Lord of the Rings Online has almost never been my main game, but since it was released, it has always been my “comfort game”- the game i’d return to, if other games weren’t as good as i thought or something else came up. I really like Lord of the Rings for many different reasons- the atmosphere, the landscape-design, middle-earth (of course) and the very relaxing gameplay. Unfortunately, the last one can make it tedious to play in long stretches, as well. Lord of the Rings Online- at least in the way i play it- is mostly about the questing and i do get tired of the questgrind quite quickly.
When i started to play the game in 2007 or early 2008, i created an Elf-Loremaster and wasn’t very patient when it came to seeing the Shire and Bree for the first time. I made the trip as early as possible- by foot. The world of Lotro is a great one- at least in the early levels- there’ll be villages, roads, all kinds of things to explore and see. And it is large! When Lotro released, large game worlds were the standard- if you’d compare it to the size of newer worlds and what we are used to by now, Lotro’s Middle Earth becomes huge.
Nowadays, we can ride on our own mounts. So i did, to recapture that old experience i’ve only made once and see how long it would take me- the answer? 18 Minutes, on a horse, with some ore-gathering strewn in between. This is, by the way, the road from the first questing area (for dwarves and elves) to the second. I can’t remember how it used to be- if we had to walk this distance, which, by foot, would take more than 30 minutes. But i think we had to.
As an elf, you’ll start in Ered Luin. It’s a small starting area, by comparison, because it is divided in two starting experiences for levels 1 to 15, unlike the Shire, where only Hobbits begin and the Bree-Lands, where the 1-15 experience for humans takes place in only a fraction of the whole map.
I’ve never played a Dwarf in Lotro, so i can’t comment on their starting experience- for the elves, the story revolves mostly around the threat of war between dwarves and elves. There’s an “elf prince” that got kidnapped and the elves suspect the “good dwarves” of commiting the crime. In the course of the storyline, we’ll find out (i really don’t think a spoiler warning is needed here) that they didn’t do it, but another family of dwarves. We’ll then work together in defeating the threat of peace in Ered Luin.
The rest of the elf storyline (read: the normal quests) is mostly about ruins, some missing persons, two brothers who can’t decide and/or persuade each other whether to stay or leave Middle Earth and things like that. It all gives the sense of a race that had its best days in the past- they’re practically living in it and almost every quest- at least those that i remember- has a connection to the past. Only the true filler quests (too many wolves, please kill 10 of them) don’t.
As notable locations, there are the towns of Celondim, where you begin your journey, Duillond, a refuge whose design i never really understood (many bridges- its layout is simple, really, but the steps/bridges always annoy me), a few ruins, Kheledul, a dwarf-port that’s been taken by the evil dwarves, a Vineyard, overrun by goblins, Thrasi’s lodge- a cabin with a few quests the dwarf-town of Gondamon, where the Prologue ends and Rath Teraig.
There’s more, of course, but that were the places i visited before turning to level 15 and riding for Bree.
Unfortunately, you can’t reach Bree from the Ered Luin without a portal. Most of Lotro’s world is open, not zoned, but at some points, there are only portals to get you from one area to the next. For the release version of Lotro this is the only portal i can think of (besides housing zones).
You’ll then continue through the Shire. The Shire is one of the places where you can really see how much passion Turbine put into it- the realization of the Shire is all it needs to be. From the Hobbits, the landscape to the general atmosphere and the music/sound everything fits. The quests, as well, but that’s not the topic for today.
In the Shire, there are a few villages- and i think every one of them has its own Inn. I’d like to visit them another time. The Lotro Shire not only fits my imagination of the Shire from the books, but also my ideal for an MMORPG zone in general- villages, fields, woods, many, many signs of civilization.
The Bree-Lands are equally good, by the way, with the namesake town as the highlight. Bree is, in my opinion, one of (if not the) best designed cities in MMORPGs. It isn’t “economic”, many times you’ll have to travel annoying distances between, for instance, the auction house, the bank and the crafting house, but it is a great town- and again, it is very atmospheric- it seems like a town, that one.
And then, of course, you’ll reach the Prancing Pony and the trip is over.
So much more
All this, you get to see with level 15. And writing this, i could think of so many things to see, explore and write about- the Inns of the Shire, the Villages of the Shire and the Bree-Lands, other interesting places, the quests in the Shire and why it fits into this region. Bree alone could fill a posting like this one, the exploration deeds in these zones and so on.
For explorers and lore fanatics, Lotro has a lot to offer. I’m taking it slow on this one, because i don’t want to fall into the trap of not-reading the quest text again, but i had a lot of fun in these first 15 levels.