- 1. Faithful to LOTR Lore
- 2. Immersive Worldbuilding
- 3. Improvements in Early Gameplay
- 4. Catering to All Playing Styles
- 5. Consistent Production of New Content
- 6. New Classes and Races
- 7. Community Events
- 8. Role-Playing and Speech Bubbles
- 9. Earning “Money Store” Currency
- 10. Public Beta Server
- 11. Plugins Allowed
- 12. Tons of Free Content
- LOTRO’s 2023 Roadmap
- What Could Be Improved?
1. Faithful to LOTR Lore
The first thing to cover is, I believe, the most important one. LOTRO has the rights/IP to use The Lord of the Rings in creating its MMO and quests. As a mere player of the game, I don’t know what that includes and excludes. But fans of Tolkien’s work wanting an online game in Middle-Earth have a right to expect that it is faithful to the novels and history created by JRR. Here are some examples of how LOTRO has achieved this:
Re-telling the Story
Through quests and mini videos, LOTRO retell the story of The One Ring, the Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo and Samwise and more. You can be drawn in and experience it, especially during “Session Plays”. These allows you to be a character from lore, and see events from that person’s perspective.
While some quest dialog boxes can be long to read, it’s not like sitting to read a novel. I think the volume of reading in LOTRO is accessible.
Not Altering the Story
While your character interacts with the Fellowship of the Ring, you do not formally join it. You see the Fellowship off from Rivendell, but then have your own story to follow until you intersect with them next.
If you join a key character in a quest and they are defeated, you fail the quest and have to start over. You cannot kill a character before their time! Whichever lore-based character you meet, you cannot alter the course of the War of the Ring. But you can play an important role within it.
Inclusion of Languages
The languages mentioned explicitly in LOTR are Sindarin/Noldorin and the dwarven tongue. Both of these can be heard, and read, from character NPCs for a start.
Moreover, if your combat class has “shouting” abilities, then Elves use their languages and dwarves may yell “Baruk Khazad!”.
You Don’t Need to Know LOTR Lore
It Made Me Want to Learn More
While I had read all of The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy before I started playing LOTRO, I have learned loads through it. On top of that, it made me even more curious about the history of Middle-Earth. That means, the MMO sparked an interest to read The Silmarillion and eventually, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. I have just been gifted The Fall of Númenor too, which I will definitely be reading!
Knowledge of Middle-Earth is No Barrier
You do not need to be a LOTR buff. You may not know anything other than there was “One Ring to Rule Them All”. Your answer to “is LOTRO worth playing in 2023?” does not need to depend on the idea of how much or little of lore you’re familiar with. Learn it through playing and reading!
Creativity around Lore
Not everything was explicitly written down by the Tolkiens. But what LOTRO has done is developed their own stories, quests and NPCs within the framework of lore. All that is required is for an idea to either be clearly allowed by what the Tolkiens gave us, or at least plausible.
So, they have been able to write new stories that are engaging.
And these are just a few of those that spring to mind.
2. Immersive Worldbuilding
3. Improvements in Early Gameplay
While it seems other MMOs have to focus on the next expansion to keep “endgamers”, LOTRO has been creating content and features across the board. Before the Shadow even introduced a new starter area where all races can begin their Middle-Earth adventures. Here are just a few examples:
- Periodically, SSG also go back to earlier regions to add a bit more “polish”, such as new textures or weather cycles.
- With Before the Shadow, Trait Points were simplified so they are added by levelling up.
- A free, basic mount can also be acquired in starter areas. Getting a first mount was far more complicated before.
4. Catering to All Playing Styles
The reasons people play MMOs vary wildly. I know in the past, people asked me why I played MMORPGs if I only want to partake in solo content for most of the time. But it is the very fact that I can that shows the flexibility of the LOTRO team to incorporate our gaming preferences.
Solo Landscape and Epic
Do you want to amble through Middle-Earth, do some quests, take in the views and maybe gather some crafting materials? Then you can do so. You can out-level the enemies in many regions, at which point they do not attack you before you engage them. It’s also great for taking screenshots of said foes too:
And, apart from a couple of Epic Battles, I have solo’d the Epic (the main story your character is involved in).
LOTRO Missions come in various forms. Some are in a “base camp” of some description, with daily repeatable quests. Others follow a distinct storyline, such as The Further Adventures of Bilbo Baggins, and The Further Adventures of Elladan and Elrohir.
Missions are on-level, which means a moderate difficulty. And the new Delving system that came with Before the Shadow, allows higher-level character to scale up that difficulty further, with better rewards for doing so. If you prefer to be challenged, then Missions are a viable way to level and gear yourself as you do.
Apart from a few cases, you’re free to go anywhere in Middle-Earth without a quest pre-requisite. Regions in LOTRO also have quest level overlaps too. This means if you don’t want to do the side quests in one area, you can just skip the whole thing and move onto someplace else.
Some quests and instances (or “dungeons” if you’re coming from a different MMO) are designed for small fellowships or groups. Get to grips with your role in a group and tackle tougher enemy strongholds that would be nigh impossible on your own.
Suffice to say, I have no knowledge about the Raids in LOTRO as I’ve never run any of them, nor have I had a need to. But they exist and players do raid and, from what I see in chat, they do so regularly.
Thankfully, the Soldier you gear up and customise for Skirmishes can also be used during landscape quests.
They’re not permanent, so you need to use a Landscape Soldier Token to let them join you for a time.
5. Consistent Production of New Content
Now, I don’t mean this in terms of the frequency of new content, or the time gap between releases. What I mean is that you can be sure LOTRO are working on new regions, quests, stories all the time. In 2022, around LOTRO festivals, I was able to write guides on the following newer areas or features:
And those areas do not include expansions for those at the “endgame” position (which I’m not), such as Gundabad.
6. New Classes and Races
Current Class Tweaks
As well as new classes or races, LOTRO has been opening up existing ones more too. Previously money-store only races such as Beorning and High Elf, and classes like Warden were made free in 2022. Elves can now be masters of stealth and play a burglar and Hobbits can now be Lore-Masters.
7. Community Events
As well as great player-created events, LOTRO has a regular Festival and Events Schedule. This includes celebrations such as Midsummer, the Anniversary Event, Fall Festival and Yule Festival.
What Rewards Can You Earn?
If you can think of it, you may be able to get it! At Festivals and events you can earn:
- Cosmetic Outfits
- Housing Decorations
- Temporary-effect Consumables
- Sometimes even crafting recipes
- Character enhancements, like Virtue XP and Legendary Item XP.
And, even if you’re new to LOTRO, you can pick up event rewards from years ago, simply by playing that event’s quests.
8. Role-Playing and Speech Bubbles
I also really like an understated part of LOTRO – speech bubbles. While I wish they were actually bubbles (See: What Could Be Improved?), this option did not exist in SWTOR when I last played it and it’s not in FFXIV. Speech bubbles let you talk to other players without being in the World/Regional chat channels.
But they also let you role-play. I know right, role-playing in an MMORPG, shocking! I think it’s through this feature and my LOTRO FanFiction that I’ve been able to get to immerse myself in my characters’ experiences.
9. Earning “Money Store” Currency
What are Deeds?
A person is judged more on their deeds than their words. As you venture across Middle-Earth, various LOTRO Deeds will trigger. It may be that you need to kill 90 wolves, or find five enemy strongholds, for example. Once completed, these “deeds” give a variety of rewards, such as
Some deeds grant LOTRO Points. Thich can be spent in the money store alongside any other points you either manually pay for, or are granted for being VIP.
10. Public Beta Server
One of the fab aspects of LOTRO is their public beta server called Bullroarer. Although it has to be installed separately to your main Lord of the Rings Online game, when Bullroarer is open, you can preview and test features that are not live yet. This shows that LOTRO understands the importance they place on community feedback.
With Bullroarer LOTRO can squash bugs earlier, and also helps you to look forward to new content yet to go public.
11. Plugins Allowed
LOTRO has an API-restricted plugin system. This means you can develop your own useful utilities or use those others have made. LOTRO Plugins cannot mess with the game files as they must stick within the API, but it means you can safely develop them without wondering if you’ve accidentally broken the ToS.
12. Tons of Free Content
During LOTRO’s 15th Anniversary Event regions and quests up to Level 95 were made free for all players, including F2P. If you were to do every quest and all the Deeds, you’re talking weeks and maybe months of time in Middle-Earth, with no obligation to pay anything.
Should you choose to, you can always add LOTRO Points to your account for treats, but you don’t have to!
LOTRO’s 2023 Roadmap
Not only do we have a full LOTRO Events Schedule for this year, but Orion at SSG has published an initial overview of a 2023 roadmap. Here we have four more bonus reasons that LOTRO is worth playing:
13. New End-Game Focus
I am not end-game in LOTRO, but many are. While SSG have released (in my opinion) fab lower-level regions, they’ve not managed to serve end-gamers in the same way. Last year, one team member said they had recognised that fact. So parts teased out include:
- Improvements and Additions to the Delvings System.
- New (Endgame) Instance Cluster and Raid.
- Updates to how Power is used and managed in dungeons and raids.
14. Crafting Overhaul
As with the LI system, committing to making huge systems changes signals longevity. I am quite excited about
Our expressed end goal includes breaking apart vocations to allow players to choose which profession they want to learn.
This would be huge – and way more flexible than the current system. It’s not often I look forward to rewriting guides, but I’ll be happy to redo my LOTRO Crafting one!
15. Development of Festivals/Events
As someone who covers LOTRO Festivals, this was particularly interesting. We’re used to events being maintained and often (but not always) getting new rewards. 2023’s Roadmap includes some additions.
Firstly, PvMP Events (which I may not cover, as PvP-like content frankly terrifies me). Secondly, and intriguingly:
…a new set of cyclical events that revolve around the different crafting professions.
This I will definitely cover. No doubt it will be linked to LOTRO Crafting updates. But events around it? I want to know more, darnit!
16. A New Gondor, A New Expansion
With an expansion estimated to be released sometime in Q4, I may as well be writing about 2024! But, before said expansion:
Gondor, now experiencing relative peace, needs assistance in rebuilding and assessing strange goings on. We will be introducing a new version of Gondor, no longer dawnless and harried by enemies on all sides.
Given how huge Gondor is, that’s not a small task! And with the new expansion heading towards Umbar, I wonder if I can get through the core stories between Mordor and L140 before Christmas 2023?! Unlikely, but I can try!
We get a taste of post-war Minas Tirith during the LOTRO Midsummer Festival. How this extends to the entirety of Gondor? Exciting times lay ahead.
What Could Be Improved?
No MMO is perfect. Heck, nothing in this world is perfect! So, in the interests of balance and not being proclaimed a fanboy – though I kinda am a fanboy – what should be improved? Here are my humble ideas – and no, I won’t be covering “lag”. While it can be an issue, SSG have said on multiple occasions that they are working on it.
Without being overly critical, these are my observations:
- NPC Design
While LOTRO’s newer regions, such as Yondershire and those in Before the Shadow, include brand-new NPCs with much more detail, many in the Middle-Earth need replacements making. And please can we get NPCs blinking and make them more “alive”
- Updated Outfit Textures
My other MMO has this issue too. Older craftable gear and some cosmetics have low-res textures, which makes them blurry on a modern system. It would help to have these updated when landscape ones are also improved.
- New Hairstyles
You can change your character’s hairstyle as often as you like using a Barber. But, unless I’ve missed something, there have been no new hairstyles for pre-existing races for a long time. Newer races do – such as High Elves and Stout-Axe Dwarves. It would be great to port some of these into the original races.
- Don’t Let It Rain All Day!
Currently, whatever weather you have at the start of the “day”, you’re stuck with for the entirety of that day. LOTRO’s day/night cycles are longer than FFXIV – and I prefer them longer. But it is quite tiring adventuring through rain or thunder for 2-3 hours. Shared weather conditions would help too.
- Font Customisability
While the quest text size has been scalable for some time, we cannot change the font rendering it (Garamond?). I find times-like fonts tiring to read, so others must too. Bonus points for saving the adjusted text size.
- Instance Finder → Group Finder
Occasionally I spot in chat someone asking why Instance Finder isn’t helping them form a group. And, honestly, I think it should. Yes, players can and do use the (LFF) channel, but Instance finder would be both smoother and help newer players who want to do quests and instances with other people.
- Character Loading Screens
When you “Enter Middle-Earth”, you are presented with one of a random selection of loading screens. They may promote new content, current sales, or simply a feature of the game. But they are stretched. The original JPG files are 2:1 ratio, which can make even sharp original files look poor and unpolished.
The client startup screens always look great, and I think the loading screens need to match that.
TL;DR Is LOTRO Worth Playing in 2023? Yes, definitely!
The Lord of the Rings Online offers an immersive, feature-rich and well-written experience in Middle-Earth. You can play your way and still progress – right from your preferred combat style to whether you want to chill out or challenge yourself. It is an accessible MMO and really requires no prior knowledge of LOTR lore to jump in and start questing.
With SSG on an almost-constant stream of producing new content to appeal to new and veteran gamers alike, you can choose to level whichever way you want to. While I’ve highlighted a few areas for improvement, none of those have prevented me from enjoying a gaming session. So, is LOTRO worth playing in 2023? For me, it’s a big yes. Why not give it a go for a few weeks and see how you get on?