With The Fellowship of the Ring about to turn 20 years old, an upcoming series coming on Amazon Video, which will be about the never-before-seen Second Age and a Gollum video game coming out soon, there’s a lot of Middle-earth content to look forward to. But while we look ahead to all that, now seemed like a good time to finally go back and check out the 2007 MMO, Lord of the Rings Online, which against all odds, is still thriving today. So, is it worth it to try out this free-to-play video game in 2021 or should you leave this hobbit in his hobbit hole?
Lord of the Rings Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) for Windows and OS X. Released in 2007, the game’s serves are still up and running today and there’s a strong and helpful game community. The game has moved on from a mandatory paid subscription model to a free-to-play model with in-game purchases from an in-game store or the subscription. For the sake of this article, I opted for the free-to-play model in order to give you my impressions, so bear in mind that there are no story expansions here or paid gear. Also, it’s worth mentioning that I’m playing Lord of the Rings Online on the same desktop I use for writing, with integrated graphics, so if this is something you want to try out, you shouldn’t have any issues unless you’re using a seriously dated system or an extremely limited laptop. But with that in mind, it’s not exactly a graphical powerhouse (at least without any mod and I opted to try this out vanilla).
After a lengthy installation process, you can finally build your character (some races and classes are blocked due to the free-to-play model). But in the name of just getting to it, I built a Champion of Men, proficient in swords and doing big damage and set out. The opening hours are very linear, as this focused area very much serves as the tutorial zone. And…it’s a bit of a slog. You’re tasked with mission after mission to complete but missions largely amount to talking to an NPC, walking to another NPC and then maybe walking back. One character may say, go talk to this character all the way on the other side of the zone, who will ask you to do something else, like slay some wolves or investigate the whereabouts of some missing people, then you have to report back in and all of the missions start and complete with a text screen, rather than a dialogue sequence. In fact, there is almost no dialogue in this game, you may hear a line from an NPC but then the rest of the conversation is text-based and getting a chunk of text in a separate window makes missions feel very hollow and meaningless.
The story is sort of like an alternate reality to the events of the books, in that many characters from the events of the story, such as Strider and Gandalf, are taking place in events that don’t take place during the books. This is to allow your story to take place and to let you interact with those iconic characters while not messing with the established lore of Tolkien’s novels.
Now, while the missions are…lacking, to say the least, there is one thing that The Lord of the Rings Online does well and that’s the world. Once you finish up with the tutorial area, the world really begins to open up and you begin to see just how massive the map actually is. It’s…big. It’s not to scale or anything, that’d be nuts, but the sense of scale and detail is certainly there and is the main reason why you should explore the game, especially on the free-to-play model. The world isn’t based on the films, but walking from the starting area to Bree and onwards to Bag-End without any loading time is pretty satisfying. In short, the world is a fun and detailed world (considering when the game was made) and I’m sure there’s some great fun to be had if you put the time, money and maybe some mods into it, but at face value, it’s maybe worth a quick peak for fun but as a long term commitment, there not only better Lord of the Rings games out there but better fantasy games in general.