LOTRO Legendarium: Why Lord of the Rings Online is worth playing in 2021

    
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It has come to my attention that there are more MMO nomads than normal this summer who are casting about for a new game world to call “home.” With so many shinier and newer alternatives out there, it might be a tough case to make that Lord of the Rings Online should be that pick for you. But you know what? I totally think it should be.

I’ve been playing LOTRO off and on since its launch in 2007, and I’ve loved calling this MMORPG home. Even if I leave it for a season, it’s always a joyous reunion when I come back to these familiar lands and sights. Because of this, I’m always up for a quick attempt at pitching LOTRO to the curious.

I’d start by saying that LOTRO’s greatest strength isn’t even its famous IP; it’s the fact that the IP lent itself to the creation of a genuine game world. Lots of MMOs have jigsaw puzzle zones and stories that are mish-mashed together into a weird themepark, but LOTRO’s setting feels cohesive, continuous, and comprehensive.

It’s hard to put into words, but when you step into this game, you really feel like it’s more of an expansive world than in many other MMORPGs. The wilds are wild, the civilizations have their own distinct look, and everything simply fits together. There are ruins and signs of past ages that give Middle-earth a “lived-in” feel, which is further assisted by adhering to the low-magic setting. When you come to this game, you’re not getting places that are one-upping themselves with visual lightshows and sparkly magical effects. You’re getting places that feel like they could’ve possibly existed in a parallel world.

Clearly, LOTRO draws heavily from Tolkien’s works, and in fact has long since billed itself as the “game of the books” (in contrast to the movies). There are many Lord of the Rings video games, but none so dedicated to teasing out and replicating every detail, place, character, setting, and idea from the novels as this MMO. If it’s in the books, you can be guaranteed of finding it where it should be in this game.

Obviously, Tolkien fans are going to find this aspect a lot more appealing than those indifferent to Lord of the Rings, but I’d argue that even for the Middle-earth agnostic, there’s still an appeal here. LOTRO has made many fans of this franchise because of how well it helps players understand the tone, themes, and focus of the books.

Gameplay systems-wise, I’ve always found LOTRO to be very accessible if you’re coming from most other MMOs. It’s a World of Warcraft clone of a sort — certainly in the questing model and tab-target combat — but LOTRO’s always done things with its own unique flair. You won’t be lost and flailing around to understand how this game works if you’re an MMO vet. “Comfortability” isn’t a massive selling point, but it is nice to know that you can jump in and get going right away without worry that you’ll need extensive instruction.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t hold up the LOTRO community as an amazing part of this title. Year after year, I’ve been so impressed by the enthusiasm, kindness, and generosity of LOTRO players. This is an MMO where people actually (gasp) love their game and are welcoming to those who come into their orbit. Sure, there are the usual bad apples scattered about, but on the whole, LOTRO gets high marks for its community.

There’s a whole lot more I could say about why this is a game worth playing even today. The epic storyline is well-written and creative, there is tons and tons of content to experience, the festivals are some of the best I’ve seen in MMOs, the music is sublime, the cosmetic and housing systems a lot of fun to play with, and the landscape still visually breathtaking.

But I’ll end by saying this: There’s a renewed sense of hope about this game that’s been absent the past few years. LOTRO’s history has seen a lot of ups and downs (especially in 2020), but there are a lot of reasons to be very optimistic about this MMO in 2021. There’s a new publisher that’s investing into the title, a new producer who’s doing a whole lot to further communication and vision, some major issues being addressed, an expansion on the way, and years of stories ahead.

It’s a great time to be a LOTRO player, whether new or old, and I invite you to join us in this collective online journey.

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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Bill Craig

Glad I found this. UI still screwed up? Count me out or fix it.

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Corey Cochrane

I’d love to hop back in and roll a new toon, just need the UI scaling to be fixed. If/when that’s updated, I’ll be renewing my sub.

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Dennis VonBeck

This!
The UI scaling must be fixed before I even think about coming back. With my 1440p monitor I can barely make out my inventory. I couldn’t imagine 4k…

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aYates

Giving it a try. Decided to continue my old character on Brandywine…just level 16. Not sure how long folks will stay interested in Treebeard and I’m probably dreaming at the pace I’m going, but thought I might like to level up for the new expansion. That tiny UI is killing me, tho! I’m surprised that’s not an easy fix..?!

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Michael18

At least the quest text can be scaled, did you notice that? This helps quite a bit, but of course complete UI scaling would be best.

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aYates

I’ll try that. Thanks!
My main issue is the inventory.
Those icons are so tiny..

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Barnoc N'Draak

I really wish I could get into this, but between the tiny UI, the empty starter zones, and the janky dumb way they give you your VIP rewards I haven’t been able.

I’m still tempted to try that treebeard server…

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MaynardKeenanX

I said this in many threads through the years: greedy devs can fuck right off

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Vamen Dbarr

They are the worst. I am going on nearly 9 months on waiting on them to resolve an issue where my account was stolen. I get a reply from them every ~3 months. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.

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Sarah Cushaway

For me, personally? No. I don’t think it’s a bad game, but I don’t like some of the stuff SSG has done in the past year-two years. Also that monetization is such a barrier– they really need to update their “f2p” model at this point.

Also the game is just showing its age and is a bit clunky, a lot like EQ2. It needs more work and love to be playable for me at this point.

Stormsong Minstrel
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Stormsong Minstrel

Lotro is worth playing. Yes, despite many flaws – it is. A warm atmosphere. Normal looks of toons and armour: no skyscraper-size swords, pandas/lolitas, bikini armour.
What I like in Lotro is its atmosphere: warm, relaxing, with some regions that do invite you to stay there just for relax. Warm, former majestic Evendim. Peacefull, relaxed Shire with Hobbitses and their bounders. Serious, sometimes up to civil war, Dwarves with their history and honour.
Community is good too. Helpfull one. Sometimes they may dive into roleplay discussions, like “in what Elven dialect should I name my trustfull Elven bow that killed 1908 Orcs?”. From my point of view – I often do get help should I ask about something. Yes, I love to give help too if I am able to. There are other who openly state they may help lower levels.
Stories: there are ones that just shine. Gets you involved, care about what’s happening. Makes you make choices (nope, no option “Keep One Ring for myself, me will be Sauron II”). Stories of honour in Dwarf lands. Stories of bravrey and treachery in Rohan.
And should devs really revamp Legendary items, transforming Legendary abysmall Madness into Legendary weapons – game would be really nice to play.

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Michael18

This sums it up very well!

I’d just add one thing: the world feels like an actual world, with remote corners where you actually feel like being in the wilderness far from civilisation. Roads seem like actual roads built by people for a reason, not just like links between quest hubs put there by a level designer. And it is so varied! Even after all those years they manage to give new zones a unique style and identity.

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r00ch

I’d love to give this game another go. Any word on if/when they will fix UI scaling for modern, high resolution screens? Last I played, certain UI elements would not scale up with the rest of the UI.

Fisty
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Fisty

Still pretty trash, but you can at least increase quest text. That helps me the most.

Fisty
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Fisty

The fact that it is mostly a true open world, has kept me playing over the years. I havent been past Moria and certainly never when others were there. This is why Treebeard might win out for the sub of the month the next month or two (hopefully). Also, props to that community there. So far, and I am only level 15, the world chat is straight up awesome conversations. Maybe I have been lucky, but a lot of that other bullshit isn’t present.

cambruin
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cambruin

It is indeed a very.. peculiar server/community. LotRO community is often praised for it’s maturity, helpfulness, … which always amazes me. To me, the community is no better than what I experienced in SWtOR, ESO, … and at times even worse as all faith in the dev has been lost by so many.

Treebeard however harkens back to the community of old. Is it because a sub is required, thus the people on it are actually invested into the game? I don’t know, but I do know that eventhough I have no faith in SSG (though this has vastly improved the past few weeks) and swore to myself never to return to LotRO, I’ll stay true to Treebeard (and LotRO for that matter) for as long as it remains live.

With the right kin (and there’s only the right kinds of kinships on Treebeard), you’re in for a treat.

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2Ton Gamer

I feel like LOTRO was always that community that came off as “better” than most simply because of how many who follow the books, play the game, as if that made them more scholarly than others and therefore above such crazy typical gamer antics. Then the servers freaked out last year and we basically saw the LOTRO elitists eating themselves. The community became pretty divided over that issue and I seen people arguing and being nasty toward one another just like in any other game I have played.

Every game I have played has it’s good and bad players. I think it just depends on some of your first interactions and if you see people being helpful right off the bat, you assume they cannot devolve into typical gamers. That does not mean the community walks on water though. I had some really good interactions in WoW Classic. Same with Star Citizen and even ESO. I still know that there are turds out there who are miserable and enjoy spreading that misery, but such is life in every aspect.

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Neurotic

It was one of my main games until they started charging for new lands on such a granular level. I don’t remember exactly when that happened, but I have expansion boxes on my shelf up to Moria. Then it gets… Blurry…. And costly…