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Late to the Game(s): … and back again – A return to Middle Earth

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

It has been a while since I have played Lord of the Rings Online. It probably wasn’t too long after the game launched that I tried it for the first time, and I enjoyed it ok, but I didn’t hang around. I had a lot of other things going on at the time – a full time job, a new girlfriend, a new band and music project, and was part of a raiding guild in World of Warcraft (back when that kind of thing took the scheduling acumen of a fast food restaurant manager and the interpersonal skills of a hostage negotiator to organize). 

So, even though I enjoyed running around the Shire in my early levels as a Hobbit, I never played any of the high level content. I did eventually get around to rolling a Dwarf character too, but I didn’t play much at all with him. Mostly it was idyllic settings and small town conflicts. About the time it should have been getting interesting, I got too busy to play any more. So, I put it away. The installation CDs are somewhere in a box. I never installed it on any new machines I got over the next decade. It wasn’t something I thought much about. 

But, I did have a digital copy that had been redeemed on Steam at some point. I don’t know if this was related to my original copy and account, or if it was a code I picked up as part of another bundle later. I honestly don’t remember. But I had it on my Steam list, and when I saw advertisements over the past week about a special 14th Anniversary event, I was intrigued enough to install the game and give it another whirl – and not just because the fourteenth anniversary of a game is a really weird one to celebrate when the more obvious milestone is just a year away. 

I was also interested in seeing how well a 14-year-old game held up. 

The first thing I had to do, though, was reset my password. Actually, the first thing I had to do was download the game, launch the game, and wait for the game to update, then reset my password when the game refused to accept it. 

When I did finally get everything reset, and got into the game, none of my old characters were there. Odd, but not unheard of. MMOs clean up servers on occasion. It’s one reason that I would keep logging into WoW every year or so for a while after I’d quit playing. Not because I planned to play, but because I’d invested so much time I didn’t want to lose what I had built.

In LOTRO, thankfully, I hadn’t invested too much time. But, one thing I noticed is that the intro is not quite how I remember starting the game before. It could be my character class choice this time. It could just be that the content has moved forward. I can’t say. 

What I can say about the 14-year-old game is that it seems to have held up fairly well. The graphics looked pretty dated at first, but I went into the options and boosted them to the maximum settings and things don’t look too bad.

The promised gifts from the 14th Anniversary celebration were in my characters inventory too. A lot of them aren’t useful to you this early in the game. There are mounts and mount decorations, for instance, but if you are starting a new character like I did you don’t have a mount right away. That’s ok. You can keep it held in your inventory until you do. 

It was nice to see some characters that I’ve come to love through the books, films, and other game series too – especially to see them from another character’s point-of-view and in different settings than we got to see them in the books. These little touches are there for fans of the series, but you don’t need to be a Tolkien nerd to enjoy it. You can play this game, and have fun, without ever having read a single Lord of the Rings book, watching the first animated movie, or sitting through the epic fight scenes of the feature films. 

But the real joy here is going to be for fans of the books or the films, and having their own opportunity to explore the areas of Middle Earth. It’s a rich franchise that has lasted a long time – the Hobbit turns 75 next year – so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a game set in the world has not only lasted for 14 years, but that it has continued to be developed, updated, and shown love by those making the game and those playing it. 

Since it’s free to play, with micro-transactions for unlocking character classes and cosmetic items, there isn’t any reason not to jump in and check it out if you are one of those folks who have always wanted to wander Middle Earth. It’s a 14-year-old game. There are some spots that show their age. But it’s worth a look for fans of the franchise.  

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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