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The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor: LotRO's big battles and you

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor LotRO's big battles and you
So... does anyone else think it's a little strange the Turbine's more or less gone dark about Lord of the Rings Online: Helm's Deep? The last we heard anything about the next expansion was back in April, after which we've had a chasm of silence. In the past couple of years, the studio was already into high promotion mode regarding its expansions come summertime, which leads me to believe that something is holding Helm's Deep up -- and I don't think it's looking good for a 2013 release.

I have a hunch that this "something" is the big battle system, the brand-new feature that will be the cornerstone of Helm's Deep the same way that mounted combat was for Riders of Rohan. Recently, Turbine broke its expansion silence to deliver a series of 20 questions and answers about the big battle system, although oddly enough it kept this confined to the forums.

Whether or not LotRO's fifth expansion is coming this year, Helm's Deep's big battles do sound audacious and worth the wait. Let's see if we can't get to the core of what this new system will offer and what the studio is trying to do with it.

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The Road to Mordor: Getting over the 40s hump in LotRO

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor, Guides

The Road to Mordor Getting over the 40s hump
Sometimes column topics are handed to you on a timely platter of complaints. Over the past week, I've heard several people in the Massively office and in my guilds talk about how they hit a wall in Lord of the Rings Online in the level 40 range. If you hear just one person talk about it, it's probably nothing. But when four or five mention it independent of each other, I think it's important enough to discuss.

The 40s are a tricky time for LotRO players. It's the last stretch of pre-expansion road that must be traveled, the levels start taking longer, and unlike much of the 1-40 content, 40-50 really never has been revamped to bring it in line with the rest of the game. As a result, for some the 40s can be a slow slog that requires a lot of zone hopping to conquer.

Oddly enough, it's never been a big problem for me, although I think I approach LotRO in a slightly different way than some. In any case, today we're going to examine the "40s hump" and come up with a few strategies to get over it and get into Moria ASAP.

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The Road to Mordor: Three ways LotRO could encourge rerolls

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Classes, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor Three ways LotRO could encourge rerolls
You're either an altoholic or you're not, and if you're not, then you're probably not too concerned about what your next journey will look like. For those of us who love to fill up our character screens to the max and have rarely gone a week without thinking of sampling a new class, race, or approach we haven't tried before, then a game that provides excellent reasons to do so is essential to our long-term interest.

I've made many a new alt in Lord of the Rings Online over the years, and some of those alts even survived the reality show-like elimination process to make it to high levels. Well, at least until Moria, after which the Balrog probably got them. In 2013 alone I've made good attempts at three alts, the highest of which is level 51.

However, my enthusiasm for alting in LotRO is on the wane. I feel as though I've seen and done everything in those low levels to death, and Turbine isn't giving me good enough reasons to go back through it again. That's unfortunate because alting extends our interest in a title and gives us something to do once we've run out of new content to devour. So here are three ways that Turbine could encourage players to reroll more often in the future.

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The Road to Mordor: Time travel is possible in LotRO

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Lore, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor Time travel is possible in LotRO
Some days I get a headache trying to wrap my head around the way that time works in Lord of the Rings Online. I mean, most MMOs are pretty straightforward when it comes to the time frame; pretty much everyone, everywhere in the game is in the same point in history, give or take a phase or two. Your journey through the game gives the illusion of time passing because your story develops and you go through a series of challenges, but really everyone, NPC and player alike, is living in the same day. If the game advances the timeline, everyone moves forward with it.

LotRO is not like that. LotRO is not like any other MMO I've found, mostly thanks to the fact that it's tethered to an IP that has very time-specific events. A year or so ago, I was talking to Turbine on the phone and asked if I could look at the timeline document that the team uses to keep all of the events straight in the devs' heads. I didn't get to see this document, but ever since I've been keeping a close eye on how the game treats time.

The truth is -- and this is very weird to consider -- that we as players are adventurers not just through Middle-earth but through time as well. We slip forwards and backwards in the timeline, often without even realizing it. You didn't think time travel had a place in fantasy MMOs? Well it does here!

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The Road to Mordor: Saying goodbye to Casual Stroll to Mordor

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Interviews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor Saying goodbye to Casual Stroll to Mordor
If you're a Lord of the Rings Online player, then chances are that you've heard of Casual Stroll to Mordor. The husband-and-wife team of Merric and Goldenstar have been podcasting and blogging about LotRO for four years as they played together, and their insight and guides have become quite sought-after in the LotRO community.

I was saddened to hear that CSTM is shutting down today after 200 episodes and countless blog posts. It's a lot of hard work and time running a fan site like this, and while I don't begrudge their decision to step down, they will be missed. I struck up a friendship with both of them several years back, and we've since been in the same kinship, hung out at conventions together, and podcasted together.

I reached out to ask Merric and Goldenstar if they'd like to share some final words about LotRO and being a big part of the fan community. From running a fan site to thoughts on the direction the game's taking, it's all there after the jump!

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The Road to Mordor: But what if I'm three expansions behind?

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor But what if I'm three expansions behind
One habit that I'm constantly trying to break myself of is assuming that everyone who reads this column or plays Lord of the Rings Online is going through (or has finished) the most recent content that Turbine's pumped out. Over the past few weeks, I've had discussions with Massively staffers, guildmates, and podcast co-hosts who all have admitted to being way behind the content curve in LotRO, many to the point where catching up to the endgame crowd seems like an insurmountable task.

As a particular person asked me, "But what if I'm three expansions behind? Is it even worth paying for all of these expansions and pushing myself to get to Rohan?"

This is a valid concern and obviously one that several folks have, so for today's column I want to talk to those of you who aren't level 85. Maybe you haven't even seen the interior of Moria yet, or maybe you have been following the most casual, sporadic path through Middle-earth possible over the years. Maybe the one-expansion-per-year pace is actually pushing you away from the game. Here's what I think will help.

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The Road to Mordor: The Age of Men

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Free-to-Play, Races, The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor The Age of Men
There's a movie poster tagline that I've seen copied numerous times. It goes along the lines of, "No matter who wins, they lose (or we lose)." This implies that the best-case scenario in the film -- the heroes emerging triumphant -- will still result in a bittersweet moment of defeat, despair, or doom.

This is how I've always thought of the Lord of the Rings in regard to the Free Peoples. Even through this enormous struggle against the Enemy, we know that winning still means losing something precious. In this case, it's the ascension of Men during the Fourth Age and the fading of the other races: the Ents, the Hobbits, the Dwarves, and the Elves. This grand fight for Middle-earth ultimately will preserve and strengthen just one of the races, and the most boring one at that. For Tolkien, this is because LotR is a mythological past history of our world, and we just don't see a lot of Elves walking around today except at Starbucks.

In a way, I feel as if we're starting to get into the Age of Men a bit prematurely in Lord of the Rings Online. The time for Hobbits, Elves, and Dwarves is past; the time for Men is just beginning.

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The Road to Mordor: The Adventures of Floid & Dewitt in LotRO

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Free-to-Play, Humor, The Road to Mordor, Guides

The Road to Mordor The Adventures of Floid & Dewitt
It's important to get this straight right away: Floid is the horse and Dewitt is the human. And no, I'm not giving you the principle cast of a Saturday morning cartoon; this is one of the more interesting Easter eggs that inhabit Lord of the Rings Online.

Floid the Mighty Steed and Dewitt the Explorer are an adventuring duo in the process of touring all of Middle-earth. Their journeys take them to out-of-the-way places, but if you stumble upon them you'll be given a deed to find the pair in seven different locales. Do so and you'll earn the incredible, the awe-inspiring, the magnificent... title of "the Wanderer." OK, it's just a title, but it's a title and a "Where's Waldo?" hunt for two oddballs. I'll take some time off of plowing through Update 11 to do this, yes sir!

While I've been aware of Floid and Dewitt over the years, I have never taken the time to hunt them down and finish the deed. Well, that ends this week. Come with me as I search high and low until all is revealed!

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The Road to Mordor: Six reasons LotRO's Lore-masters rock

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Classes, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor Six reasons why Loremasters rock
In my Lord of the Rings Online career, I've played two classes far more than any others: the Captain and the Lore-master. Both scratch that "pet class" itch that I have in MMOs, both are quite group-friendly, and both seem to be somewhat unorthodox picks (at least compared to the plague of Hunters and Champions infecting the game).

I'll leave a discussion about Captains for another time, but today I felt like talking about the strangeness that is the Lore-master. It's such a unique class in feel and execution, and it's captivated me such that I'm actually leveling up my second Lore-master because I was dissatisfied with the way I handled my first one.

Maybe you've never tried one. Maybe you picked one up and just couldn't get a feel for what it was supposed to do. I'll admit that the LM is an acquired taste, partially because its skillset is all over the map and it doesn't settle into an expected template. However, it may just be the coolest class in the game. Here are six reasons why.

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The Road to Mordor: A Wildermore dev chat

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Interviews, Patches, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor A Wildermore dev chat
Snow-covered zones aren't exactly new to Lord of the Rings Online, but the upcoming region of Wildermore is a little bit different than the normal Misty Mountain ski resorts. How so? Well, for one thing, it's not supposed to be snowy at all. So what's up with the premature winter in this area of Rohan -- and what are you, the player, going to do about it?

That's the basic setup for Update 11: Treachery of the White Hand. The update, which should be going live next week, is what I call the intermission zone: It's the region that Turbine adds between expansions to keep veteran players from bouncing off the walls due to boredom. Lothlorien, Enedwaith, and the Great River are past intermission zones, but Wildermore might be the most fascinating one yet.

Thanks to technical issues, I wasn't able to get a first-hand tour of the new region. Instead, I nabbed a heart-to-heart chat with the devs about the intricacies of Wildermore, the next step of the epic story, and plenty of assorted goodies coming with the update!

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The Road to Mordor: Could Lord of the Rings Online end in 2014?

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Legal, The Road to Mordor, Sunsets

The Road to Mordor Could Lord of the Rings Online end in 2014
Almost two years ago, Star Wars Galaxies players were rocked to their core by the news that their virtual world was to be sunsetted at the end of the year. Despite obvious SOE love for the title and player petitions, the call was already made: LucasArts didn't want to renew the contract with SOE, and that was that. Because of an IP, an entire galaxy was lost.

It's one of the "cons" of IP-based MMOs. Because there is licensing and contracts and other legal mumbo-jumbo involved, an online game that is completely wedded to an intellectual property has the added danger of being shut down completely if the IP is denied to the studio. SWG is a sobering lesson as to how this can happen to an otherwise healthy game.

If you haven't noticed already, Lord of the Rings Online is somewhat inspired by a certain IP. This IP can survive without the game, but the opposite is not true. So the scary question that we'd rather not ask is this: What if Turbine loses the rights have its game set in the Lord of the Rings universe?

It's not an unreasonable question. And what makes it even scarier is that it could conceivably happen as early as next year.

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The Road to Mordor: Helm's Deep calls!

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Expansions, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor Helm's Deep
While I'm quite excited to hear the news of this year's Lord of the Rings Online expansion, Helm's Deep, there are two small nits that I must pick, two little peeves that I must pet before moving onward. The first is that Turbine could not have worse timing; I've been prepping for a vacation and pre-written a couple of weeks of this column, and now this announcement's forced me to scramble last-minute to write a new one.

The other issue is that Turbine's abandoned the "[something] of [place]" title structure it's had ever since Shadows of Angmar. A vain, egocentric part of me thinks that this might've happened because a developer read my expansion prediction column and decided to spite me.

With that out of the way, let's digest the official announcement and see what we'll be doing this fall when LotRO's fifth expansion hits!

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The Road to Mordor: Happy sixth birthday, LotRO!

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor, Anniversaries

The Road to Mordor Happy 6th birthday, LotRO!
Uh, seriously guys, it was just yesterday that I was celebrating the third anniversary of Lord of the Rings Online with you in this column. At least it felt like yesterday. Really, has it been six years already? I guess it must be. It just seems like time moves so rapidly in MMOs, especially ones you've been in for years.

Even if you don't count my first six months in the game prior to and after the game's launch, my current stint in LotRO is the longest period of time that I've ever played an MMO. It's been a little over three years now that I've been playing and covering this game for Massively, and my interest in it has yet to wane. That amazes me; just when I think I might burn out on it, I find something about LotRO to rekindle my interest and passion.

There's something special about this game world that I haven't found elsewhere, I've concluded. Perhaps it's the IP restrictions and continuity that makes Middle-earth more "real" to me than other virtual worlds. Maybe it's the sheer breadth of content or the goofy hats. I can't decide. But I'm happy to raise a glass to LotRO as it turns six and look back at some of my favorite moments over the years.

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The Road to Mordor: A day in LotRO's Forochel

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Lore, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor A day in Forochel
The snow crunches angrily beneath my boots. It's a hard snow, beaten down by the winds and the constant sub-arctic temperatures. On top of it is a light powder that stings when it is whipped into my eyes. Fortunately all is calm and quiet at the moment, and I move on.

I'm a pioneer in Forochel, or so my title tells me, but I still feel as if I don't know this untamed land. It's the roof of the world, or so they say, with odd peoples, strange languages, and frozen ruins. I see sights there that I never would anywhere else in Middle-earth, and it almost feels like an alien world removed from all I've known because of that.

I walk toward a distant fire while the snow falls behind me and covers my footprints. Too often I think of how far away I am from the safety and warmth of home, and it frightens me. Am I a fool to forge into this land? To go in the opposite direction of the One Ring? Or is this my destined path?

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The Road to Mordor: Stepping into Fangorn Forest

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Expansions, Lore, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

The Road to Mordor Stepping into Fangorn Forest
Without a doubt, Riders of Rohan is one of the best expansions Lord of the Rings Online has delivered to date. True, it's not without its rough spots, but overall I'm impressed. The storytelling is excellent, the landscape is engaging, the mounted combat is pretty fun, the music is incredible, and the amount of stuff to do is mind-boggling.

But it wasn't until a week ago when my slow-but-steady Captain finally encountered my favorite aspect of this expansion: the Eves of Fangorn. I wasn't expecting to be so enchanted and engaged, but LotRO threw me for a loop and there I was -- grinning at the zone design and happy that the game can still produce a sense of wonder and adventure in my soul.

Why is it so good? What won me over? If you're thinking, "He's got a tree fetish, he does," then you might not be too far off base.

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