LOTRO Legendarium: Recapping Lord of the Rings Online’s crazy-busy 2023


Sixteen pages. Sixteen pages is how far back I had to flip through Lord of the Rings Online’s news feed here at Massively OP to get to the very start of 2023. That goes to show how incredibly packed and busy this year was for this long-running MMORPG. And when you consider how much of it was positive news and additions, it paints a picture of one of the best years of the game’s operation to date.

In my final LOTRO Legendarium column for this year, I’m going to uphold a tradition of recapping the past 12 months of both news and this series itself. I hope you’re all finding a lot of joy and contentment in playing this fine Middle-earth game, and I can’t wait to see what comes to pass in 2024.

LOTRO’s 2023 in review

Starting in January, the fast-paced Shadowfax server (remember that being a thing?) sprinted into Vales of Anduin while housing restrictions were lessened and delving difficulty was outright nerfed.

This year’s studio roadmap came surprisingly early — January 19th — with an “ambitious” set of goals that SSG wanted to accomplish this year, including hints of an expansion. “Our focus in 2023 is bringing some of those experiences up to more modern expectations and the expansion of the game world, story, and direction as we begin the next 15 years of our journey together,” the studio said. Shortly thereafter, River-hobbits were also teased for the coming months.

Ill Omens made a return in early February, although not without some issues. The devs started fiddling around with some power changes, to the concern of some, bumped up the virtue and legendary item cap, took Shadowfax to Minas Morgul, and officially made Dwayne the Rock part of LOTRO’s legacy.

Moving into March, Before the Shadow became available to purchase with LOTRO Points  and Update 35: Return to Carn Dûm brought the year’s first big patch out to play. Update 35 included a revamp of the Last Homely House, three dungeons, and an overhaul to the Captain and Warden classes.

It seemed as if the game was properly off to the races in 2023 after that point. April Fools’ Day brought back a very old PvP event, player pets got a bump in their health pool, and the 16th anniversary arrived with some new and welcome avatar options. Which promptly broke all the stuff.

The brand-new forums went live in early May at the same time as LOTRO’s Gwathrenost raid (Update 35.1.2), which incorporated “the Witch-king’s Citadel as a new 12-person Raid for Level 140 Players set in a re-imagined Carn Dûm.” Shadowfax started wrapping up its legendary server run around this time, offering free transfers to other worlds. The announcement of a competing Lord of the Rings MMO from Amazon this month elicited a “we’re not going anywhere” response from SSG.

June kicked off with Update 36: Gondor Renewed with a repurposed “King’s Gondor” zone, 80 new quests, the difficulty system, and more delving options. Shadowfax was officially retired this month, while Treebeard raised its level cap to 85. Three big announcements emerged this month — the official confirmation that River Hobbits, the Mariner class, and a stat squish were on the way. Also, we got potato frames.

As the studio continued to work on lag fixes into July, a new crafting event — the Combe Forester event — was previewed. Ominous-sounding music happened in the background at this, but we’ll come back to it later. We were also sad to hear that former LOTRO dev Jonathan Rudder passed away this summer.

A new storefront came to the MMO in early August, which took the game down for over a day. And after a slight delay, Update 37: The Humble Homes of the Holbytlan came out in the final days of the month with the new River Hobbit race, the Lyndelby premium housing neighborhood, some new class/race combos, a stat crunch, and updates to the Guardian and Beorning classes.

September was great for VIP players who got a free gold present every day instead of once per week, while everyone could enjoy some new pirate-themed missions and stories. However, the stat squish caused some issues that needed fixing, and the Combe Forester event was ransacked by delays and problems and toxic attitudes. EG7 also confirmed that the massive “remaster” of LOTRO wasn’t going to happen, although parts of it were still going forward.

You know what you could do in October? Pre-order Corsairs of Umbar and get your hands on the new Mariner class, that’s what. SSG was really talking up the expansion’s storyline as something different and refreshing.

After a short delay, Update 38: Corsairs of Umbar launched on November 8th with four new zones and an adventure that took players south to the titular city. The expansion saw more work with subsequent patches in December that added missions, more quests, and Umbar crafting guilds. And that’s pretty much a wrap for this “ambitious” year of LOTRO!

Catch up on this past year’s LOTRO Legendarium columns:

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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