The Lord of the Rings Online turns 15 this year and like every hobbit will celebrate with a birthday party. It begins with an update scheduled for late April that will make a whole lot of what players have previously paid for available for free. “With this update,” writes producer Raninia in the latest blog entry“All quests, zones, instances, and expansions created between LOTRO’s original launch in 2007 and up to – and including! – Released upon release of Helm’s Deep will be available to all for free.”
These include three previously locked classes (Beornings, Rune-keepers, and Wardens) and one race (High Elves). The post notes that this is in addition to last month’s in-game store update, which granted free players access to “the premium wallet, gold currency cap, and virtue, race, and class trait slots.”
Lord of the Rings Online is not only becoming more lavish, it is also getting bigger. A new area called Yondershire is coming, “our first Shire expansion in years”, and the Jubilee Festival returns with a new instance called A Flurry of Fireworks, which will send players to help with a fireworks display in Bree-land. In addition, further additions are planned from April to the end of June.
“During this time, we will make progress in our legendary world of Anor, bringing players there to Isildur’s defiled fortress city of Minas Morgul and level cap 130 on April 13th. Less than a month later, on May 4th, Shadowfax will ascend to the fabled stronghold of Rohan, Helm’s Deep, and its level 95 cap, which will now be accessible to any VIP at no additional cost! Finally, Treebeard and Shadowfax will both become both at the end of June take further steps. On June 29th, Treebeard will make his second leap and enter the dangerous forests of Mirkwood, and Shadowfax will march on into the half-ruined lands of Gondor and Old Anoria.”
Lord of the Rings Online was considered relatively magnanimous when it first went free to play. In his review, Tom Senior wrote, “Free-to-play games are never entirely free, but in LotRO there’s a massive amount of content to enjoy before you’re forced to spend any money.” Compared to modern free -to-play alternatives like Lost Ark that don’t restrict any of their classes, areas, or quests and instead focus on selling cosmetics and amenities, older MMOs like LotRO can seem pretty restrictive. I wouldn’t be surprised if other games followed suit.
In other Middle-earth news, Amazon’s TV show The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is set to debut on September 2nd.
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