I’ve written 22 posts about LotRO on this blog (this being the 23rd,) even though, to be fair, I’ve not played it all that much and have never managed to get into it for even the duration of a 14-day trial. One of the things I’ve mentioned, though, that’s kept it relatively high on my list of quality MMOs, is that it offers the potential to experience Middle-Earth. As a big Tolkien nerd, this is a significant draw.
How big a Tolkien nerd? Well, I’m glad you asked. Tolkien’s works get their own bookcase in my house. Not just The Lord of the Rings, but The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, which I’ve read cover-to-cover multiple times. I own the complete Histories of Middle-Earth, which is a record of Tolkien’s writing from the very beginning until his death, and have read them all – even The Lays of Beleriand, which is all epic poetry. I not only have Tom Shippey’s J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, but went to see Shippey himself speak on the subject. I have two biographies and several volumes of commentary. And a book of Tolkien’s letters, which contains some real gems.
I own both the theatrical and extended versions of all three Peter Jackson films, and the Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit and The Return of the King (which I think beats out Jackson’s RotK in some regards.) I own some (not all, alas) of the old ICE Middle-Earth Role Playing tabletop stuff. I lament the loss of my copy of ICE’s Middle-Earth poster map, which showed all of Middle-Earth, not just the western lands where the story takes place.
So yeah, BIG NERD. Perhaps, then, it is not a surprise that LotRO never really lived up to my notion of “experiencing Middle-Earth.” I confess to being somewhat snobby about it, but I’ll maintain that I’ve kept my expectations realistic. If I’d kept playing I might have had some magical moments where I felt a part of the place – I’ve had friends tell me that about Weathertop, for example. But I never got that far.
One of the game’s newer quests sends you to some farm in Bree-land to inquire about a mount. Turns out that you have to spend some money (in the form of Turbine Points) to get the riding skill that unlocks the mount. A bit disappointing, but until recently you had to be level 35 or somesuch to get one, so no real biggie.
To get there from Ered Luin, unless you want to walk, you take the horse ride to Bree, where there’s a quest to go see the mayor, who in turn sends you on a tour of the town, talking to various personages thereabouts. That’s where the magic happened.
See, LotRO’s Bree is better than Peter Jackson’s. More true to the spirit of the place, which wasn’t a scary place where Dracula might live, but a folksy hamlet where Men and Hobbits dwelt in relative peace, amid dangerous wilderness crawling with the servants of the Enemy. I was jumping with excitement when I entered the Prancing Pony to talk to Barliman Butterbur, and even more when I found Strider lurking in a corner of the inn, waiting to give me a quest. Awesome, even if I’m a bit low-level for the quest.
Now, I’ve had “magical moments” in other games, specifically Vanguard and EVE, when I came on something that touched my sense of wonder. This one was just as good as those. It was the first time that LotRO really clicked for me. Now I want to do it again.