Back when Lord of The Rings Online first hit the scene, I was already a seasoned gamer with A LOT of years under my belt. I had played alpha and beta tests of games and knew the pitfalls of game-breaking bugs. I dabbled in the MMO for a while and eventually moved on to other titles. There were many gameplay issues to be balanced out and bugs to fix. The game wasn’t broken by any means, but did take some patience. Fast forward a decade and I had been actually thinking of checking back in on some of the MMOs I had reviewed over the years – then my Editor-in-Chief tells me LotRO is having an in-game 10 year anniversary celebration. So off I go, I make a new account and jump right in. How has it changed since it first started a decade ago?
First thing I noticed is that there are four free races you can play and nine free classes (when the game first came out it was subscription-based). This gives you a great degree of choice in terms of what race/classes to play without spending a dime. If you choose, you can then you can spend a little money and pick up the man-to-bear shapeshifter called “Beorning”. This is a race and class combo with its own pros and cons. Also of note is that I had a displayed “recommended server” for my part of the world with an active population that were both friendly and helpful. I cannot tell you how many times I go into a game and have a whole bunch of more experienced players give my n00b-butt grief. One time I was working on a review while recovering from a nasty car accident and a player on my team didn’t like how “n00bish” I was and told me “I hope you get in a car accident”. The Lord of the Rings Online was totally the opposite, other players offered to tell me the way things were laid out, the standard way to do things, shortcut keys to do it faster and just how I could have more fun at the game. Right after I asked my questions I was even invited into fellowships to help me get started and learn the ropes. Seldom is it that such a quick positive response comes out of a community to a new player.
I could have skipped up levels as that is something you can purchase with real money, but I would only really suggest that for a character further down the road because the world is so beautifully detailed. The areas so smoothed out after so many years of play that you won’t find glitches in quests or NPCs, all you have is a nicely developed playing experience. I also wouldn’t recommend playing the Beorning right away, as I think you should have something to look forward running around with after you get other characters leveled up.
PVP is very different in LotRO and works a bit towards something you will want to put money into while playing. Free-To-Play players without VIP status play on the monster side of PVP doing quests and getting titles as they fight as different styles of monsters against the VIP (paying) player who plays as “the Moors” and are the free people fighting the monsters. You don’t have to be a permanent VIP player to do these battles as the people side, you can pay that as you go with in game currency. It keeps things fun and interesting!
So how most of the Pay-To-Play works in LOtRO is by purchasing VIP status for one month, three months, six months, or even a whole year. This VIP status opens up pretty much every aspect of the game to you, adds a couple dozen perks, give you free in-game money every month and every chapter and volume of the game are accessible to you during that time. They seemed to understand that if they are going to charge a subscription of a normally Free-To-Play game it needed to feel like a subscription game like World of Warcraft. The nice thing is if someone can’t afford the subscription they can still play and have a great and rewarding experience with their friends regardless if that friend is VIP or not. It’s a smart move to maintain a player base. You basically wind up with three tiers of player: the FTP player, the VIP but nothing else player, and the VIP and additional prestige items player.
The prestige item player will get the same pony as the normal VIP at that level but they might also buy a special steed with armor plating or a coloring they like or named after a special kingdom. The VIP prestige player is the one that makes it so that the FTP can come in and enjoy the beauty of the game that they probably otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. The March 2017 edition of Wired posted findings of a study that said on FTP games 2% of players are responsible for 48% of all revenue. That guy who has the sweet looking mount and gorgeous armor makes it so that a FTP person can play buy paying the developer’s bills. I wish more games were built on such a model so that friends could game together regardless of their disposable income.
The subscription money hasn’t gone to just keeping the lights on at Lord of The Rings Online, they are constantly releasing new content that tells rich stories while leveling players up to 95. Maybe one of the best draws of all is you can play them furry-footed hobbits.
A Tale Still Being Told:
Lord of The Rings Online is still going strong and just getting better and richer with time. I am so happy it had its 10th anniversary to pull me back into its shires and castles. This isn’t just a flash in the pan game for me. This game has true FTP, VIP, and VIP prestige style play and that means I will stick around, continue with the journey of my characters and hopefully be writing the 20th anniversary review in another decade!
The Lord of the Rings Online Review Score(5 out of 5 stars)