PAX East 11: A Refresher Course on The Lord of the Rings Online

By Chad Awkerman

March 20, 2011

PAX East this year was filled with MMOs for me, checking out both the new and the old. I’m a huge MMO fan and so have played many of the ones that have been around for a while, including The Lord of the Rings Online, from Turbine. But, it has been a while and I haven’t played yet since it went free-to-play last fall. Apparently, a lot has changed – and all for the better.

Of course, free-to-play has been very successful for Turbine and their MMOs, especially Dungeons & Dragons Online and now The Lord of the Rings Online. Subscribers keep pouring in and the item shops seem to see a steady flow of traffic. That’s great, because I’ve always felt that LOTRO provided the MMO space with something more unique, personable and thought-provoking than even big names like World of Warcraft. At the same time, I felt it was lacking something that I really wanted to see in an MMO – soloability.

But, that was last time I played. Fast forward to now, and things have changed so drastically I really want to get back into LOTRO and start experiencing it all over again. Not only has the graphics engine been updated for DirectX 11, which provides some awesome-looking effects to the environment, but the game has taken on a decidedly more solo-friendly feel.

All the early large book quests, which used to require groups of players to complete, are now soloable. When the next update releases in just a few days, that will include everything through the Mines of Moria expansion, as well. I’m not anti-social by any means, but I’m also not your typical social butterfly, and I like going at things alone much of the time. This is one thing that originally didn’t quite click with me for LOTRO, when games like WoW offered a complete solo path to the top. Now I really want to go back and check out how things have changed.

On top of that, they’ve made changes to the outfit system, as well. This is something I wish more MMOs would include, because it allows you to maintain the stats of your currently equipped armor, but see on-screen the visual model of some better looking gear or vanity items that you may want to dress your character in. The entire interface for that has been revamped. In addition, now you can also preview items from the store on your character that you may want to purchase, so you can see how things look. If it doesn’t match, then you don’t have to waste your money buying it. (I mean, unless you really want to go around with mismatched colors, but who does, seriously?)

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Shortly another update will go live for LOTRO called Echoes of the Dead, and will, like I mentioned, expand the soloability of certain areas of the game, improve other areas by adding many new quests, continue the epic story as your character shadows the Fellowship as they march ever closer to Mordor, introduce new dungeons, raids and legendary items, as well as updates to skirmishes and monster play. So, there is a lot to look forward to here for current players. If you have played in the past and haven’t checked things out in a while, now might be a great time to do so, as well, with all the improvements that have come in the last year or so. Yes, Turbine, I did hop in and start playing again!

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Chad Awkerman

Chad joined the DualShockers staff in mid 2009 and since then has put much of his time into covering RPGs, with a focus on the Japanese side of the genre, from the obscure to the mainstream. He's a huge fan of iconic games like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI and Persona 4 yet enjoys the smaller niche titles, as well. In his spare time he enjoys experiencing new beer, new foods and keeping up with just about every sci-fi show on television. He's married to an intelligent, beautiful Southern Belle who keeps his life interesting with witty banter and spicy Cajun cooking.

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