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.
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?