LOTRO Legendarium: Ranking Lord of the Rings Online’s Eriador zones from worst to best

    
27

Probably like many of you, I have gone through the initial zones in Lord of the Rings Online more times than I can count (confession: I can only count to eight). And probably like you, I have formed very strong opinions on which of these older regions are better and which have aged like moldy cheese.

So in a similar fashion to how I ranked all of LOTRO’s expansions to date, today I want to organize a worst-to-best list of Eriador’s 15 (!) zones with my personal observations on what makes them work and what makes them stink. I will note that I’m not going to include Ettenmoors on this list, as it’s not a PvE leveling zone and, as such, I don’t really care about it.

Worst: Angmar

I think that the “worst” and “best” of this list are the obvious picks for many in the community, and I don’t see a reason to go against that. Angmar is, by far, one of the worst zones in the game, both by atmosphere and by design. It’s a depressing region with a shrill soundtrack, hard-to-navigate regions, and deeds that laugh in the face of your optimism. I don’t even feel like it has any good stories there whatsoever, which might’ve bumped it up a ranking or two.

Nan Curunír

If this name doesn’t strike a bell, that’s probably because you’re used to thinking of this area as “Isengard.” It’s pretty much Isengard plus a stretch of bombed-out land, and it’s all hard on the eyes. Isengard may be very iconic and key to some of the books’ — and MMO’s — major scenes, but I’ve never, ever liked going here, either in the “before” or “after” versions.

North Downs

North Downs is a huge region that, to me, lacks any identity. It’s just… there. It’s an older zone with Fornost, that Ranger city you have to go to a million times, an Elf refuge for some reason, some Dwarves, and I think one cranky ghost. It’s not absolutely terrible, but it languishes due to its age and scattershot approach.

Gap of Rohan

Despite the name, this tiny stretch of land isn’t in Rohan proper, so we have to count it here. But it is too small to register as “good” or “bad,” so I’m plopping it here.

Misty Mountains

I always think that I like Misty Mountains more than I actually do, mostly because I have a soft spot for the Hobbit book as well as snow zones. But this is another example of an older zone that could use some sprucing up because it doesn’t really offer that much other than a trip to Goblin-town. And I hate Goblin-town.

Dunland

Dunland is, to me, “the” Rise of Isengard zone. You know, it’s that one that has a dozen clans that you have to appease one at a time before moving on to the next one. It gets some points for being slightly more modern in design, but I still don’t enjoy being there very much. And the Falcon Clan can go dunk its head in an icy bucket of cow urine for making me do all of those chores and then turning on me.

Lone-lands

Now here’s an example of a Day One zone that’s actually fared pretty well. It’s gotten a bit of additional development over the years, but really, Lone-lands today looks strikingly familiar to its original incarnation. I think it works well as a gateway to a wilder, more sparsely populated world, and summiting Weathertop is always a geeky pilgrimage that I like to make.

Evendim

Yup, good ol’ Everswim! It’s far less annoying now that there are boats to cross the lake, which definitely helped change public perception on this zone. I do appreciate the beauty of this lakeside region, although there’s too much futzing about in Annúminas for my tastes.

Eregion

Most players know Eregion as the Moria prologue area, and that is certainly a big part of its identity. But I do enjoy its no-frills questing and traveling, both of which is never that difficult nor frustrating. And there certainly is a big thrill in approaching the gates of Moria for the first time on any character.

Trollshaws

Autumn in a zone! Trollshaws is quite gorgeous in its own way, especially when you get down into Rivendell but even before it. I adore the foliage, the tie-ins to the Hobbit, and the wilder feel. It always seems like there are more places to explore in this region than I’ve ever properly seen.

Ered Luin

I’m ranking Ered Luin as the lowest of the three intro zones for its split identity and rather skimpy questing. It’s not the place I would ever advise players go to right out of the gate, but it is nice to visit for some screenshotting and easy deed hunting.

Enedwaith

It’s weird to look back and see that the lead-up zone to Rise of Isengard was actually better than the zones that came in that expansion, but it’s true. Enedwaith is a surprisingly good region with memorable quests, diverse biomes, and plenty of eye candy for travelers.

Bree-land

My biggest complaint about Bree-land has to be that it’s too big for an early spot in the game. It’s kind of like three zones in one: eastern Bree-land, western Bree-land, and the town of Bree proper (plus Archet, if you want to count a fourth). That’s a whole lot to get through before moving on.

That said, it’s a really good huge zone with so many excellent locales, from the Prancing Pony to the Old Forest to the Barrow Downs. It’s got a warm and welcoming feel to it, making it a perfect place to funnel all of the leveling races together after their separate starting areas.

Forochel

You either really love or really hate Forochel, and I am a lover. Middle-earth’s version of the arctic is so strikingly different than the lands that came before and after it that it arrests the imagination. The culture there, the igloos, the mammoths, the northern lights, the icy bay… all of it makes for a frigid but fun trip to the far north.

Best: The Shire

Likewise, there are people who really dislike the Shire for its huge quest density and fewer combat quests. But it has to top this list because it’s so very Hobbity that thousands of players have fallen in love with the region and continue to gush about it even now.

Factoring the pastoral sights, the gorgeous music, the many taverns, the hilarious quests, and the sheer number of towns and vistas to visit, the Shire is a region that had a whole lot of developer love poured into it — and it shows. And let’s not forget, this is also where we get to meet and start our adventures with Bingo Boffin!

What’s your ranking of Eriador’s zones? Let me know in the comments!

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.
Advertisement

No posts to display

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Viktor Budusov

Aaaand with new update 29 huge Breeland becomes even bigger :)

I can’t agree with that Angmar ranking. For me it’s one of the best regions. It’s really big dark evil country. Though it’s quite hard to say which maps are worser or better. They all are so gorgeous!

Reader
Sleepy

God, I hate Dunland with a passion. It seems to go on for ever, and if one more fur-wearing barbarian calls me a duvodiad I’m going on a killing spree.

Er…more of a killing spree than usual.

Reader
moondog548

I generally agree with your assessments with the severe exception of Angmar. Angmar is easily one of my Top 5 zones in the whole game. Yes it’s a blasted hellscape of ash, sulfur, fetid-flooded-tombs, dragonkind-encrusted crags, spider-infested caves, and orcs-orcs-orcs! But, it’s all of those things at once and SO MUCH MORE. There are several thriving human settlements! The Enemy has 2 huge bustling settlements including the only major metropolis in all of Eriador!

It’s one of the most diverse and content-rich of all the zones while being thematically consistent as the good (and even just the neutral) struggling to cling to existence in the very heartland of absolute evil.

Stormsong Minstrel
Reader
Stormsong Minstrel

Evendim. Probably the best. Relaxing, green atmosphere, some ore to harvest, some lakes to swim
Forochel. This wonderfull Aurora borealis! Not so wonderfull xenophobic Lossoth…yet names in Fin language.
Bree-land. Just because it’s Bree, social hub, busy place to find someone to rp (for those who do…not me) or just offer help. Or watch some Kinship marching, orchestras playing.
Eregion. The famous rainbow at night! Quest wise, nothing so special. Gap before Moria.
Ered Luin. Just because a home to my beloved Dwarves. Lots of nice, wise and strong Dwarves. What one could want more? Yes, maybe more Dwarb beer and more games where you have to knock out your opponent. Elves does not matter, of course.
Isengard. Probably due to iconic tower. Not so iconic prison fetish, kill 10 rats and see majestic tower destroyed (late)
<other regions – they are just not sweet nor sour. Lone lands, a grumpy desolated place with little civilization. Trollshaws with its paths that you have to memorize. Isengard
Shire. Yeah, region infested with Hobbitses who enjoy spoiling every second of your life.
Angmar. Just worst. Quest there, then never return, unless lower level needs help.

Reader
Jeremy Hélix

Mine is Enedwaith, due to the diversity of terrain and the great storyline. I’m not a big fan of the Shire due to the endless “Run here” question, but visually and atmospherically it would be near the top. I think I’d have to say my second choice would be North Downs… after the revamp it runs a lot more smoothly.

jimthomasUS
Reader
jimthomasUS

Oh the Shire! I have so much respect for dev’s who can build non-stabby content. Perhaps that was favorite thing about LotRO, farming in the Shire as my Hobbit Minstrel, smoking pipe weed and chatting with friends.

Trollshaws is an easy number 2 with all of the hidden stories and it was always where I’d die on chicken runs. Such a great game.

Reader
Lethia Myune

The biggest hurdle for me in the game has been Forochel so i have zero good things to say about it…huge white with a lot of running in between seeing uninteresting heaps of…white. I am excited that i got over it lol. I quit the game for 2 years because of it so yeah…either really love it or really hate it sounds very correct and i’m a true hater lmao. Now i am finally in Eregion and i love it, so many pretty colours and chill questing. Angmar was bleak and most of the quests were for a fellowship so it messed a lot with my leveling speed and it’s been impossible to find enough people willing to do them. A lot of people around but none cared about those quests so i ended up practically cleaning Forochel to level up as a f2p player with no rested xp. It was…rough lol. Now i am happy for Eregion and the prospect of hitting Moria is exciting but i’m in no rush…just questing in the elfish region is perfect for now.

Lord of the Rings Online  Shadow of Angmar Screenshot 2021.02.07 - 22.21.14.31.png
Lord of the Rings Online  Shadow of Angmar Screenshot 2021.02.07 - 18.32.35.15.png
Reader
Jeremy Hélix

I don’t think you’re going to be a huge fan of Moria, due to lack of color, but it is an amazing zone.

Reader
Lethia Myune

yeah i kind of expect that, saw videos/streams and it’s very bleak but i hope the story and the iconic feel will push me through and end up enjoying it. sadly in Forochel nothing was very attractive to me and the dull landscape made it worse *sigh*. now i’m too busy playing too many characters and never making meaningful progress anymore but that’s another “epic” story lol

Reader
Mark Temby

If there is a better zone in a video game than Moria then please tell me because I want to play it. For anyone who has played it, just try to imagine designing it in 3 dimensions (not simply in 2 as per the map).
Its a work of genius and the first time through Moria is a gaming experience very few have bettered.

On topic – pretty close with your list, Angmar is, like Mordor, thematically correct and therefore hard work. In many ways the two hardest zones in game are Mordor and Angmar, but shouldn’t they be? (Caveat: I did quit during Mordor and came back for the Beornings)

If I was on a desert island and could only play one zone of one game for the rest of my life (hows that for a mixed metaphor) it would be the Shire. But I am partial to pie and ale.

Reader
Robert Mann

Angmar, for all that it still isn’t great, gets a lot better with simply filtering the annoying whistle sounds. That shrill noise made the zone 99.2% worse than it should have been, imo.

Reader
Lucky Jinx

I think North Downs is one of the best zones in any MMO, really. It’s a perfect picture of a fantastical country side. You can see farm houses, forests with danger lurking about and the great beauty of Meluinen. It’s something I’d like to see more in MMO’s, where every single inch of land doesn’t have to have a purpose or function. It’s just there to look at and to wander through. Same goes for Bree-land. I also enjoy the northern parts of Ered Luin, around the Dwarven outpost of Gondamon. The icy waters and frost-covered forests makes up some of the most natural, yet rarely seen sceneries in any MMO. I do agree with Shire though. The peaceful, laid back comfort of pretty fields and cozy inns can be felt throughout the entire zone.

Reader
Michael18

… where every single inch of land doesn’t have to have a purpose or function.

Very well said!

Most zones in MMOs or games in general are intended as and therefore feel like just the backdrop for quests or other game play elements. I wish more games would create worlds that look and feel as if – just as in real life – the world was there first, and only then did the inhabitants move in with their towns and everything. I love those remote corners that were seemingly forgotted by the content designers or the areas between zones without much happening (one of the reasons why I prefer seamless worlds over games with load screens between zones).

In that respect, North Downs is a wonderful place. And I took one of my favorite LOTRO screenshots there:

ScreenShot00011.jpg
Reader
Lucky Jinx

Great screenshot. I instantly recognized the location. Good memories!

Reader
2Ton Gamer

Agree, North Downs is one of those zones you can choose to level in or switch it for another, but it’s still one of my favs.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

Not a fan of Forochel from visual perspective. Id say Evendim is #2. But yeah, Shire is a winner no contest.