Welcome to Middle Earth!
If you've ever wished you could join Aragorn, Legolas and the gang in Middle Earth to fight the forces of evil, look no further than Lord of the Rings Online. Within this MMO, you can play amid beloved characters created by Tolkien's imagination in a classic fantasy setting. Happy Hobbiton and foreboding Moria pull you into the game, making you forget your real-world surroundings. Swing your sword, knock your bow or lift your staff as you journey through Middle Earth, fighting evil doers, dangerous animals and monsters that can only exist in fantasy.
Top 10 highlights from Machinima detailing the coolness of free to play LOTRO
This game, which started with premium subscriptions, has since been released as free to play by developer Turbine. You'll surround yourself with familiar faces and places if you've read Lord of the Rings or enjoyed the movie trilogy in the past. Even if you haven't, the familiar mechanics coupled with Turbine's detail-oriented approach make this an enjoyable game for fans of MMORPGs and fantasy in general. Guilds, crafting and skirmishes help to flesh out gameplay, so that you'll always have something to do when playing Lords of the Rings Online. You'll never quite forget that the world is at stake and you must defeat Sauron's empire, however.
The main storyline of Lord of the Rings Online is told through epic quests, which essentially follow the plots of the movies -- or the books, if you prefer -- but incorporate unique elements created just for the game. If you're familiar with the source material, then many of the the quests, skirmishes and instances won't be foreign to you. Along the way you'll run into fantastic foes, including dourhands (dark dwarves) and orcs, who want to enslave, eat or simply defeat you and your party while you try to figure out how to defeat Sauron's army of darkness.
Epic quests guide you from from Hobbiton through Breeland to the Lonelands and beyond to defeat the powers of darkness as led by Sauron, and you'll meet with your favorite Lord of the Rings characters along the way. You'll frequently deal with Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Elrond, among other notable citizens of Middle Earth.
Although characters of different classes begin play at different places in the map, all players find themselves along more-or-less the same path after getting the feel for the MMO. Generally, the epic quests lead you to areas of Middle Earth that are suitable to your level, and you can pause from the epic quests to complete the many side quests available to you. Of course, there's plenty of map to explore, so you might find yourself distracted by the varied landscapes than the quests themselves.
A Classic MMO
As a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game, or MMORPG for short, LoTRO not only introduces you to countless NPCs, but you'll have a chance to interact with real players who love Lord of the Rings as much as you do. Set in Middle Earth, LoTRO has a strong fantasy theme. You can choose to be men, dwarves or elves, and you'll run across many races, both good and evil. Earthkin, goblins, orcs and trolls all roam Middle Earth, and even the population-dense cities have an old-school charm about them, but none of this will come as a surprise to anyone who's ever heard the name "Tolkien."
Just Like Legolas
Lord of the Rings Online currently allows nine different class types and four different races. You first choose your class and then choose from the available races. The classes include:
- Burglar -- Use cunning to to damage and debuff foes
- Lore-master -- Support allies with skills derived from nature
- Captain -- Deal a fair amounts of damage and heal party members
- Champion -- Outlast the enemies with high health and attacks
- Guardian -- Draw enemies onto you to protect allies
- Hunter -- Attack from afar with your bow
- Minstrel -- Use the power of song to give morale to your allies
- Rune-keeper -- Employ rune-stones to draw elemental power to attack or heal
- Warden -- Protect self and others with combination attacks
A nice look at character creation and what's available to you
Not every class is open to all men, dwarves, hobbits and elves, but most of them have multiple race choices. For example, guardians, hunters and minstrels may be any race, but only men can be a captain.
Although there's no official word, fans believe that Turbine has loosely based these classes off the heroes of Tolkien's Middle Earth. Hunters take after Legolas and other elven archers, obviously. Tough-and-stout Gimli inspired champions, while wizened elf Elrond gave birth to the idea of runekeepers. Gandalf, who went from white, is akin to lore-masters. Unsurprisingly, these are also the characters you must seek out to perform certain quests related to your class. Some characters, such as Aragorn, are more hard to pin down.
Your race choice may depend upon allegiance to your favorite character, your preferred skill types or aesthetics. Elves tend to be elegant and graceful, while hobbits have much smaller statures. Of note is that only male dwarves make an appearance in Lord of the Rings Online. If you want to play a female character, you'll need to choose a man, hobbit or elf, instead.
Snowball Fights and More!
As an inherently social game, LoTRO lures you to participate in the many repeatable instances with other players. These are especially fun once you catch up with your solo quests. Although the focus of Lord of the Rings online will be quests or instances and skirmishes, depending upon whether you ply well with others, crafting and exploring also play into the MMO. LoTRO lets you choose crafting hobbies such as metalworking or jewelry-making, which allows you to make your own armor, weapons, potions and accessories. Crafting also contributes to your wealth. The auction hall makes it easy to sell your wares or buy ingredients.
Turbine also provides seasonal activities for players. Autumn and winter fests coincide with the North American seasons. Some of the most desired prizes are the horses that you can win from various challenges. A person can own dozen of horses with different designs, some of which are more resilient to attacks from the enemy or more agile runners. You can earn special titles, armor and accessories during these events, too. Festival quests tend to have an aspect of whimsy to them as you venture into haunted hobbit burrows or chase lost letters throughout Bree.
As Social As It Gets
Like any MMO, LoTRO can feel lonely and slow if you're playing by yourself. Many of the epic quests are designed for completion within a party, which is known as a fellowship in the game. Although you might not need more than two people to complete these quests, the additional help is always a boon and often necessary to prevent yourself from dying.
Because of this, playing with a few friends or joining an active guild, of which there are many, is advisable. Depending upon your server, you may have difficulty finding people waiting to participate in the same quests as you are. Guilds, or kinships as they're known in Lord of the Rings Online, are quite active, and you'll likely find the help from your fellow kin essential. They also add a fun, social element to your gameplay. Some of the more popular kinships have high numbers because the guild creators and moderators make sure to host contests and other events. Don't be surprised if you find yourself earning a few gold after playing a game of hide and seek.
With that said, LoTRO can be fun if you're playing solo, but it's simply nice to have connections when the need arises.
A Treat for fans of Tolkien
Although folks who haven't read the books or watched the movies can certainly enjoy Lord of the Rings Online for its beautiful scenery, frequent updates, intense quests and social aspects, the people who will get the most out of LoTRO are those who are already familiar with the source material. The game is extremely detailed and full of Easter eggs, such as a deed that has you search for Bilbo Baggins' lost buttons in Goblintown, that makes fans smile. It's hard to believe that Lord of the Rings Online wouldn't receive a seal of approval from Tolkien himself.
Teaser video for the Mines of Moria expansion. Bet you can't beat the guy at the end of the video
The level of detail suggests that not only are the developers perfectionists, but they're all fans of the Lord of the Rings themselves. There's an ambiance of genuineness that's hard to miss. When you participate in quests with the tavern league, your screen actually becomes more blurry the more intoxicated you become. It's so easy to be swept up by the game and off into Middle Earth. The fact that it's free to play has certainly attracted a few gamers, but the adeptness of the designers and developers at bringing Tolkien's world to life is what keeps players coming back for more.
Available on a PC Near You
Lord of the Rings Online is currently only available on the PC. Turbine has released two versions: one standard and one high-definition version. If you have a powerful, gaming computer, then you might try the HD version. Note that it can increase loading time. Players with less powerful PCs should opt for the standard installation, which might not look as fantastic but uses a few less resources and doesn't increase loading time.
Here's Why You'll Upgrade
Turbine gained a lot of praise when it finally released Lord of the Rings Online as free to play. You can sign up and start tackling those epic quests without spending a single cent of your own hard-earned money. However, you may find that you want to. You can head to the store to purchase add-ons with Turbine points, which you buy online or in brick-and-mortar stores that sell game cards. The LoTRO store offers some of the following types of items:
- Steeds (horses)
- Quest packs and expansions (Moria, Angrmar, etc)
- Ingredient packs for crafting
- Access to your crafting guild
- Scrolls to accelerate craft advancement
Quest packs and expansions are especially important. As you level, you'll want to move on to different locations in Middle Earth. While the epic quests are available to all players, you have to purchase the quest or expansion packs from the store to do side quests. Otherwise, you'll see that quests are available but won't be able to complete them. This does make it more difficult to advance your character.
All hope isn't lost if you lack the funds but still want to upgrade. As you complete quests and deeds, LoTRO rewards you with Turbine Points in game. You can then use these to make purchases from the store, but as deed rewards range from five to twenty Turbine Points, it can take some time to earn enough to open up a new quest pack.
While gameplay is free, Turbine offers both a premium and VIP membership for players who wish to pay. The former will get you past the current level limit, which is 85 as of October 2012 but continues to increase -- decrease login time, increase your gold limit and add character slots. Premium accounts are awarded to players after their first purchase in the store.
VIP accounts include all of those features plus access to all of the quests in Eriador and Lothlorien, the ability to play in monster mode, priority login and an additional 500 Turbine Points to use in the store every month. With a VIP account, you automatically get three inventory bags, unlimited gold in your wallet, all skirmishes and more auction house listings. Many of these options are available individually through the LoTRO store; however, this costs over $300 according to Turbine. For $99.99 per year, you get access to all the VIP features. For hardcore players, this might be a worthy expense.
As you outfit your own home in the game, become kindred with factions and help repel the forces of evil, it's hard not to feel as that you've always belonged in Middle Earth.