What is Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO)

ord of the Rings Online, commonly abbreviated to LOTRO, is a free to play Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG or simply MMO for short) based around the creative works of famed fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien.

How Do I Download and Play Lord of the Rings Online

The entire LOTRO game is now downloadable, free of charge, without the requirement of placing a valid credit card on file. Simply visit the official website, and begin your download – which may take a few hours to a day depending on the quality of your broadband internet.

Immediately after installing the game, the player will be provided with the option to create a free account, and to host up to two different characters for free (players who choose to activate a premium account via the purchase of expansion Mines of Moria or via subscription are allowed five character slots).

Players must then select a server or realm in which to play, as well as a class. Free accounts have access to the basic classes – Minstrel, Guardian, Burglar, Captain, Champion, Hunter, and Lore-master. Those who purchase the Mines of Moria expansion also have access to two additional bonus classes – Warden and Rune-keeper.

After selecting the server you would like to play on, you’ll begin your journey in the realm of Middle-Earth via a short story instance, introducing you to the controls and basic game mechanics. Tread lightly, and be sure to say hello to Strider!

Is LOTRO Free to Play, Pay as You Go, or Subscription Based

The answer to this question is actually all three – there are several levels of subscription available to those looking to join other players in the realm of middle earth.

  • Free Account: Free accounts are limited to two character slots, the basic seven classes, and do not gain access to the additional expansion content provided with the purchase of Mines of Moria. Free to play characters also suffer several in game handicaps (fewer inventory bags, inability to purchase a mount early on) that can be overcome by spending some points in the LOTRO store.
  • Premium Account: Those that choose to spend a few dollars of real money in the LOTRO store in exchange for turbine points are rewarded by upgrading to a premium account. The premium account automatically increases your character slots to five, and also allows you access to purchase upgrades a la cart – the passive riding skill, extra bag slots, extra auction slots, and extra virtue slots to name a few.
  • VIP Account: Members who choose to subscribe to LOTRO via credit card for ~$15 per month are upgraded to a VIP account, which unlocks all features of the game while your subscription is activated. This option is excellent for players who know they will be playing the game on an intense level for a brief period of time just as much as it would be for those who figure they will get about a year’s gameplay out of the title.
  • Whether you’re a hardcore Tolkien fan or simply someone who enjoys the fantasy genre, Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online provides a great deal of immersive entertainment. From Bree to Hobbiton, from the winding depths of the Mines of Moria to the dusty mausoleums of the Great Barrows, Middle Earth is placed on display for all players who would enjoy venturing throughout an entirely new and creative narrative.

Power Leveling in LOTRO

The internet is full of articles and walk-through – and even pay-for services – whose purposes are to ramp up your character’s level as quickly as possible. Players often choose to take this route in order to gain power and wealth quickly or to catch up to their buddies who have been playing for a while, and believe that it will enhance the enjoyment of their gaming experience. This misconception stems from assuming that higher levels, more places, better quests, cooler titles, and the most powerful items, will actualize their characters.

When taking this approach in The Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO, for short), a player might miss the most interesting and wonderful aspect of this rich, colorful, Tolkien-esque setting; that is, the setting itself. The game is balanced in such a way that ensures a meaningful gaming environment for characters of all levels. Rushing through levels without any thought to what is being missed makes no sense, really. Sure, upwardly-mobile gamer friends might poke fun or even abandon the patient player as they rocket ahead in perceived power and wealth, but the patient ones will get there eventually, and they will have more fun along the way.

Exploring LOTRO’s Middle Earth Is Its Own Reward

For the patient player, the simple exploration of the game world can be highly rewarding, particularly if you are a Tolkien fan. Power levelers might completely bypass the sight-seeing aspect of the game, and this is a shame. Imagine traveling through the Shire and coming upon the site where Frodo and Sam met Gildor the Elf as they journeyed toward Buckland. Consider the smile that will result from stumbling across three stone trolls in the midst of the Trollshaws, or running into the Ent that Sam’s cousin Hal swears he saw north of the Shire a few years back. These details are lovingly included in the Middle Earth setting of LOTRO, but they are unmarked, and will be found only through careful and observant adventuring.

Power leveling players severely mute most of the interaction with the canonical supporting cast of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings; thus cheating the player out of much of the enjoyment of the game. As of this writing, most, if not all, of the settings described or referenced in The Fellowship of the Ring have been fleshed out, from Ered Luin to the forbidding Mines of Moria to Southern Mirkwood. Included therein are all of the characters, the main ones as well as the supporting ones, mentioned in one way or another by Tolkien.

Power Leveling Ignores the Role-Play in MMORPG

Turbine System Engineer Jeff Rubin states, “Middle-earth is a world filled with adventure and mystery. For some, drinking a pint at a Shire tavern or cultivating the finest pipe-weed passes their time. For others, it is pure exploration, or advancing through the main storyline that makes them happy.”

Often players forget or ignore that role-playing can enhance the enjoyment of an MMORPG like The Lord of the Rings Online. How can one enjoy ale at The Green Dragon in Hobbiton or a cup of mead at The Prancing Pony in Bree? Where would a power-leveler find the motivation to argue with Lobelia Sackville-Baggins at the doorstep of Bag End, or do an odd job or two for Sam’s Gaffer. Someone interested only in gaining levels and gold might not bother to take the time to guide poor, abandoned Bill the Pony back to safety. All of these activities and hundreds more await the discerning, experiential gamer within LOTRO.

As is standard in most MMORPG’s, the ability to form adventuring groups with other players (appropriately known as ‘fellowships’), further enhances the social aspect to The Lord of the Rings Online. Additionally, players can form guild-like social structures of like-minded online friends called ‘kinships’. Joining a kinship with many members virtually assures a fund of available companions when a quest requiring a fellowship is offered.

When all members of a fellowship role-play, elves seem like elves and hobbits seem like hobbits. Champions might act like dumb, gung-ho jocks, and Loremasters might behave as brainy nerds, all the while playing within the context of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. There is a lot of fun to be had with all of this. How could power-leveling enhance these experiences in any way?

Power Leveling A LOTRO Character Eventually Has Advantages

Players who have been in the game for a while, perhaps starting a new character, have seen the sights already. Although the role-playing aspect of the game remains, the exploration facet might become tedious for these veteran players who wish to quickly get their virtual hands on the good stuff that comes with leveling up. Eventually, players may wish to escape from exploring and get straight to the power-mongering and avoid what could be considered at this point, a “grind”.

Even so, the official LOTRO forums are filled with threads and comments from new and veteran players alike extolling the thrills of stumbling across hidden gems. These are obscure, little known characters, locations, and items mentioned briefly or in passing by Tolkien, but carefully placed within the game setting of LOTRO.

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