Turbine’s take on Middle Earth has been live for almost 6 years now and, despite the appearance of numerous other titles, remains one of the most popular western MMOs. It’s also one of the easiest to access thanks to its free-to-play business model. There’s no trial period, no intense restriction on abilities – free players can truly enjoy the game.
You still need to have a handle on the game’s basics, however, and the complexities of the pay store can be confusing. Here’s what you must know to get started with Lord of the Rings online.
Choosing Your Server
There are currently 29 servers active. The bulk of these are North American servers but there are also European servers and also specific servers for Denmark and France when are noted by DE and FR abbreviations, respectively.
Only the European, Danish and French servers come in an official role-playing flavor (one each). North American players looking for RP should check out Landroval, which is “Roleplaying Encouraged” and unofficially used as the RP server for North American players.
Brandywine is the most active server, followed by Dwarrowdelf. No server is a ghost town, but the least active servers have about half the weekly logins as the most active. You can see weekly server stats here.
Choosing Your Race And Class
There are nine classes in LOTRO. Because the game is not focused on competitive play, the developers haven’t tried to homogenize it. Instead, they’ve tuned classes to provide different levels of engagement. Turbine represents this by giving each class a difficulty rating: basic, moderate or advanced.
Basic: Champion, Guardian, Hunter
Moderate: Captain, Minstrel, Runekeeper
Advanced: Burglar, Loremaster, Warden
Basic classes are straightforward. They do one job, and do it well, and do it with a (relatively) small number of abilities. Champion and Hunter are among the game’s top damage-dealers, while the Guardian is a standard tank. While all reward advanced play, a low level of skill is required to be effective. These are good picks if you are not familiar with massively multiplayer games or want a relaxed experience.
The moderate classes throw more spice. Captains have a lot of support abilities but remain tough. Minstrels weave songs to heal and do damage. Runekeepers are glass cannons that can achieve amazing damages or heals (but not both at once) via their rune mechanic. These classes are a good pick if you’re an experienced MMO player.
Finally we have the advanced classes, all of which can challenge even veteran MMO players. Burglars have decent damage and great support, but are a squishy melee class, so you’ll have to choose battles well. Loremasters boast excellent ranged damage and tons of utility spells, but remembering what to use when can be difficult. Wardens are tanks with complex combo attacks that you’ll have to memorize and execute in the heat of battle.
Two of the classes mentioned above, the Runekeeper and the Warden, do not come with the base game. Free-to-play accounts can’t use them unless they’re purchased through the store. You’ll receive both classes if you buy the Mines Of Moria expansion – which is probably what you should do, as the expansion is required to level beyond fifty.
The Free To Play Model
As a free player you’ll have some notable, though not crippling, restrictions on your play. Here are the most important.
- Only three bags
- Maximum of two gold
- Can’t list items on the auction house
- Can’t mail currency
- Maximum two characters per server
All of these restrictions can be lifted through the LOTRO store. Once you make a cash purchase of any item on the LOTRO store you become a Premium player, which increases or lifts most restrictions (you gain an extra character slot per server, for example). A full run-down of the restrictions can be found on the LOTRO Wiki.
Technically, you can obtain the maximum level of 85 as a free player. However, you won’t have access to the content that’s required to actually hit that level, and some of the free restrictions become overbearing as your level increases. You can lift these for free by earning Turbine Points to spend in the store. These points come from completing deeds (the LOTRO equivalent of achievements) and certain quests.
Obtaining enough points to unlock major upgrades is not easy, however. If you’d like to read more about the experience I recommend checking out Vonrandir’s blog. This fellow decided to try and hit the in-game level cap without spending a dime and documented the experience. He reached level 55 before throwing in the towel.
How To Get More While Spending Less
The VIP subscription has numerous bonuses including expanded character slots, no gold limit, more bags and etc. Many of these bonuses go away when VIP expires but unlocks for characters – like trait slots, outfit slots, bag slots, riding skill and more – won’t go away. Only unlocks made available while you’re VIP will remain after the subscription lapses. A low-level character who never obtains the riding skill, for example, won’t be able to obtain riding after VIP expires.
The general consensus is that one month of VIP is a good value. The features unlocked are far more expensive if purchased piecemeal on the LOTRO store. However, because unlocks only apply to characters you login to while you’re VIP, any new characters you make won’t have those benefits.
New players who don’t mind spending a little cash should also check out The Mithril Edition. This starter pack is sold for $19.99 and includes 2000 Turbine Points, some quest packs and a unique mount. The Turbine Points alone are worth the price of entry, as the $20 pack sold on the LOTRO store includes only 1,550 points.
Once you reach the original level cap of 50 you’ll be out of things to do unless you buy the expansions. The least expensive bundle available right now is the Expansion Triple Pack, which provides the Moria, Mirkwood and Isengard expansions for $39.99. This will take you to level 75 at which point you’ll need to buy Riders Of Rohan. That’s another $39.99 but, by the time you reach that point, it may be on sale.
If you are a casual player strolling through content off a VIP subscription you’ll want to check out the Quest Packs (which are free with a VIP subscription). These are chunks of content that provide additional leveling opportunities and can be purchased for a reasonable number of Turbine Points (they start at 595 and reach up to 795). These packs occasionally go on super-sell, as well.
Turbine’s free-to-play model can be a bit confusing at times, but it’s also flexible. Players who have very little money to spend can still enjoy content and occasionally grab more content with in-game points. Meanwhile, those willing to play down for the subscription fee can play everything without restriction. There are some special items that even VIP players must pay for (like cosmetic mounts), but they’re not required to enjoy the game.
Do you have any advice that can help players receive more for less in the Lord of the Rings online store? Let us know in the comments.