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The Lord of the Rings Online - A Hobbit's Tale

Posted 9 Aug 2010 17:13 by
So, Codemasters is taking Lord of the Rings Online to the land of free-to-play. I set out to get the lay of the land with the Mines of Moria, some drunkeness and a muse or two on the nature of 'Free'.

It's the middle of the night, I'm running across a farmer's field in my underpants and I'm pissed as a newt. I hear singing and laughter drifting on the night's breeze. The inn I need to get to is somewhere in the village below, but there's a river between me and it, and I can hardly walk in a straight line let alone swim in one. Getting to the guy from the tavern league to claim my prize is going to be a problem.

When I finally crawl up to the bar the guy from the league presents me with another six pints of the Shire's finest. "Drink up!" he says, and sends me onto The Floating Log in Frogmorton. It's five long minutes down the road, it's still dark, and there are vicious shrews and bats along the way waiting to pounce on unsuspecting alcoholics like me. Six pints drunker I stumble out the door and promptly run into a wall. Once I've recovered I'm on to the next pub in the Summer Solstice Festival pub crawl, where I'll be plied with more ale and given my next destination.

I am a Hobbit. This is what we do.

To get the most authentic Lord of the Rings experience you need to start The Lord of the Rings Online in the Shire, as a Hobbit. That's where the book began, with Frodo and Sam, and Bilbo Baggins' birthday, and that's where I began as Ebergrim - a halfling minstrel with a mission.

Charged with delivering a letter to Celandine Brandybuck I was waylaid along the Stock road, first by a Bounder - a Shire policeman - who needed help clearing Odo's Leaf Farm of a spider infestation.

Then I encountered a sinister, shrouded figure who croaked the words 'Shire, Bagginssss' and sent my stunted avatar into paroxysms of fearful self-urination. This was one of the Nazgūl - ancient kings corrupted by the Sauron's magic - who'd been sent into Hobbit territory to find and slay Frodo Baggins. For he alone carried the only thing capable of Sauron's ultimate destruction: The One Ring.

Well, you've seen the movies; you know the story. That an MMORPG - a genre best known for the repetitive accumulation of experience points used to increase stats and raise levels (or 'grinding', as it's known) - has a single story thread at its core is impressive in itself. It has the other trappings of the genre - the side quests, the illiterate public chat and yes, the grinding. But it's the story people come to LOTRO for; and the characters, and the world.

Unlike World of Warcraft's Azeroth, Middle Earth is a familiar, comforting place. Developer Tubine has done its utmost to translate the books to the PC screen. There are no sly nods to popular culture; there's no breaking of the fourth wall. What you see is what you get, and what you see is beautiful.
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Spankmeister 19 Aug 2010 05:47
Excellent article. And you are correct, there does seem to be a fair amount of negativity in the air surrounding Turbine's decision to go F2P. But there's also a good amount of positivity as well. In the end, the grumblers will hopefully move on (back to Mordor from whence they came I suppose) and hopefully some new-to-LotRO fans will stick around long enough to experience the grande adventure.

I'll be there for sure, mug of ale in one hand and a bowl of Old Tobey in the other, because we are Hobbits and that's what we do.
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