LOTRO Legendarium: Six reasons why now is a great time to return to LOTRO

    
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When you greatly love a game, franchise, or IP, there’s nothing so heartwarming as to see it get a renaissance. In a world where everyone is scrambling to consume the latest and trendiest content, it’s something of a rarity to see people return to something great that’s been under their nose all along.

I speak specifically here of Lord of the Rings Online, which I have always felt is a terrific MMO. But it’s a game that’s seen its peaks and valleys over the years. The longer an MMO exists for, it feels like it’s rarer to get those peaks — yet that’s exactly what’s been happening in LOTRO as of late. So here are six reasons why now is a great time to return to Middle-earth and enjoy this title!

It’s celebrating its 15th anniversary

This spring is a momentous occasion for LOTRO, because it marks the game’s 15th birthday since its launch way back when. And instead of SSG merely putting out a handful of fireworks and calling it a day, the studio chose to make this a big deal with the release of a new low-level zone called Yondershire, more content for the anniversary festival, and so, so, so much free goodies being given away.

Seriously, check out this list. Even if you’re not planning on playing LOTRO right now, you owe it to yourself to log in once during this month just to snag all of the incredible free stuff for your account. We’re talking three collector’s editions, three level boosts, piles of mithril coins, mounts, pets, and more. It’s insane.

New business model

Along with everything else in Update 33 is a massive overhaul of the game’s business model. This used to be the number one obstacle to getting people into the game, and now most of that is simply… gone.

While not everything was made free — specifically, the latest expansion and new Brawler class — a whole lot was. You can play a large bulk of the game’s content for nothing, roll up a new High Elf, Rune-keeper, Warden, or Beorning, and enjoy other quality-of-life unlocks like class and racial trait slots without paying a dime.

There’s better early game leveling now

In the past year, SSG has added three new regions to smooth out some of the slow-down areas of early game leveling — or, at the very least, to offer additional leveling options. With Yondershire (early 20s), Wildwood (40s) and the Angle (40s), players now have modern questing options if they want to bypass older zones that they dislike or may have played to death.

In short, leveling from the start into LOTRO’s expansion content has never been more flexible or streamlined.

More server choices

If you’re looking to experience this MMO with a different ruleset, LOTRO now has three legendary (or progression) servers for subscribers to pick as optional playgrounds. Anor has been out the longest and is almost done with its run, but Shadowfax (featuring super-fast leveling) and Treebeard (featuring slowed progression) are both nice alternatives to the regular shards.

And the latter two servers also feature the optional landscape difficulty settings in case you want to jack up the challenge for fun and a couple of exclusive rewards.

EG7 and SSG are pumping resources into it

We’ve said this so many times on the site and in the podcast, but when a studio shows that it’s committed to a title, is pouring resources into it, and has plans for additional development, players will flock to it because it feels like it has a future. And that’s certainly the case with LOTRO.

Last year the title got a new producer (along with other team members) to kickstart the MMO out of the rut it used to travel. Earlier this month, the studio welcomed back one of the original creators of the game.

And EG7, Daybreak and SSG’s parent company, has specifically singled out LOTRO as a title that it sees as important for future growth and additional development. There have been rumors of a console edition, better server upgrades, and more coming down the pike. It’s exciting!

The upcoming Amazon series

And let’s not overlook a major development in the IP, which is Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power TV series. While not related or connected to LOTRO aside from the shared setting, a rising tide lifts all boats. There’s already an increased level of interest in Tolkien as of late, and that’s going to benefit the MMORPG for sure.

Better, but not perfect

But I don’t want to be so optimistic that I appear blind to key issues. LOTRO isn’t in a perfect state. Its server performance is a constant point of criticism, and we still have yet to see the backend receive the love it needs. There are plenty of players still waiting to transfer their characters from dead servers, a project that SSG has made noise about doing for years now but hasn’t happened. And there’s no denying that the game engine and world is a little long in the tooth — as would any MMO be after 15 years.

Still, I maintain that this is a perfect time for lapsed players and new ones alike to venture into LOTRO’s huge, immersive, and beautiful world. I hope to see you there!

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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