Spotlight On - The Lord of the Rings Online (Free-to-Play)

This Tolkien-themed massively multiplayer adventure will become a free-to-play online game later this year. We recently took a guided online tour.

After many years in development, The Lord of the Rings Online from Turbine Entertainment launched in 2007 and offered players a chance to explore the history of Tolkien's Middle-Earth from the perspective of a hobbit, human, or elf playing through the epic saga of the War of the Rings. The game drew praise from many players for staying true to the stories of Tolkien's universe and for offering plenty of opportunities to delve into the lore of Middle-Earth by way of achievements and more quests than you could shake a certain glowing blue elven dagger at. But the game will soon undergo its most significant update yet: becoming a free-to-play game that monetizes itself through microtransactions from a cash-op (an in-game store). We recently took a guided online tour of the game as it is, and as it will be, when it relaunches this fall.

The Harvest Festival returns to Middle-Earth this fall…when The Lord of the Rings Online will become a free-to-play game.

The big question for current, former, and would-be players of the free-to-play game is this: How is such a mature game with so much content already in there going to be made free to play? Turbine suggests that it will probably follow the lead of its other recently gone-free-to-play online game, Dungeons & Dragons Online. The studio currently plans to offer the majority of the base game's content for free to all players, including the ability to walk across the entire realm of Eriador and play through a huge amount of content and quests, until they meet a select few epic quest vendors (indicated with a lock icon over their heads) who will offer players the chance to pay a small amount of money to unlock a select few epic quests. In addition, the game's previously released expansions, Mines of Moria and Siege of Mirkwood, will exist as separate, for-pay expansions, which, when purchased, will unlock all their content. Turbine has suggested that it may continue to release future expansions this way (that is, crafting a huge new area to explore in a new expansion and then selling that entire expansion whole on the marketplace), though this decision hasn't been made yet.

Otherwise, the game will have an in-game store client that will sell mostly cosmetic, crafting, and convenience items intended to help busy players take some of the "consuming" out of the game's more time-consuming activities. These include traveling across the world (mitigated by purchasable fast travel), repeatedly hunting monsters, and waiting for crafting components to randomly drop as loot (you can simply buy the components outright, instead). The current plan is to make sure that nothing in the in-game store will directly affect any character's power level (so you can't simply make a stronger character by opening your wallet) and to keep for-pay currency completely separate from in-game gold. Turbine has also stated that it is committed to making sure that (with very few exceptions, such as those locked quests) players will be able to discover or purchase pretty much everything that is sold on in the cash-op without spending any additional real-world money. The in-game store uses a Web page-like interface with clickable links, though it's planned to launch only as an in-game application; it won't be accessible from outside the game when it relaunches later this year.

Expansion areas such as Moria and Mirkwood Forest will remain in the game as purchasable expansions.

We started our tour by jumping to and from various areas, old and new, including the upcoming Harvest Festival event, which takes place in a hobbit village around the aptly named Party Tree (a giant tree adorned with streamers). The Party Tree is also the site for new vendors and quest givers that let players access content specific to this upcoming event, which will start in a few months. The event includes The Haunted Burrows, an instance in the village that's basically a carnival sideshow haunted house and offers lighthearted questing and mock threats in the form of phony enemies that may change your character's state (some giant spider enemies may briefly paralyze you with webbing) but won't actually hurt you or enter combat with you.

We then took a cursory look at the new story-driven content that will debut right along with the relaunch of the game, namely Volume III, Book II (the follow-up to the previous book of Volume III's content, which encompasses the early build to the War of the Ring). In this case, Book II will cover the careers of the Grey Company, an elite squad of rangers assembled to aid the nation of Rohan to the south. Over the course of the new content, your character will actually get to know these mysterious warriors and their unique personalities and accompany them on their journey to the land of Enedwaith. This journey was barely discussed at all in Tolkien's original fiction, other than it was written that but 30 of the brave rangers arrived at their destination. Enedwaith will be a much brighter area with plenty of outdoor content--a stark contrast to the game's last content update, the gloomy confines of Mirkwood Forest.

Since the Grey Company's journey was not documented in the original fiction, the story, quests, and content to explore will be all new even to veteran players. The content will also focus on exploration and lore by way of more new session play--Lord of the Rings Online's short-lived lore quests that let you relive the memories of a past character and briefly take control of said character. Session play quests give Turbine's designers a chance to tell a new story through a different character's eyes and also let players temporarily control a noticeably more powerful character in truly epic quests pitted against tough odds. The session play quest we played involved the rangers arriving at a snowy mountain pass after hearing that their king has apparently been lost. We stepped into the leather-soled boots of one of these powerful characters and began exploring the area, which was covered with furry-but-reptilian frost worm monsters that our souped-up character mopped up with ease using both his bow and his sword.

You'll be able to peruse more of Middle-Earth's lore in all-new story-driven quests.

From what we can tell, with the switch over to a free-to-play model, not much of the original game experience will change greatly in The Lord of the Rings Online. The development team remains committed to bringing the lore of Tolkien's classic novels to life through new quests and new areas to explore, and it doesn't seem like the switch to a free-to-play model should be terribly disruptive otherwise. Questing, new achievements, new titles, session play, and skirmishes(short-term, repeatable, combat-heavy quests) will all still very much be a part of the game when it relaunches later this year.

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43 comments
666NightsInHell
666NightsInHell

Game was realy bad , just advertised standard mmorpg, lots of quests is very slow and boring, where you need to sit in one place and wait till mob spawn and when others come for that quest tat can take whole day to finish killing som quest mobs 0/20 or something, quest tracking also very bad, alot of things is FOR REAL CASH, skill system suck badly , why need to go all the time to trainer , why cant make portable ..dunno who writed game screens but they ar very bad, they give me first impression and impression is right about game, if you want more player friendly standard mmmorpg try runes of mgic bettter , hame is much better but with broken classes, some of them overpowered but game is very friendly for free to play players and easy controls quest trakings and simple skill system and lots of things what you can do in game and how to earn money to buy things in cash shop for ingame monet traded in auction house for csh shop money(disabled but soon will be enabled again)..im dissapointed about lotr online not worth pkaying even f2p.. in web is alot of much better games, be smarter and search, dont take first advertised game,good games dont need advertising

laliam
laliam

damn i love the Tolkien universe, and its FREH!

njs72
njs72

I loved this game, but the Graphics, trees and scenery etc popping up and the real bad stuttering when enter different zones just annoyed the hell out of me, i beleive i speak for a lot of people about these issues. Should'nt have this problem on a pc that has i7, and 5870 gpu lol. Until i see that these graphics engine problems have been resolved im sticking with wow till maybe this free to play comes.

mattbmb
mattbmb

there will be 3 ways you can play this game. 1. free to play 2. premium member 3.vip member if you really want to get the most out of this game you will need to be a premium member at least and there is a very easy way to do that,instead of downloading the game for free go on ebay or amazon and purchase the boxed retail edition of the game they are going really cheap anyone who has the boxed version of the game will automatically be upgraded to a premium member.i just bought a copy of ebay for $12.95 once you have done that install the game but dont start a new account just yet 1st take the option to do a 14 day trial once you have done that then enter your game code that comes with the box wich gives you a extra 30 days thats 44 days free play...should get you through to september when it goes f2p

MVXII
MVXII

These free-to-play games can be dangerous. I picked one up for my iPhone and ended up spending more on content than I did for any other app on my phone. At least with a monthly membership you know exactly what you'll be spending each month. That being said, the free-to-play status should attract more people to the game, which is good. I think LOTRO probably deserves more attention than it's currently getting. I'll most likely give this game a go. It'll be the closest we can get to running around Middle Earth right?

Legolose
Legolose

@ Cobra5 - Far from it, this a heck of alot better than WoW, yeah I dont care for it going to free-to-play because its going to get swarmed with a bunch of knuckle-heads and kids asking "can I have some money or can you make me a weapon" an crap like that but the LOTR universe is the only reason I will still probly keep playing it..not for sure yet...will see ;)

Kyoh
Kyoh

My question is: how often or necessary are these to-pay-for Epic Quests? Other than that, this seems like a great idea. Played it when it launched and had tons of fun, but just didnt feel like doing monthly payments. And for whoever was complaining about paying for expansions, you have to pay for expansions in almost every MMO anyway, so they aren't ripping you off here.

Gantrathor
Gantrathor

The fanbase for this game is going to shoot through the roof this fall. It's a very high quality game that deserves to be played more. I always enjoyed this over World of Borecraft anyway, so I'm definitely going to play it. I mean it's free, so why not... right?

Cobra5
Cobra5

I didn't think it was that great... its a WoW clone through-and-through, although I do like the LOTR universe, there's really nothing else that separates it from the pack.

wilson336
wilson336

I pre-ordered this MMO when it first was released. It is quite good, but does not have the fanbase of WoW. I generally prefer it over WoW.

worlock77
worlock77

I've never really bothered with MMO's. But with this going free-to-play and being set in a universe I know and actually care about I might have to give this one a chance.

Killerlion1
Killerlion1

This is no true free to play, they just give us quests in the starting areas, and we are forced to buy quest packs to progress in the rest of the game.

Lazay727
Lazay727

so if you purchase the ep, are they free to play or do they cost monthly? ill just get final fantasy 14 if im gonna be locked out of expansions

Nosoor
Nosoor

it great to live the story guys i guess Hollywood is counting her days i mean who need to watch if he can live the game

JanusStormsword
JanusStormsword

Played LoTRO for about half a year until the first expansion, and definitely enjoyed it, though I decided to move on at that point. Will give this another whirl once it goes F2P.

mattbmb
mattbmb

im getting this when it re launches,ive allways wanted this game but i could never justify spending real cash to play online games.i love LOTR and this should be fun

Leyran
Leyran

When this happens Goodbye WoW :D

bronco1991
bronco1991

ive been playing the beta and so far i see no problem with this game being free, its an awesome gaming experience for free. one problem ive had with mmos is i have a hard time chalking up 15 bucks a month for games like WoW, which ive never subscribed to because of that price

JW-toch
JW-toch

I'll probably check it out when it's going to be free to play!

Curzad
Curzad

A great game that needs a higher player base. Will be nice to actually get a fellowship going for Garth Agarwen and meet some new people. If I need to deal with a few immature players to find some good people, I'll take the risk.

padboy12
padboy12

First and only MMO played because of Tolkien name. Only played on occasional free weekends in the last two years, but for free, it will probably reconquer my life...

EchoEcho
EchoEcho

@Neogenic -- Not really. We still get all the benefits of a paid, VIP account; no limitations on anything in the game, plus 500 Turbine Points every month for free. The game may be going F2P, but paid subscribers still get the better experience by far.

mariostar0001
mariostar0001

I like free, free is good. :D I also like Lord of the Rings, this sounds quite cool to me.

shooters125
shooters125

Thats good news, I always thought LOTRO wa a good MMO but never bothered to play it due to already playing WoW but just because its Free-to-Play just bumped it up over WoW for me. I mean people please dont get mad at me for saying this I'm a geek on a budget here.

uthboth
uthboth

Both the wife and I hold lifetime membership in Lotro. Those that say lifers are getting the shaft don't have a clue. Take a look at this chart. http://www.lotro.com/betasignup/vipchart.html Even though it's going to f2p doesn't mean they are getting rid of the $15 a month membership. With this change we still do not have to pay the monthly fee and we still maintain our lifetime status. There is no loss for lifetime members here. So take a look at the facts before you start saying lifers are getting hung out to dry.

RolielStarfire
RolielStarfire

@Negogenic I have lifetime, and I'm fine with it. They have a tiered system, where if you pay a certain amount per month, you automatically get a certain amount of turbine points to spend in store. As a lifetime member, I get those points for "free" (or rather, I've already paid with the lifetime commitment), and for the rest of the game's existence (or my life, whichever ends first :-).

DaDown
DaDown

I played LOTRO from beta thru the first 8 months after release and have been back to visit on the free weekends. I'm really looking forward to playing more often when F2P is released. If it works out anywhere close to as good as DDO did when it went F2P, it will be a great success!

Neogenic
Neogenic

I wonder what the people that had a lifetime subscription will get out of this... $ 200,- down the drain for these people i guess.

Pete5506
Pete5506

I remember doing the beta for this game, I may have to play a bit when its free

Olsenz
Olsenz

played it again with a beta key last week. I had fun. Once the free is released I might pick it p.

dragonx500
dragonx500

This isn't good news. Microtransactions are the worst part of MMOs. The main game being free will increase the amount of immature children in one of the more mature MMO communities out there. Allowing a player to pay his way through some of the content is a dirty business practice. Completely free > Monthly fee > Death by hammer beating > Microtransactions.

DarkerGemini
DarkerGemini

This game is amazing! I am very happy to hear it will be free to play!

krholmes
krholmes

I've played the game for the three years and am looking forward to meeting some new players. It's a great game.

AntiH3ro97
AntiH3ro97

Never played it before but it looks good. Something id very seriosly consider playing as a free to play. The option to buy cosmetic stuff and convenience items reminds me of maplestory's cash shop system which was pretty good. I played maplestory will lvl 40 ish and then played private server versions of them for a while and then gave it up alltogether. And then started up again, and then quiit, and then play again, and then quit. And now im pretty sure im quitting for good.... but they are adding a duel weild class soon...lol

zedular1
zedular1

Played till lvl 60, but than started end game content, endless waiting for dungeons..... than i switched to wow, got to lvl 80 and than fun started with dungeons and raids. So i think that lotro for me is thing of the past, sadly couse i am a lotr fan. Graphics in lotro is much better and much more realistic, but wow has much better gameplay. And one more thing bugs discovered in lotro sometimes needed months to be fixed, unkown thing in WoW

jazilla
jazilla

i will check it out again when it goes free-to-play. i played til level 48 when i realized that i was doing exactly what i had done in every other zone up to that point. they actually had fetch quests at level 45-50. just because the enemies were 45 didn't mean it was any different than when i was doing that at level 10 lol. the game just didn't feel "heroic" enough to be in Middle Earth. The end of the world is impending and an NPC was having me collect wolf pelts at level 48 lol. That's when I stopped renewing my subscription.