Why You Should Play The Lord of the Rings Online, and how to stick with it

It’s fun to have been blogging about a game for more than a decade. I’m still enjoying LOTRO a lot and so here I post a few stray thoughts on the subject.

Many fans agree that LOTRO has accomplished what no other game or app has done: a faithful, virtual recreation of Middle-earth. Most would say that no one will probably ever again be able to do such a thing on that scale, not even Amazon. At this point, even with the game still chugging along, they’ve already completed the events of the book from the Shire (even further westwards in the Blue Mountains) all the way to Mordor, not to mention areas left unexplored in the main text of the book: Eriador as far north as Forochel and Angmar; Rhovanion from the Grey Mountains to Rauros (albeit with some omissions). Being able to move through all these regions is absolutely incredible for nerds of Middle-earth.
Even if you don’t care much about playing in the world of a beloved piece of fiction, LOTRO’s Middle-earth is still fairly unique among the worlds of online games. It’s a break from the overt fantasy of WOW and other such worlds, but it’s still enchanted. The dynamic of the plain, familiar, Earth-like biome of the Shire is set in stark contrast to the other-world of Moria and places in between like Enedwaith, have an oddly hyper-real quality to them. It’s a beautiful place to play.
There’s also lots to do in this game. Lots. And sometimes they slap lipstick on the grind pig. “I’m not just collecting widgets, I’m collecting them for Hirluin the fair! In Gondor!” But there’s still more gems than dirt. Leveling one character through all the quests will already take you a long, long time (we’re talking about 12 years of content here). Couple that with crafting, group instances and raids, seasonal content, skirmishes, PVMP, trying out different characters, roleplaying and other social functions and you’ve got a very serious timesink in a cool game.

The questing part of that “lots to do” is also very nicely written. LOTRO, especially its Epic quest line, has got some real meat to it. Oftentimes the content for this type of game doesn’t have a lot to it, but when you see just how cleverly the team has plugged the player-characters into the broader narrative of the War of the Ring you get some truly epic moments. For Tolkien nerds those moments are borderline transcendent.

Getting into the game is one thing, hanging in is another. Having played this game for so long (and so many other LOTR-related games) I’ve hit my fair share of burn out moments. Oftentimes this is just natural, especially living in our age of distraction. We all run out of energy for anything from time to time or other shinies grab our attention. Other times it has been the game itself that wore me out. “By Eru, do I have to kill another 10 Orcs??”

As I mentioned above, there is definite repetition in content on this game. So if you begin to see yourself as a human pushing buttons on a keyboard to interact with polygons on a screen, as opposed to a mighty dwarf battling through battalions of Orcs to save some poor Rohirric peasants, then it’s time to step back. Putting a little bit into this game, I’ve found, yields a lot. Buying into the stories, reading the quest text, and suspending your disbelief makes this game so enjoyable.

By the same coin, allowing yourself to sink into the game world is a key point to maintaining your time in The Lord of the Rings Online. Put your headphones on. Zoom in to the first-person view and take in the sharp mountain peaks and folds in the landscape.

As with any hobby, if you don’t want to do something don’t do it. From time to time there may be some task you have to do, even if you don’t want to, for your character to move ahead, but even gritting your teeth and shoving off will result in burn out. Like I say, there is so much to do in this game. If you don’t want to craft, don’t do it. If you don’t want to fuss with the Legendary Items, just don’t. There’s an argument to be made for sticking with one character in order to get the most out of the game, but, for example, I’ve found jumping onto a different character to take a break from the hell that is Mordor is a great way to further my enjoyment of the Black Land.

If you are trying LOTRO out, come and find me on the Landroval server as Walaran, Rocso, or Usi. After all, what else are you going to do?

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