Meandering Around Middle-Earth

What does it take to keep an MMO alive? Constant updates? A captivating world? Perhaps all the above and then some.

The Lord of the Rings is arguably one of the most popular and fleshed out worlds to ever grace the printing press, screen, and virtual gaming realms in near-unison. For us, however, our focus will rest solely upon the virtual pursuits of the franchise, and how successful it has been.

Although there have been many entries in the franchise, The Lord of the Rings Online is undoubtedly the most prominent and successful – and while the fanbase has fluctuated much over the years, the quality of the immersion offered forth is nothing to scoff at.

Launching in 2007, Lord of the Rings Online takes players from the before the beginning of Tolkien’s epic trilogy well through the books and even into some of the appendices. Simply put: there has never been a more fully-fleshed out and realized take on Middle Earth.

Now, this all comes with some caveats. Like any ageing MMO, textures and models are the first things modern gamers will notice. This isn’t some new release, and the community knows it. In truth, we’re starting to think that things are preferred that way over in the realm of Middle Earth.

The subsequent expansion packs do much to heighten the fidelity of the game world, but it’s truly the overall piece that stands out when it comes together. Despite the years that have gone by, the developers (all the studios included) have worked wonders to bring Middle-Earth to life.

For us, LOTRO is a prime example of what efficacy a development team can have when the underlying mythos of the game is simply jumping off the page.

Now, we acknowledge that not every work of fiction is going have the calibre of writing is going to be up to par with that of J.R.R. Tolkien, but it does highlight our belief that place, setting, and one’s role in the world will always be that which heightens the impact of a game far beyond anything else.

Ultimately, LOTRO plays it pretty safe to the chest when it comes to systems design. Many of the common strands that pitch to MMO players can be found here. Action bars, slightly turned-based combat, and a proclivity to send an incredibly powerful player-character on menial tasks all abound.

And yet, even with the stock offering of mechanics, LOTRO offers more than most MMOs purely on the longevity and depth of lore – not to mention that the challenge is very much present.

You see, unlike most hand-holding MMOs, LOTRO waits no time before thrusting you into the deep end of combat. True to the nature of Tolkien’s work, no one person is the sole hero or “chosen one”. If you’re going to survive against the darkest and most powerful threats of Middle-Earth from Angmar to Mordor, you’re going to have to bring some friends along.

Thankfully, the community is tight-knit enough that finding helping hands is never a long and arduous process.

With the Mordor expansion out as the most recent one, there’s never been a better time to hop in and check out what LOTRO has to offer.

With the path cleared from Moria and Mirkwood to Angmar and Sauron himself, there are literal volumes of content to trek through.

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