The cancellation of Amazon and Tencent's Lord of the Rings MMO title came as a shock. The world of game development can be a volatile one, but it just seemed like the perfect idea. With such well-established lore to pull from, a new Lord of the Rings Online could have told countless stories. Just like everyone else, we were very disappointed at the loss of a grand Middle Earth adventure.
It's still an exciting time for fans though. With Amazon's Lord of the Rings series and a Gollum game in development, the LOTR MMO would have played into that well. Fortunately, hope is not lost as you can in fact play a version of Lord of the Rings Online right now – the original 2008 MMO.
It might be a little dated compared to more recent release, but it provides an interesting way to visit Middle-Earth in a way no other games, books or films have. There are characters and locations from the books, and an original story set alongside the wider events of Middle-Earth.
We looked at the free-to-play MMO to see if it is worth diving into. Mainly because of our own intrigue, but also for fans of the LOTR series disappointed by the cancellation.
First impressions weren’t great. The game decided it wanted to boot at 1280x1024, a problem fixed with a quick venture into the settings menu. Even running at 1080p, LOTR Online isn’t a looker by any stretch of the imagination.
Fortunately, its world more than makes up for it. Upon starting the game, you'll have to choose your race and class. In the free-to-play version of the game there are five races to choose from; Man, Dwarf, Hobbit, Elf and Beorning. There’s also High-Dwarf and High-Elf classes for anyone who’s willing to invest.
Each race has associated classes ranging from archer through to thief and champion. Lord of the Rings Online has the typical selection of classes you would expect to see in high-fantasy. Each individual class provides a unique play style, depending on the role you would like to play in battles.
Races have their own unique prologue, introducing players to the world. Playing as an elf, we started our journey at the iconic Rivendell. Our Elven us in a Rivendell under attack from Dwarves. A short tutorial later, we are running around Rivendell pinging arrows at the encroaching Dwarves.
We also started a separate Hobbit character, in the interest of seeing what other races had to offer. Not pulling any punches, the developers once again threw us in at the deep end. Recreating the classic moment Nazghul searches the shire for Frodo. It would seem whichever race you pick, the game will throw you into the world with a bang.
Later on in the game, players will find themselves embroiled in the events of the books. Not only will you meet the likes of Aragon, Gandalf. But you will also take part in iconic events like the Battle of Helm’s Deep.
Expansive & Active World
What surprised us most about LOTR Online is that it still has an incredibly active player base. The world chat was filled with players conversing throughout our playthrough of the prologue. For a game that turned 14 this month, that’s quite an achievement.
This isn’t a fluke though. The team behind Lord of the Rings Online spent a decade-and-a-half building their rendition of Middle-Earth into something truly fantastic. Updates for the game still release to this day, with an upcoming expansion set to take players to Mount Gundabad.
Lord of the Rings Online may feel a little outdated. Nevertheless, the sheer wealth of content available for free makes it worth picking up. We’re not sure how the team continues to make money from the title, considering how much of the game is free, but hopefully the dedicated community is investing in the game.
A passion project
Expectations going into Lord of the Rings Online were initially low, but this is truthfully a fantastic MMO. It was disappointing to see Activision and Tencent cancel a modern reproduction of LOTR online. However, what we’ve already got more than passes the bar for an interactive experience set in Middle-Earth.
Want to start your own play through in Lord of the Rings Online? You can sign up for free by visiting the website here.