The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (commonly abbreviated to LOTRO, LotRO) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) for Microsoft Windows set in a fantasy universe based upon J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth writings. It takes place during the time period of The Lord of the Rings.
The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar was developed by Turbine, is subscription-based and free to play. It launched in North America, Australia, Japan and Europe on April 24, 2007. The first expansion pack, Mines of Moria, was released on November 17, 2008. The second expansion pack, Siege of Mirkwood, was released on December 1, 2009. A third expansion pack, Rise of Isengard, was released on September 27, 2011. The NPD Group reported that the game was "the third most played massively multiplayer role-playing game [in 2010]" with Turbine citing their free to play model as the reason for the growing subscriber base.
The game's milieu is based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, Turbine does not have rights to any other works in Tolkien's legendarium, such as The Silmarillion or The Children of Húrin. Much of the gameplay is typical of the MMO format: The player controls a character avatar which can be moved around the game world and interacts with other players, non-player (computer-controlled) characters (or "NPCs") and other entities in the virtual world. Camera angles can be switched between first-person and third-person options. Characters are improved by gaining levels. A character's level increases after it earns a set amount of experience points through the player versus environment (or "PvE") combat and storyline adventures. Characters' abilities are improved by increasing in level, but character skills must be purchased from specified NPCs after gaining a new level.
The main storyline (also known as the "Epic Quest Line") is presented as a series of "Books", which consist of series of quests called "Chapters". There were initially eight Books when the game was released, with new books added with each free content update.
Tolkien's Middle-earth as represented in The Lord of the Rings Online implements magic in a different manner than other MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft. There are only five "wizards" in the fictional world, none of which are player-controlled. Instead, there are active skills which require "power" (the equivalent of magic points). Some skills behave like magic (like healing or throwing a burning ember at an enemy), but are based on "lore". In addition, objects and artifacts are used to create effects similar to magic.
Other features include a fast travel system and a detailed quest log with tracker and history.
Player versus player (PvP) combat is included in the form called "Monster Play" or "Player vs Monster Player (PvMP)". Monster Play is unlocked when a player's character reaches level 10; players can then play a level 75 monster. Only one type of monster player is available for free players; others can be purchased individually, or completely unlocked by purchasing a subscription. These monster players (also known as 'creeps') have their own quests, titles and deeds, and fight the Heroes (player characters of level 40 and above, and known as 'freeps,' derived by joining the words 'Free Peoples') in the Ettenmoors. Both heroes and monsters fight for the control of various keeps in the Ettenmoors, of which 5 are able to be taken. When one side holds two outposts (after a period of time the outpost will return to the NPC forces), they are able to go into the Delving of Frór, a dungeon area beneath the Ettenmoors. Outposts are smaller versions of keeps and require fewer people to overtake. As of the expansion Mines of Moria and Siege of Mirkwood the amount of outposts required to enter the Delving of Frór has dropped to two, so that both the 'Freeps' and 'Creeps' can enter the delving of Frór simultaneously (5 outposts overall, 2 required to enter).
Both monster players and Heroes gain ranks in the Ettenmoors through defeating the opposing side. Monsters receive infamy for killing a Hero, and Heroes receive renown for killing a monster player. There are 15 achievable ranks, starting at Footman, and ending at Captain-General (for Heroes) or starting at Tracker and ending at Tyrant (for monster players). Gaining ranks allows the player to purchase specific equipment and armour (for Heroes) or core upgrades, like health, armor and power (for Monsters).
Another aspect of character development is the inclusion of Destiny Points. Destiny Points are awarded for leveling and completing quests and can be used to temporarily increase some of the player's abilities or skills. As a creep, destiny points are used to buy skills and traits. These points can also be earned through combat in Monster Play. Monster players earn destiny points for controlling a keep, killing 'freeps' (the player controlled Heroes) and completing quests. A player's destiny points are shared across all their characters, whether heroes or monsters.
Many players rely on raids or groups to gain "Infamy" or "Renown" for their character. In a raid or group the points gained are divided between the different members, so while killing more quickly each player will gain less per kill. Often during a raid there will be one "leader" who gives directions to the rest of the raid over a voice program or the in-game voice application. Raids are most commonly found on larger servers, but exist on all servers.
Characters obtain titles and traits by completing "deeds" in the game. Deeds are earned in each area of the game, by killing a set number of monsters in an area, using a certain ability a set number of times, completing a number of quests in a given area, or finding certain locations or unique items. Completion of these deeds yields a fixed amount of Turbine points to the player, and usually awards traits or titles.
Titles have no direct impact on gameplay. Instead they provide another means of customization by adding additional information to a character's name. Some titles are common while others can be difficult to obtain. Each character starts with one title that indicates their origin. Titles are earned by completing deeds and quests and by mastering tiers in professions. Only one title can be active at a time. Characters who are ranked in the Ettenmoors can also have a prefix to signify their rank. It is also possible to receive a title of Kinship rank. Some titles are harder to get than others, such as meta deeds which require many other deeds to be done before the title is given.
Examples of titles:
- <character name> the Wary (received by attaining level 5 without being defeated)
- <character name> of Bree (One of the many origin titles that players start with)
- <character name> the Undying (received by attaining level 20 without being defeated)
- <character name>, Spider-Foe (received by defeating 30 spiders in the Bree-lands)
- <character name>, Pie-eating Champion (received after winning a pie-eating contest)
- <character name>, Master Apprentice Woodworker (received after finishing both the basic and master-level tiers of Apprentice Woodworking)
- <character name>, Vanquisher of Thaurlach (received after defeating the Balrog in the Rift of Nurz Ghashu)
Examples of prefixes:
Footman <character name>,<title>, shows that the character is rank 1 in the Ettenmoors.
Sergeant of the Guard <character name>,<title>, shows that the character is rank 5 in the Ettenmoors.
High Warden <character name>,<title>, shows that the character is rank 9 in the Ettenmoors.
Each character has the ability to equip traits earned during the game. Traits give characters a myriad of different bonuses and abilities. Any trait combination can be equipped as long as they have enough trait slots. The number of free trait slots depends on their level. The first virtue trait slot is available at level 7, for example. Virtue, class and racial traits offer a maximum of five slots, and legendary traits offer three slots. Traits can be easily changed by visiting a bard found in most towns, and equipping traits costs a certain amount of money.
Types of traits include:
- Virtue traits are common amongst all races and classes and can be earned by completing general goals, such as killing a set number of monsters, or completing enough quests in an area. These traits generally improve stats, resistances and total morale and power, including regeneration. There are a large variety of goals, and each has multiple levels that can be earned during the course of the game.
- Class traits are specific to a certain class. These are generally earned by using a class skill or power often enough, or meeting certain conditions with these skills often enough, such as achieving enough critical strikes with a certain skill. These skills improve the power of certain abilities and often give an additional passive bonus to character statistics.
- Racial traits are specific to each of the races. These traits confer special abilities or improvements, and only a relatively limited number can be used at one time.
- Legendary traits confer rare bonuses. They are obtained by collecting class-specific books and their pages which drop from specific enemies, from a series of level 45 class-specific quests, or from combining five class traits of a single type.
Characters that reach level 5 can learn to play the lute and, depending on their class, other instruments. Minstrels can learn to play all of the instruments and to teach other players, of all classes, to play them, including bagpipes and cowbells. Using macros, the instrument can be played in real time on three octaves and abc notation, with the music broadcast to nearby players who have not disabled hearing it.
As of the Rise of Isengard Expansion, the latest events in The Lord of the Rings Online are set near the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. The player starts simultaneously with Frodo and company leaving The Shire. Each Region of Middle-Earth is represented as being permanently "frozen" at a certain point of time. For example, it is always September of the Year 3018 of the Third Age in the Shire, December 3018 in Rivendell, February 3019 in Lothlorien, etc. The timeline moves on and is currently set at the Fellowship's recent escape from Moria and their resting in Lothlórien, combined with the Grey Company leaving to join Aragorn in Rohan.
In the initial release, only the area of Eriador was available. Eriador was further divided into Ered Luin, The Shire, Bree-land (this included the area around Bree, the Old Forest and the Barrow-downs), the North Downs (lands to the east and south of Fornost), the Lone-lands (the area around Amon Sûl), the Trollshaws (the area surrounding Rivendell), the Misty Mountains (then excluding Goblin Town), Angmar and the Ettenmoors. There have been three new major regions added to the game since launch and before the first expansion. The Shores of Evendim update added the region surrounding Lake Evendim and Annúminas, about 100 miles north of the Shire. Book 13, Doom of the Last King added Forochel, a snowy tundra at the edge of the ice bay. With the release of the Mines of Moria expansion, Turbine also released Book 15, the last free update, containing Eregion. Other books have added areas such as player housing, or expanded already existing zones, such as the addition of Goblin Town and the High Pass to the Misty Mountains.
Originally only players who purchased the Mines of Moria Expansion had access to Moria and Lothlórien. This type of expansion was continued with the release of Siege of Mirkwood, the region of south Mirkwood including Dol Guldur and the storyline continuation Book 9 to those who purchased the game. With the addition of the Region of Enedwaith in 2010, the game returned its attention to Eriador and also saw the shift to the new hybrid Free-to-Play model. As a result, Turbine revised their approach to expansion in the Update following in November: all player could now visit expansion regions regardless of purchase, but were still barred from most of its content until said purchase was made. This approach was continued with the Rise of Isengard expansion, where the Regions of Dunland, The Gap of Rohan, and Isengard could be visited by any players. Turbine have stated that their intention is to eventually fill in the entirety of Middle-earth, but prioritizing the areas visited by the Fellowship.
There are four playable races in Lord of the Rings Online. Players can choose a male or female gender for each race apart from Dwarves, for whom only male characters are available.
There are seven classes that can be played in The Lord of the Rings Online: Burglar, Captain, Champion, Guardian, Hunter, Lore-master, and Minstrel. There are two additional classes that can be played in the Mines of Moria expansion: Rune-keeper and Warden.
|Burglar||Man, Hobbit||Light, Medium||Daggers, 1H Clubs, 1H Maces, 1H Swords||Yes||Debuffer / CC|
|Captain||Man||Light, Medium, Heavy||Light||Daggers, 1H Axes, 1H Clubs, 1H Hammers, 1H Maces, 1H Swords, 2H Axes, 2H Clubs, 2H Hammers, 2H Swords, Spears, Halberds||No||Buffer / Pets / Healer|
|Champion||Man, Elf, Dwarf||Light, Medium, Heavy||Daggers, 1H Axes, 1H Clubs, 1H Hammers, 1H Maces, 1H Swords, 2H Axes, 2H Hammers, 2H Swords, Spears, Bows||Yes||AoE / Melee DPS|
|Guardian||Man, Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit||Light, Medium, Heavy||Light, Heavy||Daggers, 1H Axes, 1H Clubs, 1H Hammers, 1H Maces, 1H Swords, 2H Axes, 2H Clubs, 2H Hammers, 2H Swords, Spears, Bows, Crossbows||No||Tank|
|Hunter||Man, Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit||Light, Medium||Daggers, 1H Axes, 1H Clubs, 1H Hammers, 1H Maces, 1H Swords, Spears, Bows, Crossbows||Yes||Ranged DPS / Utility|
|Lore-master||Man, Elf||Light||Staves, (1H Swords with Legendary Trait)||Yes (with Legendary Trait)||Debuffer / CC / Pets|
|Minstrel||Man, Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit||Light||Light||Daggers, 1H Clubs, 1H Maces, 1H Swords, (1H Axes with Dwarf Base Passive Skill)||No||Healer / Buffer|
|Rune-keeper||Elf, Dwarf||Light||Rune Stones, (1H Axes with Dwarf Base Passive Skill)||No||DPS / Healer|
|Warden||Man, Elf, Hobbit||Light, Medium||Light, Warden||Daggers, 1H Axes, 1H Clubs, 1H Hammers, 1H Maces, 1H Swords, Spears, Javelins||No||Tank / Solo|
In LOTRO, characters cannot choose a single profession, but they choose a vocation which is composed of three professions.
Professions are bundled into groups of three called vocations. Most vocations include a gathering profession and two crafting professions that complement each other. Vocations create interdependence in the economy, requiring players to trade for resources. A given character can only specialize in one vocation at a time.
Professions are either a gathering or a crafting one. Gathering professions are used to harvest raw materials, which in turn are used to create items using a crafting profession. The higher the tier in this skill, the better raw materials can be used and more advanced items can be made. Each profession requires a specific tool.
- Cooks create food items consumed to recover morale and power both in and out of combat and give temporary bonuses to stats. They also make lute strings that reduce minstrels' threat. Materials for this skill are harvested by farmers, or by the new hobby skill, fishing.
- Farmers grow crops used by cooks. This skill differs from the other harvesting professions in that it requires seeds to grow items. Farmers also provide scholars with rare harvests used to make dyes and straw to make traps for hunters.
- Foresters gather branches of wood scattered around the world, similar to ore nodes. They are also able to treat leather from hides that drop from animals for use by a tailor.
- Jewellers create various pieces of jewelery, which confer benefits on the wearer, such as additional stats. They also craft hope tokens, runes for champions and rune stones for runekeepers. Jewellers get gems and metal from prospectors (which is a craft skill known by all jewellers).
- Metalsmiths create heavy armour and shields made of metal and tools for all the crafting professions. They get materials from prospectors, tailors and jewellers.
- Prospectors mine randomly scattered ores, gems and salts. They smelt ore into metal ingots, which are used by jewellers, weaponsmiths, and metalsmiths.
- Scholar combines both harvesting and crafting. Scholars decipher lore inside urns and vases which are usually found near ruins. Scholar uses lore items and other ingredients to make potions, bow chants, scrolls which serve as buffs for battle, and scrolls that give other crafters a higher critical chance to make a better - 'critted' - item. They also make dyes from plants and mineral salts, and scribe books for hunters, loremasters, and minstrels.
- Tailors make light and medium armour, cosmetic clothing, burglar signals, captain standards and runekeeper satchels. Light armour requires cloth from vendors, and medium armour requires leather from foresters.
- Weaponsmiths craft weapons such as swords, axes, and maces. They also produce tricks for burglars, traps for hunters, and shield spikes for guardians.
- Woodworkers make wooden weapons (bows, clubs, hammers and spears), minstrel instruments, warden carvings and other crafting components needed by other professions. Woodworkers require treated wood from foresters.
The in-game currency is copper, silver and gold coins with 100 copper = one silver coin and 1000 silver coins = one gold coin. Money is earned by completing quests, selling loot obtained by killing monsters to NPC vendors, or selling crafted items to NPC vendors or other players. Money is spent on acquiring gear and equipment from NPC vendors or other players, buying skills from class trainers, repairs after combat, equipping traits at bards, travelling between stable masters, buying crafting materials and purchasing a house. Trading between players can be done directly in face to face contact, via the in-game mail system or through the Auction House. Players with free accounts may have no more than two gold coins, while players with subscriptions, or those who have purchased a gold cap removal from the LotRO Store, may have 9999 gold, 999 silver, and 99 copper coins.
The main story line, the Epic Quests, focuses on some events that are new additions to the Lord of the Rings story created by the makers of the game.
Volume I: Shadows of Angmar
Book I - Stirrings in the Darkness:
After the introductions, the player is sent to Aragorn, who needs help weakening the Blackwolds, a hostile gang within Bree-land, loyal to Sharkey. After helping Aragorn and the Rangers, players are sent to Tom Bombadil to destroy the evil in Othrongroth, the Great Barrow of the Barrow-downs. Though the Wightlord Sambrog is defeated, the Witch-king and his servants, Ivar and Skorgrim escape player's pursuit. Upon returning to Bree, player discovers Aragorn has left with the Hobbits and instead meets Gandalf, who arrived too late to help. As he leaves for Rivendell as well, Gandalf instructs the player to find one of his fellow Istari, Radagast the Brown.
Book II - The Red Maid:
The player is sent to the Ranger Candaith, who tries to learn the location of Radagast the Brown for the player. While waiting, the player investigates the mysterious events that happened on Weathertop and fights the Orc-army around and on top of hill. By the time the enemy is defeated, Candaith has found Radagast in the city of Ost Guruth and sends the player to meet him. Radagast asks for the player's help in cleansing the area of Garth Agarwen from the evil wights that inhabit it. Ultimately the player and Radagast fight Ivar the Bloodhand, their leader and servant of the Witch-king. Upon succeeding, the player is urgently sent to the North Downs to aid the Rangers in those lands.
Book III - The Council of the North:
The player is asked by Halbarad to aid in the defense of the North Downs against Angmar's forces, by uniting the three main armies of the North Downs: the Men of the town of Trestlebridge, the local Dwarves led by Dori and Gildor's Elves. After accomplishing this, the player is sent to Rivendell, where the Fellowship has now safely arrived.
Book IV - Chasing Shadows:
The Black Rider that survived the Flood of Bruinen by Elrond is still somewhere in the Trollshaws, making it impossible for the Fellowship to leave. With the help of Legolas, Elladan and Elrohir, the player chases the Nazgûl, destroying the Trolls he has corrupted, and forcing the Ringwraith to retreat to the Misty Mountains. The player is sent to pursue him, where Glóin and some Dwarves have set up a camp.
Book V - The Last Refuge:
The player's search for the Nazgûl brings him/her to the final stronghold of Skorgrím and the Dourhands, the corrupted Dwarves. An assault led by Gimli results in the fall of Skorgrim and his servants. But the Nazgûl has fled to Helegrod, where a long-dead Dragon Thorog has been reanimated as a wight to serve the Dark Lord. The player arrives just in time to stop the Nazgûl, defeating him and making loose control of the Dragon, who escapes. Now that Rivendell is safe, it is time to move on to Angmar itself.
Book VI - Fires in the North:
Rangers of the North, led by Corunir and Golodir, have gone to Angmar and their kinsmen want to know what has become of them. Upon arriving in Angmar, the player finds Corunir safe in a friendly Hillmen village. He begs the player to find his lost company, who passed through Rammas Deluon: a great series of statues that weaken (or even kill) those who pass it. After destroying the spirits within them, the player becomes able to resist the power of Rammas Deluon, and finds a hidden Dwarf settlement, where a part of the scattered party lives.
Book VII - The Hidden Hope:
The player is informed that Golodir is settled at Gath Forthnir, far in the North. Upon arriving there, (s)he finds that Golodir is long gone and the Rangers are led by his daughter, Lorniel. Lorniel reveals that Golodir has been captured by Mordirith, Steward of Angmar, and has been locked away in Carn Dûm. As leader of the remaining Rangers, and with the help of the Elf Laerdan, Lorniel launches an assault on Carn Dûm, where she is slain by Mordirith, who then releases broken Golodir in a mockery, to continue his torture.
Book VIII - The Scourge of the North:
Golodir's grief for the death of his daughter has almost destroyed him, yet he sees a chance to avenge her. Reclaiming an ancient sword, he travels with the player to the heart of Carn Dûm, defeating Mordirith with his blade. But then Mordirith's palantír, a great seeing-stone he used to torture Golodir, is quickly taken by the mysterious Sara Oakheart.
Book IX - Shores of Evendim:
The player learns that Sara Oakheart is none other than Amarthiel, the legendary Champion of Angmar. She has set up a plot within a tower of Barad Gularan to use the player to weaken Mordirith. Now that she has the palantír, she can communicate with Sauron and challenge Mordirith's position. The player is sent to kill all of Mordirith's Knights, in an attempt to further weaken his power. But despite the player's victories over Mordirith, Amarthiel only grows stronger. After losing Fornost and Barad Gularan, she moves to Annúminas, the ancient capital of Arnor. The Rangers there, led by Calenglad, need the player's aid.
Book X - The City of Kings:
A massive battle in Annúminas ensues and the wise Elf Laerdan offers his services to Calenglad. Mordrambor, one of Amarthiel's captains is captured, but while in captivity, he poisons the mind Laerdan, making the Elf decide to fight Amarthiel on his own, in an attempt to make up for his mistakes in the past. Again the Free Peoples have been tricked by Amarthiel and her servants. Together with the Rangers of Evendim, the player is able to wrestle the palantír from Amarthiel's clutches, but Laerdan is lost. However, within the palantír, Amarthiel saw a glimpse of where Narchuil, her ancient ring, lies. She is now determined to possess its power once more.
Book XI - Prisoner of the Free Peoples:
Amarthiel's captain Mordrambor breaks free, killing many Rangers. Soon he leads an army out of Annúminas, to find Amarthiel's Ring, Narchuil. The player attempts to find Narchuil before Amarthiel can, searching the ancient ruins of the Trollshaws. After much searching, it turns out Narmeleth, Laerdan's daughter, who originally caused Amarthiel's fall in Fornost, has become possessed by her. But all searching seems in vain, when it is revealed Amarthiel has already found Narchuil. However, Elrond does not fall for her trickery again, he realises Narchuil is still out there, and Laerdan knows where.
Book XII - The Ashen Wastes:
Amarthiel has Laerdan transported to Angmar, where she learns from him under torture where her Ring is. In a brave attempt to save both Laerdan and the ring Narchuil, the player is able to get to them before Amarthiel does, but only half of the ring was found. Laerdan confesses to Elrond he has broken the Narchuil in two, and reveals where the other part should be. But then he swears an oath upon Elbereth that he will not rest before he has saved his daughter, and leaves the Council.
Book XIII - Doom of the Last King:
Trying to find out more about the other half of Narchuil, the player is sent to Forochel. However Amarthiel's forces have already arrived, and their search is underway. In an attempt to find the ring before the Angmarim, the player receives help from the shade of the Last King Arvedui. During a confrontation with the enemy, it appears that Mordrambor has betrayed Amarthiel: the two battle each other and disappear from the view. The player then retrieves the second half of Narchuil and returns it to Rivendell.
Book XIV - The Ring-forges of Eregion:
Still seeking to save Narmeleth, Laerdan travels with the two halves of Narchuil to Eregion. Amarthiel, baiting him in, reclaims Narchuil for herself. Elrond sends many Heralds of Rivendell to all corners of Eriador to help him in his search for the lost Ring-lore. But all efforts are too late, for Narchuil has been reforged when the Free Peoples reach Eregion. It quickly becomes clear none are able to withstand Narchuil, until Mordrambor, Amarthiel's former servant, arrives. Sowing confusion in her, he shows her the arrival of Mordirith, who is in power once again, but Amarthiel does not surrender and believes she can defeat him with use of Narchuil. But Mordirith has the power of the Witch-king and defeats her, claiming Narchuil as his own. Just as he is about to finish Amarthiel, Laerdan appears. He reveals his knowledge that Mordirith is actually Eärnur, the last King of Gondor, taken captive by Witch-King and made a Wraith in mockery of his former defiance. Under Mordirith 's orders Mordrambors kill Laerdan, after which the two leave. Amarthiel is devastated by the loss of her father, and taken captive by the Free Peoples.
Book XV - Daughter of Strife:
With the death of her father, Narmeleth is once again freed from the evil influence of Amarthiel. She becomes a captive of the Free Peoples, but volunteers to avenge her father. In Angmar, the final battle between the Free People and Mordirith ensues. First Mordrambor is defeated and Narchuil is finaly destroyed by Narmeleth. In the final confrontation, she sacrifices herself in order to defeat Mordirith. The book ends bittersweet with Narmeleth's redemption and her death and Elrond comforts the player, saying that she had found peace in the Undying Lands.
Volume II: Mines of Moria
- Main article: The Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria
Volume III: Allies of the King
- Main article: The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood
One of the most challenging aspects of the game is grouping to do big private instances. This can be done in small three-man fellowships, which were first created with the Eregion update. For full fellowships there are 6 people involved, examples of this are Fornost, Carn Dûm or Annúminas. There are also harder instances for raids like The Rift and Barad Guldur (12 people, or a double fellowship) or Thorog (24 people, or 4 fellowships). Due to the difficulty of the encounter and the many players involved, each of the classes is usually assigned a specific task by the raid leader.
Most of these instances can be scaled to the level of the group, making sure that older instances are still challenging and not forgotten. There is only one 24-man raid left in the game, Thorog. Turbine has announced that because of the people required, they are unlikely to make a new one. In order to save the progress, some of these instances have locks, giving players the chance to spread out the instance over a few days. Locks are related to the progress of killing bosses.
Sierra On-Line first announced the development of a licensed Middle-earth MMORPG in 1998. Sierra had financial troubles in 1999 and replaced the staff working on the game. Sierra continued to confirm development of the MMORPG but did not release any development details.
Vivendi Universal Games, the parent company of Sierra, secured eight-year rights to produce computer and video games based on The Lord of the Rings books in 2001. Vivendi announced an agreement with Turbine in 2003 to produce Middle-earth Online (at that time expected to be released in 2004). In March 2005, Turbine announced that it bought the rights to make an MMORPG based on Tolkien's literature and that Turbine would publish The Lord of the Rings Online instead of Vivendi.
A closed beta was announced on September 8, 2006. An open beta began on March 30, 2007, and was open to all who pre-ordered the game's Founders Club edition. On April 6, 2007, the beta opened to the public.
Mines of Moria Expansion
- Main article: The Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria
On March 14, 2008, Turbine announced the first commercial expansion. The expansion was released on November 18, 2008. This expansion in addition to adding new areas set in Moria, added two new classes and leveling items.
The areas added focused around Moria, but also touched Lórien. Turbine announced that Books 13 and 14 would be released before Mines of Moria, and Book 15 would be the climax of the storyline. Mines of Moria included the first six books of a new storyline centering in Moria.
In addition to the new classes, Warden and Rune-Keeper, the level cap was raised to 60. Turbine promised that the increase in the games level cap by 20% would affect crafting, raids, PvMP, and everything else.
According to Turbine, the Mines of Moria would be one of the greatest environments of any RPG yet. Creatures would use the environment to their advantage, such as sneaking through dark water or jumping out of the shadows. Parts of the mines would change to reflect your progress.
Siege of Mirkwood Expansion
- Main article: The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood
On September 4, 2009, Turbine announced the second expansion. Release date was on December 1, 2009 and in Europe on December 3, 2009. This expansion raised the level cap to 65 as well as open up the southern part of Mirkwood around Dol Guldur. It also included new traits, virtues and skills.
The biggest change in the expansion was the new "skirmish" system that allows for repeatable, randomised and scalable combat based instances that can be accessed from anywhere in the game world for 1, 2, 3, 6 and 12 players and new 3, 6 and 12 player private instances that take place in Dol Guldur proper. In Skirmishes, the player is provided a companion soldier whose role can be customized to suit the class of the main character. Skirmishes yield regular XP for kills, XP for completion, and special skirmish marks that can be exchanged for various goods and benefits.
Game play enhancements have also been added and include changes to the combat, mount and legendary items systems.
Rise of Isengard Expansion
- Main article: The Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard
On November 19, 2010, Turbine made a press release for a third expansion, The Rise of Isengard, which officially brings the game's timeline to the events of The Two Towers. Players will accompany the Grey Company as they ride to the aid of Aragorn, travelling through the new areas of Dunland, The Gap of Rohan, and the legendary region of Isengard, seat of Saruman the White. New enhancements include a level cap increase to 75, level 75 Second Age legendary items, a new crafting tier, a 24-man raid, and new traits. On June 7th 2011, Turbine announced a release date of September 27, as well as various pre-order options with special in game items. Like the previous expansion, it was released digitally only.
Until 2008, approximately once every two months a major update was added to The Lord of the Rings Online. Each update was an extension to the epic quest called a book. Despite the Mines of Moria being an official expansion to the original game, it will not be required for subscribers to continue receiving the free content updates. However, any new content exclusive to Mines of Moria, including any area past Eregion, will not be accessible. In the case of items such as legendary weapons, they will be viewable but unable to equip.
Book 9: Shores of Evendim
The first free content update was released on June 14, 2007.
- Discovery of Evendim
- Over 100 new quests
- Raid in the Battle for Helegrod
- Nine new monsters
- Collectible armour sets
Book 10: The City of the Kings
The second free-content update was released on August 21, 2007 in North America and on August 24, 2007 in Europe.
- Continuation of the Story Line.
- Legendary Play – Players can now use Destiny Points to play as a Ranger of the North or as a Troll.
- Critter Play – Players can now explore Middle-earth from a different viewpoint as a chicken.
- New Reputation and Bartering Systems – The Reputation system enables players to earn positive and negative standing with different races and groups in Middle-earth based on both monster kills and quest completions. The Bartering system allows players to trade trophies earned in battle for rewards, such as armour sets or mounts.
- Over 100 new Quests.
- More customizable user interface.
Book 11: Prisoner Of The Free Peoples
Updates include (complete release notes):
- Continuation of the Epic Story arc, including 13 quests.
- Player housing – players will be able to customize their houses with items such as furniture and doormats.
- Second raid called "The Rift" – 12-player raid in which players encounter a Balrog for the first time. Turbine has stressed that this is not the Balrog from Khazad-dûm.
- Two new areas – Tâl Bruinen in the Trollshaws, where Gollum will be introduced for the first time, and Goblin Town in the Misty Mountains, featured in The Hobbit.
- More than 100 new quests.
Book 12: The Ashen Wastes
The fourth free content update was released on February 13, 2008 in North America; and February 14, 2008 in Europe.
Updates include (complete release notes):
- Continuation of the Story Line.
- Character customization - Increased character customization "ranging from haircuts, to some (possible) additions to the trait-system." In addition, the Outfit system, along with many special social clothing designed just for it, will be introduced where a second or third set of clothing can be slotted and displayed while retaining the statistical bonuses of the currently equipped items.
- The Delving of Frór - A new Monster Play PVE (and PVMP under certain circumstances) area will be introduced: An expanse of caves and catacombs located beneath the Ettenmoors.
- The Great Angmar Revamp - A revamp of the most high-level region of the game's current 9 PvE regions. The revamp included the reworking of many quests, areas and other changes, such as new horse routes.
- Barbershop - You can customize the look of your avatar in-game with around 50 new haircuts and second set of details.
- Updates to the Burglar, Guardian, and Champion classes.
Book 13: Doom of the Last-King
The fifth free content update was released on April 24, 2008 in North America and on May 1, 2008 in Europe.
Updates include (complete release notes):
- A new playable map area: the Ice Bay of Forochel.
- Players being able to see the ocean for the first time, confirmed as the Ice Bay of Forochel in recent developer chats.
- Fishing - the first of a new system in Lord of the Rings Online, called 'hobbies'.
- New PVMP Monster Healing Class - Orc Defiler.
- Looking For Fellowship- and Quest-panel improvements.
Book 14: The Ring-forges of Eregion
The sixth free content update was released on July 22, 2008 in North America. It was released on July 24, 2008 in Europe.
Updates include (complete release notes):
- Climax of the "Shadows of Angmar" storyline.
- Added selected sections of Eregion (Region leading towards the Gates of Moria).
- Epic Quest events that will allow interaction between players regardless of server.
- Prelude quests for and leading up to the Mines of Moria expansion. Which will have updates leading to Lothlórien, Fangorn, Rhovanion and Rohan.
Book 15: Daughter of Strife
The seventh free content update was released on November 18, 2008. This update was released in tandem with the Mines of Moria expansion for players who did not purchase the expansion release.
Updates include (Epic - Vol. I, Book 15: Daughter of Strife Quests epic):
- Conclusion of the "Shadows of Angmar" storyline.
- Added the zone of Eregion expanding on the selected sections from Book 14. The zone does not include the Hollin Gate leading to the Black Pool.
- Added UI enhancements
The soundtrack for Lord of the Rings Online has received much praise for its quality and variety. It features compositions from Turbine composer Stephen Digregorio as well as original songs from acclaimed video game composer Chance Thomas. Other composers include Geoff Scott, Brad Spears, and Egan Budd. According to Thomas, all references that were made to the music of the peoples of Middle-earth in the books were used to extrapolate as much information as possible about the instruments and styles that each race would have used to create their music. This information was then used as the base for creating the score. Additionally, 61 songs from the game were made available for free in mp3 format using a download manager released by Turbine.
The Lord of the Rings Online has been received very positively thus far, as reviews continue to appear since the game's initial release.
GameDaily awarded the game 9/10, praising its rich, fantasy-themed universe, well-integrated trait and title system, and a story that remains true to the works of Tolkien. Yahoo! Video Games wrote a review with few negative mentions, awarding the game a score of 4/5, while Computer and Video Games called the game an essential purchase for Lord of the Rings fans, scoring the game a 9.2/10. Eurogamer scored the game a 9.0/10, calling it tough to resist. Gamespy gave it 4.5/5 stars, claiming the game "opened up Middle-Earth to the masses" but commented negatively on its weak PvP content, while GameTrailers awarded it 8.5/10, citing its interesting tweaks to the MMO genre. IGN.com ranked it a similar 8.6/10, praising it for its solid experience, though criticizing it for its lack of major improvements to the genre. GamerNode.com awarded the game an 8.8/10, calling it the best MMO launch experience since Ultima Online. The New York Times called the game "a major achievement of interactive storytelling, the first game truly worthy of the ‘Lord of the Rings' franchise and a must-play for just about anyone with an interest in Tolkien or the future of online entertainment." In a GameSpot review, the product was awarded an 8.3/10, praising its appealing polish and intriguing Monster Play feature. Gamepro.com's review gave it an overall 4.25/5, pointing out how engaging the epic quests are, as well as how faithful to the novels the game managed to stay. GameSpy declared The Lord of the Rings Online 'Game of the Month' for May 2007. Midway announced that the game sold over 172,000 copies in North America during its second quarter.
In April 2007, Salon.com reported that the game had dropped a planned feature for in-game players marriage because of the controversy around the possibility of same-sex and inter-species  weddings. One developer stated that the design rule was for weddings to be allowed if examples could be found in the book, as between elves and a humans. The online magazine for gaymers GayGamer.net commented that, while Tolkien was a devout Christian, his stance on gay rights isn't known as the topic wasn't a public issue at the time. Video game critic Ian Bogost compared it to the case of The Sims 2, a blockbuster MMORPG video game that did allow same-sex marriage. 
In August 2007, Codemasters announced that The Lord of the Rings Online had received five Golden Joystick Awards nominations for the five applicable categories for the game, and in October 2007 that it had won the "PC Game of the Year" at these awards. And again won the same award on October 2008.
In May 2010, RPGFan's Adam Tingle named Lord of the Rings Online the best MMORPG of all time in a top-10 countdown.
In January 2011, PC Gamer Magazine chose Lord of the Rings Online as the MMO of the year. Praise was given for treating fans to two new Epic Books worth of quests, two added regions, expansion of in-game events, improved UI elements, and the revamp of the character creation and starter regions. It also notes the success of the move to Free to Play, stating LOTRO is "quickly redefining the way a successful subscriptionless MMO is run."
RPGLand had similar compliments as it awarded the game 2010's "Freebie Award" for being the Best Free-to-Play MMORPG, saying, "Turbine has just plain done an awesome job with turning its subscription games into some of the best F2P MMOs on the market."
Releases and subscription model
In North America, players who pre-ordered the game were offered a special founder's offer, a lifetime subscription for $199 or reduced cost of $9.99 per month. Standard monthly fee is $14.99 with three, six, twelve month, and lifetime discounts available. European players had a similar program from Codemasters. A Holiday subscription was available in December 2007 and January 2008 for $9.99/month for a 3 month commitment. A one year anniversary addition includes a $9.99/month subscription or a $199.99 Lifetime subscription, which was again offered during the lead up to the release of Mines of Moria.
The special edition, which costs $10 more than the regular edition, includes a full-color manual, an item called "Glass of Aglaral", a cloak of regeneration, which is visually different from the one in the regular edition, a "Making of" DVD, soundtrack, and a 10-day buddy key.
On June 4, 2010, it was announced the game was to add a free to play option in the Autumn, with an in game store. Free to play was successfully launched in North America on September 10, 2010. After a delay in Europe free to play went live on November 2, 2010. Since then, the revenue has tripled, according to the company statements.
On April 26, 2011 it was announced that Codemasters would relinquish control of the European service back to Turbine. On June 1st the European servers were transferred, with all the data intact to Turbine. After a transition period of a few days the servers reopened under a unified Lotro global service.
- US LOTRO Official Website / Forums / Fansites / my.lotro.com
- Europe LOTRO Official Website / Forums / Fansites
- China LOTRO Official Website
- Japan LOTRO Official Website
- Korea LOTRO Official Website
- Russia LOTRO Official Website
- Lorebook – official wiki
- Lotro-Wiki (unofficial)
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