of Moria. LOTRO’s first expansion tackled one of the books’ most famous locales, and it did it in a way that we’ve never seen in video games before. In fact, it’s probably still the biggest fully underground realm an MMO has ever developed. Top that with the (controversial yet back then, lauded) legendary item system and the Rune-keeper and Warden classes, and you’ve got an expansion worthy of the crown.

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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jimthomasUS
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jimthomasUS

Great list. Mirkwood was my last expansion in lotro. I actually loved the horseback combat as a lm in Riders of Rohan.

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2Ton Gamer

You forgot the latest Expansion: The Fall of the Datacenters! Easily the worst expansion they’ve released yet…

Anyway, could not agree more with you about Moria being #1. Mirkwood was okay, and more like a quest pack (and by price if I remember right) so I do not consider that so much an Expansion as a new zone, but the raid and 3/6 mans were fun. Rise of Isengard is what made me leave LOTRO for the first time. I did beta for this and remember completely not liking the direction of being a prisoner which completely took me out of the mood and love for the game.

Moria was the end of an era for LOTRO and the start of the decline for Turbine. By today’s (SSG) standards it would have been enough and considered a financial success, but I think too that it’s only as good as it was because Turbine put more $ into it. It was after it did not kill WoW with more numbers that budgets were noticeably cut and we wound up with Turbine Points and their F2P model. I wonder what LOTRO we would have gotten had that OG team remained together and the game had gone as aggressively later on.

People can say what they want and feel like because the game continues today it is a success and to that I grant them but there’s a big difference between thriving and limping along and I cannot help but think that the fruit the server issues are bearing today stem from the seeds sowed back then once the team was split and LOTRO was defunded.

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draugris

For me clearly Moria was the worst expansion ever, I hated to be under a mountain constantly. Best expansion also clearly Mordor, I loved what they did with the difficulty.

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2Ton Gamer

I don’t think it was being underground so much as the drought of content that made those of us who played this live HAVE to be underground so long. Lothlorien did not launch with it like we all thought and the drought was real.

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draugris

Idk, I just did not enjoy Moria at all and was happy when I could leave the mountain. Lorien otoh was lovely to me. But that´s maybe because I play an elf.

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Roger Melly

I loved Moria and Mirkwood. Hated the Riders of Rohan to the point I almost gave.

Just a quick point its blooming Mordor! Justin must be the only person on the planet which any more than passing interest in the fantasy Genre to be unaware that Mordor is the embodiment of “ugly and oppressive”. We are in a land that has been corrupted by Sauron its hardly going to be sunshine and daisies lol.

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Vincent Clark

Agreed, Moria was the best, most immersive expansion this game has ever produced. Ah, the good old days…

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Sleepy

I’ve been playing on and off since beta, and I run aground on Riders of Rohan every time. My highest toon is 90 or so, and I just find going from hub to identikit hub in Rohan hugely tedious.

For this reason I have an awful lot of alts.

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Roger Melly

It gets better after Rohan but that expansion is a slog .

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Michael18

My Mordor play through is among the best times I had in an MMO.

But I guess this was at least in part the result of a fortunate coincidence: 1) just at that time I was in the mood for some slightly more “difficult” content that requires a more careful, methodical approach, and 2) I played Mordor on and shortly after release when the zones were PACKED with people and everyone was willing to group spontaneously and help each other out. If you found yourself in an area you could not sol0, you just had to wait a minute or two and someone showed up who was on the same quest as you. Often, people even stayed a bit longer in an area just to help others finishing their quests.

Compared to that, playing Mordor long after release must have been much more difficult and frustrating, I imagine.

Also, they did a great job at giving the zones a varied look and feel and had some interesting lore, IMHO.

And finally, when arriving in Mordor after so many years of playing the game, it was great to see that Mordor is so different from any other content in the game. If it had just been Rohan, etc. with a different skin it would not have done justice to the source material.

Having said all this, I know many people strongly dislike Mordor and I can see why. People who play LOTRO for the stories and some laid-back questing are the heart and soul of its community, so I think SSG should somehow implement an option to shorten or skip Mordor.

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Vincent Clark

The taint of the introduction of loot boxes and the fact that the entire leveling experience was designed around them ruined Mordor for me. It was intentionally designed that you bought keys to open loot boxes to get gear that made the experience in Mordor less tedious. The majority of the quest gear given through the whole leveling process was drastically inferior to that you could get by just opening a loot box. This is where the newly branded SSG showed you who they were–and the monetisation got worse from there.

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MrReaper

1. Moria (best)
⬇️
⬇️
⬇️
2. Helms, Rohan, Isen (All average and brought something I liked for awhile to the game)
3. Mirkwood, ok more like a quest pack then a expansion.
4. Mordor (just ok sitting on the very thin line of 1 ply toilet paper but only for one toon)
5. After one toon _ Mordor (poo, energy sucking and boring. 🌋🌋🌋

Can’t rate Minas, paid for it and never done it. Thanks Mordor.

Anything level 1-60 in lotro is an amazing adventure. The instances in angmar and moria shit all over anything released since. CD is the best group area in any game. Rift is #1 raid. Turtle was a great add on for a quick 12 man.

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Louie

I’ll never forget the experience of Moria before they nerfed its length. Huge zones just like you’re used to with LOTRO, but all indoors and death around every turn. It was oppressive in a good way that Mordor wasn’t even close to. The areas were all very distinct and different, and when you finally exited after spending so much time in it… one of the most unique feelings in my history of playing MMOs.

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Tobasco da Gama

I would rate Rise of Isengard a lot higher, probably around where you have Minas Morgul (which I haven’t played). But other than that, I find nothing to disagree with here.

Mordor is unquestionably the worst expansion LOTRO has ever done. It’s gotta be up there with the worst MMO expansions ever. It single-handedly killed my 7 year streak with the game, and I haven’t managed to get back into it since despite multiple attempts to struggle through to the other side.