Essentially, Standing Stone Games has announced a major monetization revitalization for the long-running Middle-earth MMORPG. The company is making pretty much all content – quests, areas, instances, and expansions – from Helm’s Deep and earlier completely free. That includes Rune-keepers, Wardens, Beornings, and High Elves, too. Subscribers will have access to the standard versions of Mordor, Minas Morgul, and War of the Three Peaks as part of VIP package as well.
“VIP will now include the standard versions of the Mordor, Minas Morgul, and War of Three Peaks expansions,” the studio says. “With this update, all quests, areas, instances, and expansions released between the original launch of LOTRO back in 2007 and up to – and including! – the release of Helm’s Deep will be available for free to everyone. Quest, explore, and craft your way to level 95 to your heart’s content!”
In other words, if you’re subbed to LOTRO, you’ll have immediate access to literally everything except Fate of Gundabad, the most recent paid expansion; non-subbers will have to buy only the last three expansions (and War of Three Peaks, if they choose) to have full run of the game. (Though we’re a little foggy on which side of the line Gondor falls on right now.) With this one move, SSG has effectively addressed the biggest complaint looming over the game for years.
As for new content, the studio is promising update 33 in late April, alongside the 15th anniversary events; in addition to the above-mentioned monetization changes, update 33 will include a new Hobbit-themed region called Yondershire, while the anniversary festival includes a new instance and new gifts.
“During this time, we’ll be making progress on our Legendary World of Anor, bringing players there to Isildur’s desecrated fortress city of Minas Morgul, and level cap 130, on April 13th. Less than a month later, on May 4th, Shadowfax will progress to the fabled stronghold of Rohan, Helm’s Deep, and its level cap of 95, which will now be accessible to any VIP at no added cost! And finally, at the end of June Treebeard and Shadowfax will both be making further steps. On June 29th, Treebeard will make its second jump, entering the dangerous forests of the Mirkwood, and Shadowfax will continue marching forward to the half-ruined lands of Gondor and Old Anorien. Besides all that, we’ll continue with our ongoing work to improve performance and lag, keep adjusting class balance, continue bug-fixing, further refining the new Legendary Item system, and bring Season 2 of the Legendary Item Reward Track. All these improvements will arrive with about every patch.”
Yondershire, incidentally, is a “sparsely populated region of moor, thicket, and fen that has long been home to Hobbit recluses and troublemakers.” SSG’s pitch: “Since the time of Bullroarer Took, the Yondershire has squabbled with the more comfortable parts of the Shire. The upstart Lotho Sackville-Baggins aims to bully the local Hobbits, but they’re none too keen on his designs. Explore the Yondershire, and experience some more delightful Hobbit adventures, our first expansion of the Shire in years!”