|The Lord of the Rings Online|
|Publisher(s)||Turbine, Inc. (former)|
Midway Games (former)
Codemasters (former, only Europe)
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (former)
Daybreak Game Company (current)
|Engine||Turbine G3 with Havok|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, OS X|
|Release||April 24, 2007|
|Genre(s)||Massively multiplayer online role-playing game|
The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) for Microsoft Windows and OS X set in a fantasy universe based upon J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth writings, taking place during the time period of The Lord of the Rings. It launched in North America, Australia, Japan, and Europe in 2007. Originally subscription-based, it is free-to-play, with a paid VIP subscription available that provides players various perks.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Storyline
- 3 Development and release history
- 4 Reception
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Much of the gameplay is typical of the Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) format: the player controls a character avatar which can be moved around the game world and interacts with other players, non-player characters (or "NPC", controlled by the computer) 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. Other gameplay features include a fast travel system between discovered locations in-game, and a detailed quest log with a tracker and history of quests completed.
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 and skills are improved and obtained by increasing in level.
Tolkien's Middle-earth as represented in The Lord of the Rings Online implements magic in a different manner than other MMORPG 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.
As opposed to other role-playing video games, the equivalent of health or hit points in The Lord of the Rings Online is morale and can be raised via food, rest, music, and battle cries. The game also places a fair emphasis on cooking and farming in its crafting system, in consistency with the characterization of Hobbits in Tolkien's writings.
Classic Player vs. Player (PvP) combat found in many other MMO does not exist in The Lord of the Rings Online. Instead, it does have "Sparring" where PvP-like combat results by inviting other players to spar one-on-one. This can take place anywhere in Middle-earth (individual players can turn off these requests to spar) but there is no in-game benefit to the victor in a sparring match.
The in-game world of The Lord of the Rings Online is divided into 25 distinct regions with individual dynamic content and storyline. Three main world areas include Eriador, Rhovanion and Gondor (unlike in Tolkien's original world, Enedwaith appears under Eriador and Rohan is considered to be a part of Rhovanion). Each region in the game contains non-player characters (NPCs) and quests within an established player character level range. Level ranges are broad and the regions' main quest lines will guide players through deeds and quests in the region in progression from lowest level to highest level. Every region contains PvE content, but the only in-game region that player's can participate in PvP action is the Ettenmoors. Each region also has a capital, the largest settlementhat serve as 'quest hubs' (bases to accept or finish quests from friendly NPCs) and contain in-game services for player characters, such as vendors, auction houses, crafting halls, etc. Every region is sub-divided into distinct areas, with individual landscape aesthetic and NPCs that spawn only in that area. These areas take on many distinct appearances: swamp, tundra, forest, open plains, hilly regions, lakes, etc. The areas contain additional quest hubs and services, either large settlements of NPCs or small camps or lone NPCs.
Players begin (depending on race) in an area of Eriador, which on release was divided into Ered Luin, The Shire, Bree-land (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 (at first excluding Goblin Town), Angmar and the Ettenmoors. Early free updates added Lake Evendim, Annúminas, and Forochel. The Mines of Moria expansion also added Eregion. Other updates have expanded existing areas, such as adding Goblin Town and the High Pass to the Misty Mountains, and Tal Bruinen to the Trollshaws. Each region of Middle-earth is represented as being permanently "frozen" at a certain point of time. Later, the timeline has moved on to be set after the destruction of the ring while free people explore Mordor freed from Sauron but filled with evil and Sauron's allies.
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 to lands west of the Misty Mountains. As the game continued to grow, Turbine revised its approach to expansion in an update in November 2010 after which all players (including free-to-play) could visit expansion regions, but those playing for free were barred from most content. This approach continued with the Rise of Isengard expansion which included Dunland, The Gap of Rohan, and Isengard. Update 6 added the area around the Anduin south of Lothlórien. The Riders of Rohan expansion added The Eastemnet: the Wold, the East Wall, Norcrofts, Sutcrofts, Entwash Vale, and the Eaves of Fangorn. The Helm's Deep expansion added The Westemnet: Broadacres, Stonedeans, Kingstead, Eastfold and Westfold (including Edoras, Aldburg, Dunharrow and the fortress of the Hornburg). Updates 14-16 introduced Gondor between the Paths of the Dead and Osgiliath. Updates 17-18 added Minas Tirith and the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Update 19 added North Ithilien. Update 20 added The Wastes (three zones: Noman-lands, Dagorlad, and the Slag-hills) and the majority of the Battle of the Black Gate. Update 21, the Mordor expansion, concludes the Battle of the Black Gate and adds the Plateau of Gorgoroth which includes five regions: Udûn, Dor Amarth, Lhingris, Talath Úrui, and Agarnaith.
There are six playable races in Lord of the Rings Online: Dwarf, Elf, High Elf, Hobbit, Beorning and Man. Players can choose a male or female sex for each race apart from Dwarves, for whom male is the only playable gender.
There are seven classes that can be played in The Lord of the Rings Online, Champion, Guardian, Hunter, Burglar, Captain, Minstrel and Lore-master, with two additional classes (Rune-keeper and Warden) playable in the Mines of Moria expansion. A tenth class, the Beorning, was introduced in Update 15 in November 2014.
Player characters may choose professions dedicated to gathering and/or crafting. Gathering professions involve harvesting of raw materials for use by crafting professions. Professions are optional but permit players to advance through skill levels and create in-game armour, weapons, and other equipment.
Characters are identified in-game by names chosen by players. First names are selected and surnames can be added later once a player has enough in game experience points (Exp). Additionally, titles are granted for completion of deeds or acquisition of player characteristics (for example advancing in a profession). Membership in a kinship also grants an additional title.
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. Traits can be easily changed by visiting a bard found in most towns, and equipping traits costs a certain amount of money.
An in-game currency of gold, silver and copper coins permits player characters to profit by completing quests and selling obtained loot and crafted items to NPCs or human players. Currency can also be used to acquire equipment from NPCs or other players, pay to repair equipment after combat, equip characters with traits, fast travel, buy crafting materials, and purchase a house. Players can trade face-to-face, via in-game mail, or at in-game Auction Houses. In update 11, Mithril Coins (available for purchase with real world money or Lord of the Rings Online points in the Lord of the Rings Online Store) were added as a meta-currency for game-related purchases. VIP subscription perks include the removal of the currency cap that would otherwise hamper the economic freedom of a player, and the ability to send currency through the mail system, and make cash-on-delivery payments.
Characters on reaching Level 15 can purchase a house in instanced neighborhoods. Neighbourhoods and houses have different themes depending on setting (there are four settings: Man, Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit). Decorations/furniture may be purchased or acquired as rewards in certain in-game activities such as quests, deeds or festivals. The items are displayed via item hooks and may be either cosmetic or functional. Houses come in three different sizes and include chests for additional player storage. Houses require weekly maintenance rent (using in-game currency) with houses locked on failure to pay upkeep. The largest size house is reserved for kinships (player guilds). Players can own one personal house per server, and restrict the level of access to himself only, kinship members, or make it publicly accessible. As of Update 19 in late 2016, Premium housing is now available, based in a new housing area in the Cape of Belfalas in Gondor.
A fellowship is a band of up to six characters, created to complete quests and to pursue group hunts. The fellowships are known as "parties" in other role-playing games, and they can be formed and disbanded by the leader at any time. Fellowships are an integral part of the game, as they are necessary to engage in difficult group instances that players will encounter. All players in a fellowship can communicate with each other in the fellowship chat panel, where a conversation is seen by all fellowship members.
All members of the fellowship will be displayed on the left hand side of every players screen (unless it has been adjusted otherwise), so that the status of every member can be monitored. Members in a fellowship will also appear to each other on regional maps, which allows for easy location when not in combat. When in a fellowship, members can enter into the same instance as each other from the instance join panel, or they can be summoned by special abilities. There are several easily identifiable icons that can be placed over every players head by the fellowship leader so that members who are strategic in an instance or other mission can be easily located. The fellowship leader also has the ability to invite or dismiss a member at any time. A fellowship can also be transformed into a Raid, which can be composed of up to four separate fellowships and can contain anywhere from 6 to 24 players.
Fellowships (including those found in raids) can use the Fellowship Manoeuvre system to perform special group moves. Fellowship Manoeuvres occur randomly and require that the target be stunned or knocked down, in any group encounter with a "signature" or higher enemy. Burglars and Guardians also have special skills that can initiate these actions when triggered. When a Fellowship Manoeuvris initiated, every player within the area will get a color wheel on their screen to choose one of four skill contributions.
Monster Players in the game can also join Fellowships, though they are named Warbands instead. Players who are playing as Monster characters (see below) in a PvP zone also gain access to the Fellowship Manoeuvres panel. Although the same principles apply, they are instead renamed Warband Manoeuvres.
Deeds and reputation
Deeds are a means of tracking accomplishments for each character that are not part of a quest. Most common are regional deeds, found in all the game's landscape regions, including Explorer, Slayer, Lore and Reputation deeds. Deeds are generally granted upon completion of one of the goals of the deed (e.g., finding the first area of an Explorer deed or killing the first enemy of a Slayer deed). Additional deeds include those tied to individual character's class or race. Epic story deeds are advanced by completing quests in the Epic Quest line. Additional deeds are also granted in conjunction with the Skirmish and Instance features. A final category is the Hobby Deed, related to in-game hobbies such as fishing. In addition, there are deeds that can be Hidden, and there are 'Meta' Deeds. Hidden deeds aren't displayed in the deed tracker until the deed is complete. Meta Deeds require completion of several other deeds. In all cases, deed completion is generally rewarded by statistic boosts, almost always Lord of the Rings Online Points (LP), and sometimes cosmetic/non-combat awards such as titles or emotes. Virtue, class and racial traits offer a maximum of five slots, and legendary traits offer three slots.
Types of traits include:
- Virtue: 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: 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: 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: 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.
Reputation is the measure of how well acquainted a player is with a specific group or faction of NPCs. There are various factions in The Lord of the Rings Online that a player can become acquainted with in their travels. Reputation for these different factions may be gained by completing quests, defeating specific monsters, crafting items, and completing deeds. Many of the original reputation factions as well as those in the Mines of Moria expansion also accepted reputation items that were either collected from defeated NPCs or gained by completing deeds. However, since the Siege of Mirkwood expansion no new faction in the game has had this feature added, although a system of daily quests was created that allow the player to gain a steady source of reputation in the absence of reputation items.
There are two kinds of factions in the game, those are Reputation Factions and Crafting Guilds. Reputation Factions are factions that generally only inhabit a specific region of the game, such as the Men of Bree who are present in Bree-land; each have a main location where the player can purchase goods and services from the faction's vendors, some of which are only accessible at higher reputation levels. Some factions also possess a vendor where the player can barter faction-specific items awarded from quests or instances for unique items such as armour or weaponry. The ability to gain reputation with Reputation Factions is open to all players who have purchased the content for the region these factions are present in. Crafting Guild factions however, are available only to players who belong to a specific crafting vocation, and a player can only gain reputation with any one of the several Crafting Guild factions at any one time. Crafting Guild factions also have locations that the player can visit to barter for guild-unique goods, including valuable crafting recipes for specific professions.
There are several levels of reputation that a player can achieve with any faction. The default starting point for most factions is neutral, although reputation with the Lossoth of Forochel begins one level below this. In addition to these tiers of reputation for Crafting Guilds, there is a further three levels that the player can achieve. As the player progresses up these tiers in either Reputation Factions or Crafting Guilds, they gain access to more valuable goods and services from the factions vendors. These upgrades include things such as travel discounts and special reputation mounts for Reputation Factions, and access to higher tier crafting recipes from Crafting Guilds.
Player vs Monster Player
In The Lord of the Rings Online, Player vs Monster Player (PvMP or alternately Monster Play) is more similar to what players expect as classic PvP. However, it is still not possible to loot defeated player characters. "Creeps" (Monster players) have quests, titles, and deeds similar to regular characters. Creeps fight against free-people players ("Freeps") in the Ettenmoors for control of five keeps in the Ettenmoors. On July 20, 2015, Update 16.2 added the new PvMP area: The Sundering of Osgiliath.
To engage in Monster Play any player must first create a normal player character and reach level 10. "Free to Play" players may then play an Orc Reaver class for free. They may also purchase additional classes individually in the Lord of the Rings Online Store in-game; you may have one slot for each of the six classes available to play: Orc Reaver, Orc Defiler, Spider Weaver, Uruk Blackarrow, Uruk Warleader, or Warg Stalker. These characters begin at maximum level. Once created, each monster character will persist and be available for further play, unless you choose to reset it. Free and Premium players can purchase a temporary Ettenmoors pass from the Stable-masters offering travel to the Ettenmoors using 20 of the Mithril Coin currency to purchase six hours of PVMP playtime. VIP subscribers have unlimited access while their subscriptions are current. Only VIP players can play a Freep in PvMP. Similarly, a VIP player has access to all monster character classes, as well as unlimited access to "the Moors". A VIP player has access to PvMP at level 20, and low-level characters are automatically "scaled" to the current level cap. Note however, that this refers only to the character's basic stats. When one side holds two outposts they are able to go into the Delving of Frór, a dungeon area beneath the Ettenmoors. Outposts (smaller keeps) are also objects of combat. Two outposts must be taken to enter the Delving of Frór. Monsters and Heroes progress through 15 ranks in the Ettenmoors by defeating opponents. Higher ranks give access to better equipment and armour, health, and power ratings. Commendations are given for quest completion or enemy kills and also permit purchase of statistic improvements, skills, equipment and appearance. Raids and groups permit faster advancement.
In keeping with Tolkien's heavy use of song and music in his books, Lord of the Rings Online has a player music sub-system akin to MIDI that has been the subject of a Harvard anthropological study. Characters on reaching level 5 can learn to play musical instruments, including Bagpipes, Clarinet, Cowbell, Drum, Harp, Horn, Lute, Pibgorn, and Theorbo. Using keyboard macros, instruments can be played in real time on three octaves and abc notation, with the music broadcast to nearby player characters. Players can also play pre-programmed pieces from user-created .ABC script files using the game's music notation, similar to MIDI files. Players often hold impromptu public performances, in solo or as bands at places such as The Prancing Pony Inn in Bree. Communities also regularly organize music events and mini-concerts such as "Weatherstock": Woodstock above Weathertop.
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. The Epic Quests focus on some events that are new additions to the Lord of the Rings story created by the makers of the game. The player starts simultaneously with Frodo and company leaving The Shire.
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, the player is 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 the player's pursuit. Upon returning to Bree, the player discovers Aragorn has left with the Hobbits and instead meets Gandalf, who arrived too late to help. The player is then instructed by Gandalf (who leaves for Rivendell as well) to locate one of Gandalf's 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 the 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 him lose 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 of 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 realizes 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. However, 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 the Witch-King and made a Wraith in mockery of his former defiance. Under Mordirith's orders Mordrambor kills 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 finally 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
Volume III: Allies of the King
Volume IV: The Strength of Sauron
The final volume, the first chapters of which were released in March 2015. The epic story concludes with Book 9, which was released as part of the Mordor expansion. Volume IV covers the final months of the War of the Ring. The player character is summoned to Dunharrow to meet Lady Eowyn who informs them that Aragorn and the Grey Company have travelled through the Paths of the Dead. The player character learns that a faction of the dead called the "Ruthless Dead" have chosen to follow Sauron and stop Aragorn.
The player sets out after Aragorn and, through region quests, stops the Ruthless Dead before coming across the Corsair fleet that Aragorn has set out to stop. The player then takes part in the Battle of Pelargir and afterwards is tasked with going to Minas Tirith and informing either Faramir or Gandalf of Aragorn's plan to take the Corsair ships and sail up the Anduin. After journeying through Eastern Gondor, the player comes across Osgiliath being raided by the army of Minas Morgul. During the player's time in Osgiliath they discover that Moridith has returned from the void and been rechristened 'Gothmog'. The player eventually ends up escaping the city, meeting up briefly with Faramir before he is shot by a Morgul dart and rendered unconscious. The player then prepares the city of Minas Tirith for siege and after looking in Steward Denethor's Palantir, sees the battle of Minas Tirith take place and the Rohirrim not arriving, leading to the fall of the city. After telling Gandalf what they have seen, the wizard asks the player to head out to find King Theoden's forces. The player finds the Rohirrim in Far Anórien and marches with them to Minas Tirith just in time to save the city, finishing the Battle of Pelennor Fields in time to march to the Black Gates through North Ithilien and the Wastes. On the Slag Hills the player fights during the Battle of the Black Gates to draw the enemy eye from Frodo and the ring. The quest of the ring is completed and the player travels with Gandalf on the eagles just in time to save Frodo and Sam from the eruption of Mount Doom. Volume IV ends here as the last of the volumes; a new story begins with Mordor: the Black Book of Mordor.
The Black Book of Mordor: Where the Shadows Lie
The War of the Ring is over and also the volumes which followed the player since ten years are no more, new stories are beginning. The first of them is called "The Black Book of Mordor: Where the Shadows Lie" and talks about what happened soon after the fall of Sauron in the Dark Land and beyond. It is divided in chapters: the first four were released with the Mordor expansion in 2017; two chapters each were released in March 2018 with Update 22: "Legacy of the Necromancer" and in October 2018 with Update 23: "Where Dragons Dwell".
Development and release history
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 had 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.
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 humans. The online magazine for gay gamers, 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, which did allow same-sex marriage three years prior.
The game was developed and maintained by Turbine after Jeffrey Anderson secured the rights from Vivendi. In January 2014 it was announced that the license for The Lord of the Rings Online had been renewed to 2017.
Executive producer Aaron Campbell transferred to other duties in 2015, and Dungeons and Dragons Online franchise director Athena Peters replaced him. Peters announced a new roadmap for the future of Lord of the Rings Online, including improvements to the legendary item system, new fellowship quests, and various "quality of life" fixes. Also on the agenda for the summer of 2015 were server merges and new datacenters.
On December 19, 2016, it was announced that Turbine would no longer develop the game, rather a new independent game studio was formed under the name Standing Stone Games, the staff of whom would made up of the people that have been working on The Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online under Turbine before. The publishing of the game would transfer from Warner Brothers to Daybreak Game Company. While a reason was not given for the transition, it was assured that the game would continue with new development.
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 special edition, which cost $10 more than the regular edition, included 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.
The one year anniversary edition included 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. However the lifetime subscription option is no longer available and is unlikely to return.
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. During the following six months the company reported tripled revenues from the title.
On April 26, 2011, it was announced that Codemasters would relinquish control of the European service back to Turbine, and on June 1, the servers were transferred. After a transition period of a few days, they reopened under a unified Lord of the Rings Online global service. Finally, on June 6, 2012, The Lord of the Rings Online was made available for download on Steam.
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 is not required for subscribers to continue receiving the free content updates. However, any new content exclusive to Mines of Moria, including any area past Eregion, is not accessible. In the case of items such as legendary weapons, they are viewable but unable to be equipped. The only exception to this is the Helm's Deep update, where a portion of the Epic Story tied in directly with a new feature added in that expansion. Because of this, in order to play through the Helm's Deep Epic Story, the expansion must be purchased.
In addition to regular free updates, six expansion packs have been released:
- Mines of Moria: released in 2008 this expansion featured the underground world of Dwarrowdwelf.
- Siege of Mirkwood: this expansion was released in 2009, it introduced Mirkwood region and the skirmish system.
- Rise of Isengard: released in 2011 this expansion introduced Dunland region and new instances in Isengard.
- Riders of Rohan: this expansion was released in 2012 and featured mounted combat and East Rohan.
- Helm's Deep: it was released in 2013 and introduced "epic battles" and a new region in Rohan (West Rohan).
- Mordor: released in 2017 after three years of minor free updates. It introduced the Plateau of Gorgoroth region and new instances in Mordor.
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 received wide universal acclaim 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 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. 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'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.
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. It won the same award again on October 2008.
In 2010, RPGFan's Adam Tingle named The Lord of the Rings Online the best MMORPG of all time in a top-10 countdown while RPGLand gave its "Best Free-to-Play MMORPG" annual award. That year, the NPD Group reported that the game was "the third most played massively multiplayer role-playing game" with Turbine citing their free-to-play model as the reason for the growing subscriber base.
In January 2011, PC Gamer chose The 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. Also noted was the success of the move to free-to-play, stating Lord of the Rings Online is "quickly redefining the way a successful subscriptionless MMO is run."
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