Recently, I started playing Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) after a very long hiatus. A friend on a message board recommended getting back into the game (when I was looking for something new to play), and that’s exactly what I did. Thus, it has given me something to write about.
I should point out that I first started playing LOTRO nearly five years ago when it was in early release. I remember enjoying the game back then but around 25th level, my hunter became too difficult to play, so I quit. There were always so many other choices.
Now, the game is free to play with Turbine making its money from microtransactions and players who choose to pay regularly as VIP members. When I came back to LOTRO, I chose the VIP route, and here I am there today.
A couple of thoughts right after the start: The game is still very immersive, and you definitely feel like a part of Middle Earth. The Hobbit lands are very immersive as you feel as if you’re in one of the movies themselves. The game is also very early Everquest-like, meaning that unlike World of Warcraft, the game rarely holds your hand as you try to figure things out. And there’s a lot to the game, so you have to pay attention or you just might miss something important.
As for the story, that’s where I have mixed feelings. It’s definitely Lord of the Rings, which means it is quite epic. But at the same time, you know Frodo and the gang are the ones saving the day, so where does Argolwar (my elf hunter) fit in if the true quest involves only those people? Every now and then, a hero from the story will come along to recruit me for a mission, like Strider does in the beginning to help him fight bandits. But all I kept thinking was: “Strider, or may I call you Aragorn, good sir? Um, you have much more important things to do than recruit this lowly hunter to beat up bandits. Go stop Sauron. I’ll be fine here shooting arrows at nondescript bad guys who have absolutely no significance to the greater scheme of things.”
And then the game allows me to learn trade skills like farming and cooking. So, as I’m farming for either Shire taters or Shire apples, I’m thinking, “man, there must be more to life than just this.”
Which brings me back to my recognition that I’m in a game that les me be an unimportant cog in the wheel of a, well, a wheel of time of Tolkien perspective in a world where I should be contributing so much more than I’ll ever be capable.
But the game does have a certain amount of a catharsis purpose, as the characters in it appreciate you, even if you realize how insignificant you are. In the Shire, I joined the Bounders, which is the civilian problem solvers for Hobbits. The npcs recognize this and thank me every time I walk by them. If only I had that happen to me just once at work or in my regular life.
The one thing I really like about the game is how much there is that I still don’t know. With World of Warcraft, the game spoon feeds you through each and every stimulation. This game doesn’t do that. I’m always convinced that right around the corner is another needy soul who is going to ask for my help. And as the Hobbits discovered, all they have to do is ask, and I’m there with my bow, my sword, or my axe.