LOTRO Legendarium: A breezy trip through King’s Gondor


It was only this past spring that I took my level 100 Minstrel through the lands of Gondor in Lord of the Rings Online. Starting from the west, she traveled east from the sparkling sea shores and into the ever-darkening sky of a war-ravaged land until arriving at the major setpiece of Pelennor Fields.

So it’s with a huge sense of déjà vu that I now return to this land with Update 36 and experience a revised Gondor — one that is flipped from dark into light. This time I went east to west in the aftermath of the War of the Ring to see what Standing Stone Games had in store for this next stage of our epic journey through Middle-earth.

Lord of the Rings Online is a funny game in that the player population is a lot more spread out than most MMOs. It hasn’t squished or significantly sped up its leveling journey, so other than players using character level or experience boosts, there’s no fast-track to the endgame. That’s great for this type of story design, but it also means that there are plenty of folks who don’t even have a single level 140 character yet that’s cleared Gundabad.

Yet there’s been a great Catching Up over the past two years because of the fact that the high-level storyline hasn’t moved from the last expansion. Standing Stone Games spent much of 2022 fleshing out Eriador while 140s were left twiddling their thumbs or (at least in my case!) working on alts. Now that we’ve had a good amount of time for players to get their toons up to 140, there’s a larger crowd than ever before ready to embark on the next great adventure.

And here we go with Update 36: Gondor Renewed! We officially wave farewell to Durin, the Dwarves, and Gundabad to start making our way south on a new road trip.

What better place to start, too, than a revitalized region of Gondor. I like how LOTRO keeps the moving timeline in mind when it crafts its stories, and having an alternate, post-War Gondor is a great way to both repurpose an existing zone and tell a different story.

In contrast to the slow, quest-heavy march that we originally experienced going through Gondor, this version is more of a breezy jog where we get a small handful of quests in each area before we’re prompted to move on, move on to the next. I’m really not used to LOTRO making us travel this fast — but I’m not complaining, either!

There are two main narrative threads that run through this content pack. The first is the general theme of post-war rebuilding and grieving. Everywhere you go, you see people dusting themselves off, mourning lost ones, and doing their best to fix all of the damage. It’s the perfect situation for an itinerant hero to show compassion and mercy — and to examine an aspect of war that video games often ignore.

One particular tale stuck out to me where a town was receiving mysterious supplies from an anonymous benefactor. After some investigating, it turns out that the donor was an enemy soldier who is quietly atoning for past deeds and worried about not being accepted into this culture. I honestly wish we got more of his tale, as it stuck in the mind.

There are so many of these great little tales: conspiracies to bilk good people out of needed supplies, a grief-stricken widower finding one last point of contact with his wife, and even a return to the River-Sisters.

The other storyline concerns whispers of a growing threat against King Aragorn from the so-called Heirs of Castamir. It’s this that I suspect will be feeding into the expansion that’s coming this fall. In any case, Aragorn and Arwen task the player with scouting Gondor for any clear and present dangers before he goes out among his people. The mystery of what this threat is — and if it exists at all — is pretty tantalizing.

None of the quests are that difficult, although with level 140 mobs everywhere, you’re not going to be able to rofflestomp your way to victory too quickly.

Sure, you could accuse King’s Gondor of being reheated leftovers with some new seasoning… but so what? It’s a smart move. I hate it when MMOs send you through a zone one (1) time before forgetting it entirely afterward, and I’ve enjoyed how LOTRO has repurposed and reused older areas for new tales (see: Bingo Boffin). And it’s a fun, sunny victory lap that should do a good job being an on-ramp to a new era for the game.

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
Previous articleBlue Protocol JP opens for pre-installation, details battle pass, and shares post-launch content roadmap
Next articleGlobal Chat: MMO players’ reactions to Diablo IV’s launch and SWTOR’s studio move

No posts to display

Subscribe to:
oldest most liked
Inline Feedback
View all comments