LOTRO Legendarium: What returning to LOTRO feels like

    
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I don’t think that I have ever rage-quit Lord of the Rings Online, but I certainly have put it down often enough. That’s pretty typical for any player who’s been engaged with a decade-and-a-half-old MMORPG. Sometimes I enjoy a good run of a year or more of consecutive play; sometimes my stints are barely a month at a time before a break is needed.

I realized a long time ago that when it comes to engagement with MMOs, you have to listen to your inner interest and not to external forces like social pressure, developer incentives, or even guilt. I have never met an MMO that’s kept my attention nonstop because sooner or later, we all need a break. I’d rather take a break on my own peaceful terms than hit a nasty wall of burnout and have to contend with drama and loathing.

However, one of the best things about leaving an MMO is that day when you return. If you’ve stayed away long enough to rejuvenate interest and if it’s the right time for that re-entry, then it can be a thrilling period. Since I’ve been coming back to LOTRO after a multi-month absence, I thought that today I would share what returning to this game always feels like to me.

LOTRO is like an old friend that I’m delighted to see, knowing that it’ll be there when I’m ready for another visit. Almost invariably, my first return login is accompanied by a sensation of warm fuzzies and glad tidings. I’m reminded that, yes, I genuinely like this game and its world. It’s not a burden to play or a relic of the past. It’s something that is fun in the here-and-now.

And like with any return to an old favorite MMO, I spend that week or so clocking all of the little details about LOTRO that attracted me to this game in the first place. I see how nicely the community (typically) treats each other. I slip back into the shoes of a comfortable tab-targeting combat system. I have some fun tinkering around with my house and a new outfit or two. And I head off for the latest adventure on this never-ending road.

Perhaps the greatest source of re-discovery is the sense of the world of Middle-earth that the developers have labored to craft over the years. I like a lot of MMORPGs for various reasons, but when it comes to a favorite setting, Middle-earth tops the list for me.

I’m always astounded by how large this world has become while still retaining a great sense of cohesion and connectiveness. The different regions of Middle-earth all have their own identities, but they are also very much part of the same world. I’m never yanked out of a sense of immersion if I quickly map from one place to another.

I think this is where the guidelines of Tolkien’s books have proven to be a great asset to the MMO: They’ve kept the world builders from going off-road into some of the more fanciful and ludicrous designs that spring up in other games. We don’t get floating islands or anything like that; Middle-earth is a contemporary of our own world, and so most all that we see in the game is relatable. Perhaps some of the architecture is rather more grand than would be feasible for that civilization to construct, but for the most part it puts into mind scenes of nature, of medieval castles, and of log cabins.

Whenever I come back to LOTRO, I’m always torn between starting fresh and picking back up where I last left off. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do in the game, and either way I go, I’m usually having fun.

I think it’s a good testament to the game to note that even when my character is topped out on levels, I still do the side quests for the experience of doing them. I like how they lead me to the different nooks and crannies of the world and give me bites (and sometimes feasts) of narrative.

Finally, I’m always glad to return because there’s a great laid-back feel to LOTRO. It’s not an MMO that you race through (speedy servers aside). It’s not a game where you do sixteen quests and two public events at the same time. You just pick a direction — a quest, an objective, a deed — and hop on your horse to get going on it. I play MMOs to relax at the end of very long days, and LOTRO helps to bleed off the stress in a great way.

So yes, I’m quite glad to be back in LOTRO after a time away. Right now I’m working my way through the last two content updates, so expect to see my belated thoughts on those in upcoming weeks.

For the LOTRO faithful, I’ll end on this question: How many times do you estimate that you’ve left and returned to this MMORPG?

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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Gamhuin

Anytime I return to LotRO, I’m always initially hit by the terrifying number of abilities and buttons on my screen – having forgotten how to play my character.
It’s a coin toss as to whether this frightens me away, or if I persevere through the initial button bloat induced anxiety and remember how much I love the game.

Absolutely one of the loveliest of the “older” games. And I think they did an excellent job with the character texture updates.

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Yuge McBigly

I have the lifetime VIP. Still one of the best gaming investments I’ve made. It might be a few months or a year that I am gone, but I always come back.

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styopa

Good article, thank you.
I would point out:
1) whenever I come back to a game, at LEAST the first hour is tediously trying to go through my bags/bank/alts to figure out what I was doing, what was in-process, etc. (Just a tip: my goodness it would be nice generally if a character’s inventory could include a simple ‘note to self’ – either integral, or a thing you buy to put in your inventory and leave yourself mabye 1 page of txt notes.)

2) I think your comments support what I insist is the key to LotROs durability: they *started* with perhaps the most intellectually consistent, deep, and meticulous IP in the history of fantasy literature – it’s not just a constantly-retconning kludgefest where the team changes repeatedly and those guiding it can’t decide from one expansion to the next if they’re serious or silly.

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Bruno Brito

loTRO would do great with a system rework. Like, imagine LoTRO with GW2’s fashion system and crafting bag. *drools*

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Tobasco da Gama

I always come back to LOTRO at least once a year, even if I don’t actually complete very many quests in that time. I don’t see that ever stopping, I’ll probably be logging in once or twice a year until the servers finally shut down.

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Sleepy

LOTRO is one of the few games I genuinely worry about losing if/when it eventually closes. It’s been a refuge in some really rough times, and it somehow still looks gorgeous. I feel myself relaxing down every time I log in.

Took this yesterday on Treebeard. Luvverly.

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Minimalistway

I love how this game is old and yet looks so beautiful.

jimthomasUS
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jimthomasUS

If WoW’s aesthetic is cartoon, LotRO’s is watercolor. It remains a perfectly lovely game.

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Slaasher

you absolutely right. It does look like water colours

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Agree. It’s been a refuge for me as well. Like coming home after a long journey. Here’s a screenshot of an unexpected view from Wildwood, across the Brandywine towards Evendim. I love how you can see familiar landmarks from long ago.

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Fae Lloryn

I took my last break for about 2 years, because I got caught up in real world stuff. Then I came back and made new friends, met a new Kin, and found my 10 year old characters by accident. Lotro has given me a community to stream for, people I really want to me IRL one day and a home to chill in when the real world stuff gets too much. It excites me that I still have so much to explore, and each time I discover new details I previously missed!

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draugris

That article pretty much sums up how I feel about LotRO. For me, it´s an on-off relationship I have with this game, every time I come back I have that warm feeling like coming home. I feel that with no other game, I don´t know why, maybe because LotRO was my first real MMORPG, maybe because it´s Middle-earth. Not even SSG could destroy that so far.

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SilverWillow_Sogboggen

Your post made me smile.

I’ve actually lost track of how many times I’ve subbed and unsubbed to LOTRO. At the longest stretch, I stayed away for a year or two, but I knew I’d be back.

Your comment about the ease of relating to Middle-Earth is particularly insightful. I’ve always thought it felt most like the “real world” of any MMORPG, but then I’d say the same about the novels. I think that’s part of their power.

LOTRO is the closest thing I have to an online home.

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Stormsong Minstrel

Used some hiatus. Looked for an alternative and gosh, I tried everything. Guild wars1, Guild wars2, Terra, Rift, Secret life legends, SWTOR, Age of Conan, Neverwinter, Runes of Magic and many others.
And never did i find this warm, inviting atmosphere of Lotro. Yes, it was cool to play Sith inquisitor that promotes modern empire. Yes, my tiny Asura ran in GW2…Yet it wasn’t IT.
Heck, I couldn’t even keep Istaria as my second mmo: all time was consumed by green, inviting fields of Rohan, snowy Aurora borealis of Forochel and dark wastes of Mordor.
I am on Laurelin, so should someone need some dps aid….feel free to IM

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Merryrose Morningsong

Hiatus time used to be never. But RL has corroded my playtime for the past yr & 1/2. Right now I have been logging in regularly for a week every 3 weeks. That’s due to either my health or close relatives’ health issues. So some nights I only log in to watch a concert, do inventory mgmt, or just take a long stable ride to a far off place just to watch the scenery. I have many alts but it’s shrunk down to only playing my 2 lvl cap characters. But LOTRO is always my go-back-to game no matter what.