Over the past couple of months I've gotten into LOTRO. I SERIOUSLY implore anyone looking for an MMO to give LOTRO a go. The game is a deadset hidden gem. Despite the game being 13 years old, I haven't felt this much immersion, sense of community and lore in an MMO for a very, very long time. The game has thousands of hours of content and none of it feels irrelevant and pointless, unlike other themepark MMOs out there. There is even an item that some people buy that can be toggled to stop giving you EXP so you can explore and indulge in the lore without out-leveling it.
The class design is very unique and despite what they look like to the average eye, they're very fun and interesting to play (give Warden a look at).
In terms of player-base, although it might be considered "low" by WoW/GW2/ESO/BDO standards, the game has about 5K concurrent players which is more than enough to make friends and find groups. Because the player-base is so small, the players tend to be a lot more dedicated to the game and active in chat, the world and in instances. Seriously my Aussie kinship has at least 10-15 people on at all times.
The game world is by far the largest in any MMO ever released (it's middle earth for gods sake) and the fast-travel is fairly limited.
Leveling is about the pace of Old School MMOs such as WoW Classic, (but it goes to 130, not 60) so you can see how long it'd take to just hit max level.
Although the graphics are fairly dated, they can be sort of semi-spiced up with community addons and ReShade filters. It is however nice to play a game on such a large scale and get 144hz on 1440p however, because with how epic the landscapes are on this game, FPS would tank in something like unreal engine 5.
The game is free to play with an optional cash shop and subscription fee. The game does have a "premium" account which is the middle ground between free and sub fee. To become a premium player all you need to do is buy ANY amount of LOTRO Points from the store once. The game can be a bit pricey (roughly $200 for all content) but the content has been developed for over 13 years and is easily a couple thousand hours worth. None of the original content or previous expansions are made irrelevant like in WoW as the game MAKES you want to complete it all, and not just to reach the "end game". You can also just buy the content as you go, and don't feel the need to buy it all at once.
I seriously don't think $100-200 is a lot for 5000 hours of content when people are buying triple A titles for $80-100 these days with 15 hours of decent content (Godfall, Assassins Creed).
Overall the base game is completely free to play (won't need to buy an expac till about level 50) so you don't have much to lose, other than your bandwidth and spare time.
I'm not affiliated with the game at all, I just want people to know this game exists and that is deserving of their time. It will continue to be my back up game throughout Shadowlands because the subscription is really unnecessary and I don't very feel obligated to play it due to the game's casual nature.
I almost feel guilty dropping the money on a RTX 3080 and playing a 13 year old game but I am finding it so hard to pull myself away from LOTRO and play something more graphically intense.
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