LOTRO Legendarium: Embracing the journey that is Lord of the Rings Online

    
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I know that there are a whole lot of things I should be talking about Lord of the Rings Online in this week’s space, considering that we just got the expansion pre-patch and all. But that’s not where my head is at right now because I’m more than a little burned out on the high-level adventures in the game and haven’t even pre-ordered the expansion yet. Honestly? I’m not even sure I’ll play it this year.

Instead, I’ve joined the crowd on the Treebeard progression server to re-experience the game from start to finish in a more languid fashion. I rolled up a fresh Lore-master, revisited my old stomping grounds of pre-disaster Archet, and started down the long path to level 140 once again.

As I’ve said many times before, LOTRO is the absolute worst game if you’re looking to speed-level and catch up with the end crowd. Not only are 140 levels a rather intimidating amount, but you’ve got to factor in the mountain of content and the scads of deeds and virtues to handle. It’s simply not an MMO that you can plow through quickly. Unlike some other MMOs, LOTRO hasn’t been streamlined over the years; it’s grown and expanded. It’s a quilt, where every zone and storyline is another piece that’s added to the overall tapestry.

So if LOTRO is the worst at putting you on a highway to the latest expansion (unless you drop an unholy amount of money on a level boost, which, c’mon, please don’t), what is it the best at? If someone asked me this, I’d say without pause that LOTRO is the best MMO when it comes to providing an engrossing journey.

As they say, it’s all about the journey, not the destination, and this is especially true for this game. It’s not a quick plane trip to Disney World where you enjoy your destination, it’s a relaxing road trip through hundreds of miles of wilderness, side attractions, and strange events.

This approach to design and gameplay fits the narrative of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, when you think about it. The books start with Frodo and company departing familiar territory and going on a meandering journey that’s filled with surprises, delights, horrors, and suffering. If chapter one was the Shire and chapter two was the One Ring into Mt. Doom, we would arrive at the conclusion without having understood and marinated in the journey.

I felt this so strongly this past week as I went through the familiar quests in the Shire, Ered Luin, and Bree-land. None of this is new to me, yet I still can get into the headspace that my character is embarking on this grand journey that’s new to her. I can enjoy every step along this virtual road trip through Middle-earth without getting super antsy about wanting to get to the end right now.

This is the gift that the Treebeard server ruleset seems suited to grant. The deliberate slower pace of advancement and lengthy periods of time between expansion unlocks removes this external pressure to go, go, go as fast as you can. Our kinship was discussing how this change of pace proves to be a mental relief from the modern MMO mindset, granting us the gift of time and space to enjoy the trip and take every side diversion we like without worrying we will get left behind.

I’m glad to see that LOTRO’s journey will be growing ever larger with Fate of Gundabad next month, even if I’m not there for it on Day One. That’s OK — the journey will lead there, sooner or later.

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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Bruno Brito

I would be all up Treebeard but sadly, i don’t think LoTRO has Brazilian rates, so i would have to pay a lot in exchange for subs.

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Andrew Schwartz

I’m on Treebeard as well. Never got to experience SoA so I’m having a good time. My only beef is it’s a chore to find groups for instances like GB and GA. I’ve tried my kinship, world chat, lff, and the instance finder to no avail. Everyone is doing level 50 endgame. Still it’s an amazing world and the community is amazing.

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Paragon Lost

Great sentiment, strongly agree it’s always been about the journey in LotRO. As it should be, nice write up Justin.

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Sleepy

Since Treebeard opened I haven’t been back to my regular, Laurelin. I have a captain and hunter in the early thirties, a loremaster and minstrel in the twenties, and I’ve just started levelling a beorning. I might start a warden today despite absolutely hating the guess-the-combination skills.

It’s great to have a decently full server around you too, and it’s been exceedingly civil too so far.

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cbgla

The main thing keeping me from hopping back in the game is the UI. Specifically, the teeny tiny bags and other items that the game will not allow you to resize on a 4k monitor. There are no plugins to fix this issue, but they’ve been talking about fixing it for years. You can resize /some/ of the UI elements so I don’t understand why they don’t fix the rest… yes, without more hi-res art elements the icons in the bags will be pixelated, but so what. You can fix SOME of the text to a larger size but not everything, which means you need a maginifying glass when you play the game to read a lot of it. Even if I change the monitor resolution, windowed mode, etc. it doesn’t work on those UI elements (I think that would only work if I disable my second monitor in Windows or use a different monitor specifically to play LOTRO). So after a lot of eye strain I give up :(

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rk70534

After returning to LotRO early last year, and now gotten farther than ever before (at 67, in Enedwaith and Lothlorién), I have to say that it is indeed all about the journey, which is a Long March, and although I mostly have enjoyed it (and Enedwaith has been a joy, current deed grinding in Angmar the exact opposite), I would never, ever start another character. This is a journey I want to make, but only once. There simply is so much to do.

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r00ch

I love this article!

I could use some good advice about how to approach LOTRO. I recently hopped back in after a many-year hiatus. I was never a very seriously player (I play most of my MMOs very casually) but it was one of my first MMOs and there is so much I love about it that I’ve kept my eye on it over the years.

Now that I’m back playing, I am a bit torn about how to approach the game. I’m definitely in no rush, but there is just so much content I’m not even sure how to meander through it all. Should I just follow the epic quests and do deeds when I get the itch? Do the skirmishes and missions add much flavor to the story? I love the idea of Treebeard, but I don’t like the uncertainty about how long the population will last.

Persistence is one my favorite aspects of MMOs, and I’d hate to get invested in a character on a progression server that might end up a complete ghost town down the road. So many people that play Treebeard already have high level toons on the main servers that they can return to if they get bored or the population dies.

For those casual experts out there, any good advice? Maybe have a character on both Arkentstone and Treebeard? My main goal is to have fun and enjoy the journey and do whatever sounds fun along the way. I love being immersed in fun fantasy settings with good lore and at least decent story-telling. I love group content when it flows naturally but I’m not one to seek out random groups, and sometimes I’ll actively avoid guilds for older games because I don’t want jaded vets (often even with the most helpful, best intentions) souring what feels fresh to me to because they’ve done it all a million times (that said there are some great people in my current kin who still find the game fresh and interesting and are fun to be around).

Right now I have a level 34 guardian and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played so far, but the content packs really open up around that point and I’m not sure what to do. I’m open to rolling and trying new classes as well. With the recent promotion I own all the content packs and bought all the $1 expansions available. I’m currently subbed to the game as well.

Thanks in advance if you have any good advice or great tips!

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Michael18

Many people are torn between LOTRO’s regular and progression servers, at the moment. There is no easy answer, because each option has its advantages.

If you are like me and you prefer to focus on a single character per game, and you say you’ve enjoyed your time with your Guardian, so far, I’d recommend not getting distracted and to just continue for as long as you enjoy that character. Use the epic quests as your main guide and do side quests for as long as you enjoy each zone. Consider using the tortoise to avoid outleveling zones before completing what you want to do there. Also consider asking around in your kin or in chat for people in your level range that enjoy doing content together, once in a while. Maybe you can find a small static group for a play session or two, per week. And don’t feel rushed, no need to level to max in one go: LOTRO is a great game for taking a break and returning to after 3-6 months.

If, on the other hand, you enjoy playing 2-3 characters in parallel, then the choice is much easier. Roll an alt on Treebeard and have the best of both worlds! Since the expansions unlock slowly there, that character will probably be stuck from time to time anyway, so you will have opportunities to return to your main character. This would also be a good opportunity to try out a few classes, maybe playing each to level 15 or so, before fully committing to an alt.

In any case: welcome back to the game!!

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r00ch

Thanks so much for the advice as well as the warm welcome back to the game!

Like you I prefer to focus on a single character in most games, and yes, I do love bashing orcs with my shield so I think I’ll stick with my Guardian. And I already have the tortoise stone and I love it – one of the first things I bought lol.

I love the advice about the epic quests. I think for now that’s my plan – play the epic quests on level and just do whatever else grabs my attention, always defaulting back to the epics if I start to get lost in content. I went back to the epics for a bit tonight and had a lot of fun and felt so much more focused.

Thanks again for the advice!

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Someone was in world chat the other day asking for a power level. Everyone just laughed.

Started the new Brawler class, first new class since Moria. In no particular hurry to get anywhere in particular. Happy to spend my days in Ered Luin, the Shire and Bree. I hear there’s trouble in the Lonelands, where ever that is.

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Kevin Brill

Started playing again when the latest patch hit. My main is still in Morder and I swore that I was just going to focus on the epic story and “catch up”…

Before I knew it, I was fooling around in the basement of Naerbund, doing side quests, and most decidedly not progressing through Mordor.

Happy to be back though and squishing orcs.

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Louie

A “quilt” is the perfect way to describe the game. It just keeps growing, and I think the lack of streamlining and shortening is one of the biggest reasons LOTRO feels like such a journey on a huge scale like it does. While I do think it could stand to make leveling itself a little quicker, I absolutely love the fact that nothing has been removed or reorganized to an excessive degree (except going through Moria, that felt a lot quicker on a newer character than when it was the most recent expansion). It’s pretty nuts that I have over 400 hours played on my main and I’ve only been at level cap once, when it was 65 during Siege of Mirkwood.