The Lord of the Rings Online (previously titled The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) for Microsoft Windows and OS X set in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, taking place during the time period of The Lord of the Rings. Developed by Turbine, Inc., the game launched in North America, Australia, Japan, and Europe in spring 2007 as The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.
At first, players could create characters of four races and seven classes and adventure throughout the region of Eriador. The next fall, Mines of Moria expansion was released, adding the region of Moria and two new playable classes. It was followed by the Siege of Mirkwood in December 2009. In 2010 the game underwent a shift from its original subscription-based payment model to being free-to-play, with a paid subscription and an in-game store. The game saw continued development, alternating between expansions and free updates, which added new content in the regions of Isengard, Rohan and Gondor.
In late 2016 it was announced that the publishing of the game would transfer from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to Daybreak Game Company, with development being taken over by Standing Stone Games, made up of former Turbine staff. The game development continued and in 2017 the Mordor expansion was released, bringing the main storyline to a close. The story then shifted to showing how various inhabitants of Middle-earth deal with the downfall of Sauron, with Minas Morgul expansion released in 2019 and a Gundabad-themed expansion announced for 2021.
Each game region contains hundreds of side quests which can be standalone missions or part of complete storyline. The main storyline (Epic Questline) is presented as a series of “Books”, each of whom consists of various questlines called “Chapters”. In the vanilla version of the game, the Epic Questline covered eight Books. Following the title’s later expansions, a new Book was added in every content update. After the game’s transion to free-to-play, new Books stopped being strictly tied to updates, with some major updates containing no new Books while others adding several Books at once instead.
As one might expect, a game with so many expansions is extremely long. Thus this review will only adress the basic part of Lord of the Ring Online, before the Mines of Moria expansion. Nonetheless, in the future, there will be reviews for specific expansions of the game in which anyone interested will be able to find in the Expansions section of the site (A link will be given here as well). The game is a typical MMORPG with some differences found in the names of certain attributes. Health is called Morale and when it is depleted, the player’s character will yield instead of dieing. Mana is called Power, following Tolkien’s tradition regarding spellcasting.
The basic races the player can choose from when creating his character are Men, Hobbits, Elves and Dwarves. Beornings, High Elves and Stout-Axe Dwarves were added in later updates. After picking a race, the first challenge is choosing a class with good compatibility. The basic classes are Captain, Champion, Hunter, Guardian, Lore-Master, Burglar and Minstrel. Rune-Keeper, Warden and Beorning (as a class now) were added in later expansions. In addition, each class has three talent trees in which the available talent points can be invested. The player is also awarded with one talent point for every two levels, allowing for great character customization and differentiation. The title also features some Racial and Virtue traits that can be earned by competing specific quests.
Concerning economy and movement, the player’s avatar can move, jump and auto-attack (as long as the camera is pointed at the desired target) towards any direction. If travelling on foot proves tiresome, acquiring a mount or using the Stable-Keeper’s rent-a-horse transportation are both viable options. Since mounted combat exists, getting a steed might be considered a necessity. There is a Fast-Travel ability as well, with one hour cooldown that functions as a hearthstone. The player’s wealth is measured in gold, silver and copper. Regarding trading, players can trade with one another either “in person” or through mail (beware of scammers). There are also exist Auction Houses, where the winner of each auction will get his new item delivered to him through mail.
For the true achievement hunters, Deeds should prove an invaluable feature. Deeds are accomplishments that you can unlock by killing a certain amount of enemies, by exploring or by reputations and many more. Usually, after completing a specific deed, there is a small LOTRO Points reward. Speaking of exploration, the map is one of the most elegant features of the title. Lord of the Rings Online features an ultra-detailed gigantic map of Middle-Earth that is divided into four main parts (Mordor, Gondor, Rhovanion and Eriador). These parts are divided into more regions that are divided again into different areas. Each area has its own atmosphere, landscape, music and quest hub, composing one of the most beautiful maps we’ve ever seen in an MMORPG.
The title does not have any PvP options except from friendly duels. If someone feels eager to take some innocent lives though, there is the choise of PvMP. Player versus Monster Player allows the player’s character to turn into a Monster Player like an Orc or a Spider and attack Free People at will, in some specific areas. There are tons of information that we can give regarding this mode but but spoilers will be left for future articles.
Last but not least, literally EVERY foe and evil being from Tolkien’s fictional world can be found. Orcs, Uruk-hais, Wargs, Spiders, Undead,Trolls and many more await the player in his Middle-Earth adventure. Every monster has a specific level, attack and movement pattern as well as stats. Caution is advised when engaging Elite opponents, even if they are many levels below your character.
Instance Finder is an online feature, that allows the player to queue his party or create a PUG in order to complete a more difficult scenario that is based on important events from Middle-Earth’s history. However, stronger enemies are not the only challenge with these dungeons. Several times the game will require participation in activities unique for MMORPGs, like solving riddles or shooting giant ballistras when defending a siege.
When it comes to PVE, the ultimate trial can be found at the Raids. Raids are (usually) 12 man instances involving really difficult boss fights that require high level players, end-game gear and complex mechanics. These bosses are usually legends from Tolkien’s mythology, like the last child of Ungoliant, Ungwetári, Karazgar the Weeping Warrior and Saruman the White.
Graphics / Sound
The landscapes of the title are gorgeous and extremely realistic. From cozy Hobbiton to the dangerous Mines of Moria, the graphics are perfect down to the last detail. On the contrary, characters, enemies and NPCs models are sketchy with some visual bugs that sometimes occur on movement animations. Nevertheless, the developers have created an awesome online Middle-Earth experience, with a wide variety of beautiful terrain.
The soundtrack of the game was composed by the really talented musician, Chance Thomas. According to an interview, for about five years he was reading through author J.R.R. Tolkien’s literature, extracting musical references and incorporating those into his score. Every region has its own unique theme, creating an amazing atmosphere for the players. Combat sound effects are good and voice acting is decent in most dialogues.
For the non-fans of Middle-Earth, The Lord of the Rings Online is just a classic MMORPG. But for those who fell in love with the world Tolkien created, and even today can’t seem to let go, this game provides quite a unique opportunity. Diving once again in their favorite fantasy world, this time not just observing through a book’s pages or a movie’s scenes, but weaving themselves the thread of their character’s life. From the great walls of Minas Tirith to the creepy Forgotten Inn, the journey through this open-world game will prove captivating. A journey to remember.
Extremely detailed landscapes
Interesting raids with many of Tolkien’s villains
Well designed graphics
Daily and weekly activities
Not very detailed character models
Some minor lag issues
Primary Version Tested: PC