In my last piece I was pretty critical of free to play, and used LOTRO as an example of what I feel are some of the downsides of that particular business model. This got me thinking about the period in my life in which I was playing LOTRO, and just what it was that drew me into that game in the first place. So to redress the balance with my critical post somewhat, here are the things I liked most about LOTRO. Some of these do not apply to the game so much in its current state, or as I understand it at least, but were my experiences of the game in it’s first 2-3 years or so.
When I was playing LOTRO I was still fairly enamoured with Tolkien’s world. I’d loved the films, and had read the books several times as a teenager. Turbine’s game felt like an amazing representation of Middle Earth. To my mind this remains the games strongest selling point, and as Roger at Contains Moderate Peril often states, somewhat insulates the game from the wider MMO market, with LOTRO having many players who do not play other MMOs or perhaps any other games at all. But instead, they treat it as an opportunity to enjoy the world of Middle Earth. It’s a shame that Middle Earth has lost its lustre for me in recent years. I’ve grown more attached to George R.R Martin’s Westeros, with all of its complexities and nuance, and yes to some extent, its deconstruction of Tolkien-esque fantasy.
The Shire, for me, represents the zenith of Turbine’s Middle Earth crafting. It is a wonderful translation of one of Middle Earth’s most iconic regions. The music, the rolling hills, and even the pubs, perfectly captured the essence of The Shire. It felt like a gay and joyous place, full of friendly excess and revelry, alongside menial village life and trivial gossip, but captured in a manner that made it immediately warm and inviting. It would have to go down as one of my all time favourite areas in any MMO.
The Skirmish System
I’m not sure this feature is totally unique to LOTRO, but at the time it was the first time I’d ever experienced this kind of scalable instanced content. The ability to run skirmishes alone to rack up that bit of XP to push you over the line and to the next level was greatly appreciated. They did later nerf the rewards somewhat, but I still enjoyed them. I used to particularly like doing the harder modes in a duo, but even had fun running them with very large groups. I never quite got to try them on the raid setting, but I can imagine that would have been a hoot too. Overall I appreciated the flexibility of the experience, and an alternative to questing whilst levelling.
Back in those days, LOTRO had a variety of class consumables. These are very much a more old school MMO design choice, and as such were all removed from the game, at least as far as I’m aware. But, I’ve always appreciated the notion of class consumables. In LOTRO in particular, I used to love the different pipe weeds that loremasters used. This added a very lore appropriate take on things like resurrecting fallen comrades. There used to be a great deal more consumables for all of the classes, and I think it’s a bit of a shame these have gone, as I felt that they added another layer of immersion into the game.
I’m sure there are many more things that I loved about LOTRO back in 2011 or so, but these are the ones that stand out the most in my memory. Whilst I don’t believe I’ll ever return to the game, I look back with some fondness on the time when it meant a lot to me. So, what is your favourite thing about LOTRO?