The Lord of the Rings Online turns 15 this year and, like any hobbit, will be celebrating with a birthday party. It starts with an update scheduled for late April that will make much of what players previously had to pay for free. “With this update”, writes producer Raninia in the last blog post“All missions, areas, instances, and expansions released between the original release of LOTRO in 2007 and up to – and including! – the release of Helm’s Deep will be available for free to everyone.”
This includes 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 update to the in-game store, which gave free players access to the “Premium Wallet, Gold Coin Limit, and Virtue, Race, and Class trait slots.”
In addition to getting more generous, The Lord of the Rings Online is getting bigger. A new area called Yondershire is coming, “our first Shire expansion in years”, and the Anniversary Festival is returning with a new instance called A Flurry of Fireworks, which will send players to help with a fireworks display in Bree-land. Also, there are plans for new additions from April to the end of June.
“During this time, we will be progressing our Legendary World of Anor, bringing players to the desecrated stronghold city of Isildur, Minas Morgul, and capping level 130 on April 13. Less than a month later, on May 4, Shadowfax will progress to Rohan’s legendary stronghold, Helm’s Deep, and its level cap of 95, which will now be accessible to any VIP at no additional cost! On June 29, Treebeard will make his second jump, entering the dangerous forests of the Forest of Darkness, and Shadowfax will continue to march into the half-ruined lands of Gondor and Old Anorien.”
The Lord of the Rings Online was considered relatively magnanimous when it was released for free. in his review, Tom Senior wrote: “Free games are never completely free, but at LotRO there is a huge amount of content to enjoy before you are forced to spend money.” However, compared to modern free-to-play alternatives like Lost Ark, which doesn’t restrict any of its classes, areas, or quests and instead focuses on selling cosmetics and conveniences, older MMOs like LotRO can seem quite restrictive. I wouldn’t be surprised if other games follow suit.
In other Middle-earth news, the Amazon TV show The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is scheduled to premiere on September 2.