LotRO was, by its very design, meant to be a game with a heavy emphasis
on group play. However much like the proverbial horse, just because you
lead your players to water it doesn’t mean you can make them cast out a
line and fish (or maybe it’s you can’t make them drink, I’m notoriously
bad at analogies). With the relative ease of the early game, most
players will opt to solo up into their 20s if not farther. Groups,
known as fellowships appropriately enough, are easier to form in LotRO
than in most MMOGs – needing only 3 people to get underway. Content
scales up for larger fellowships as well; including full on raid
instances which rival those of World
in terms of complexity and fun.
Getting in with a good guild will go a long way towards improving your
multiplayer experience. Another advantage here is that the community is
among the best in the genre, with tons of knowledgeable folks who are
all too happy to help – but do your research and find an established
server with a large playerbase.
There is a multitude of content available in LotRO for every subscriber
level, and free-to-play players can get more than just a cursory glance
at the world before they need to open their wallets. While an expanded
backpack or a permanent steed are both highly advantageous and priced
well, one could conceivably level all the way to 20 or 30 without
spending a red cent. For part time players or folks who aren’t smitten
with the story and lore of LotRO, it’s the perfect downtime game where
you can log in for a few hours here and there and still have an
enjoyable experience. For the most dedicated however, subscribing is
the way to go.
Yes, you can still be a subscriber even though the game is now
free-to-play. There are three tiers available; Free Player, which
grants you the most basic of access and features the most account
restrictions – such as only a single character slot. Premium Player is
the next step up and is automatically granted to any player who makes a
Turbine Point, the games microtransaction currency, purchase. Premium
grants you two additional character slots, better login access (which
isn’t much of an issue on most servers) and 30 days of customer service
from the time you make your point purchase. VIP is the final level of
access and it opens up most of the games features, including the
Monster Play PvP aspect that I spoke briefly about in the gameplay
section, but comes with a monthly fee. In addition to Monster Play, VIP
subscribers are also given 500 Turbine Points each month to spend in
the item shop – but all three levels will need to purchase both of the
games existing expansions to gain access to the Rune Keeper and Warden
classes as well as the extended level caps.
The item shop is among the most well stocked in any free-to-play game
and prices are very reasonable. For 15.00 USD you could purchase a
skirmish, a permanent mount and a bag upgrade giving LotRO an
outstanding grade in the value department.
Three years and two expansion packs, with a third recently announced,
are a good indication that the final battle at Mt. Doom is still a long
ways off. The biggest factor in a player’s long term
attachment will be their group of friends and level of devotion to
Many of the established players that I spoke with were very happy with
the transition to free-to-play and had been using their monthly
deposits of Turbine points to outfit alts, adding a nice replay
incentive to those already most familiar with the game. Past
performance indicates that Turbine is not one to rest on their laurels,
so it follows that we can expect more enhancing and tweaking of the
game to help keep it fresh and interesting for years to come.
Pros and ConsPros:
- High immersion factor,
lifelong Tolkien fans will feel right at home.
- Huge game world with tons of
- Multiple gameplay modes will
satisfy almost every type of MMOG player.
- Scalable content allows for
greater flexibility when forming groups.
- Extremely polished game with
high production value.
- Episodic content can leave
new players feeling out of the loop.
- Transitioning from one quest
hub to the next isn’t always a smooth process.
- Pacing will feel slow to
players used to some newer MMOGs.
- Pricing structure can be a
- Free-to-play limits can feel
One of the
deepest and most complete MMOGs to ever be published, The Lord of the Rings Online
offers nothing short of a premium experience at a free-to-play price
point. Much like the books and movies that serve as the inspiration for
the game, the buildup is a little on the slow side but well worth the
investment if you enjoy a long term relationship.
- Game Name: Lord of the Rings Online
- Review Date: December 2nd, 2010