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I’ve been a loyal fan and player of the Lord of the Rings Online MMOrpg ever since I was invited to participate in the game’s beta for Shadows of Angmar. I rigorously played through everything the game had to offer like it was a day-job through the first two expansions. Then I died off a bit, I went off and jumped into some new and different games, only popping back into LotRO for a month here and there.
When I heard that the game was going free to play, my heart leapt with joy. Everything about the concept seemed to suit my play-style for the game nowadays perfectly. I had become a casual LotRO player. Jumping in to play the new content and regroup with some old friends, then leaving a week or two later to go back to my old ways.
Since Friday, September 10, the game has gone free to play for anyone interested in trying out the game. Jumping forward six months, I’ve spent over $100 on quest packs, an expansion, cap removals, more storage space, and so on.
Much of the content I was forced to buy over was old content that many of my main characters had already picked clean. However, if I ever wanted to revisit these zones, run any of the dungeons they had to offer (many of which are now scalable to the level cap), I had to rebuy them.
It would have made sense if Turbine allowed those who had already owned the original copy of the game to have access to these original zones, yet they instead decided to split them all up into quest packs to be bought over again.
It was from here that my “shopping spree” began. When LotRO went free to play, Turbine essentially split its subscriber service into three tiers: VIP, Premium, and Free. Since I had already been a subscriber, I was automatically bumped up to premium. The only things I was able to retain was the Moria and Mirkwood expansions, five of my characters (I had to buy character slots to access the other two), all of my bags, swift travel, and a lifted gold and trait cap.
All in all, the deal wasn’t half bad. I got to play my favorite MMO for free, I just had to rebuy the old content. For those who are just jumping into the game and are listed as a free player, your total price tag for all of the caps, zones, and expansions could exceed a whopping total of $300.
Becoming a free player gives you full access to the original game's story, the world, all four races, and all the character classes, same as everyone else. Things like gold, storage, mail, traits, inventory bags, character slots per server, and so on are all caped off at a very small number. It also means you can’t play PVP, unless you want to play on the monster side, but you’ll have to buy the pack and the classes.
All of these things can be bought with Turbine Points, which can be bought or earned in game for completing some ridiculously lengthy challenges known as deeds. An example would be kill 300 goblins in this area.
Reading between the lines, Turbine’s free to play business model is genius. It gives players a feel for the game and almost encourages them to continue playing by locking up the little things for cost effective prices. Little purchase by little purchase is Turbine’s sneaky way of breaking into your wallet without you really ever noticing.
For those of you who want, or are already subscribed to the game, you are known as VIP members, and the rewards are well worth the money. You could either become a VIP member by subscribing monthly to the game for $15, or by purchasing a multi-month plan, which is broken down to $10 per month.
As a VIP member, you get everything free players get plus unlimited access to all the quests and areas within the Shadows of Angmar regions, “freep” side PVP, no caps on anything, rest XP, and 500 (around $6.50) Turbine Points every month.
The benefits in my opinion are well worth it. The rest XP is one of my favorite perks on the package, which offers 2X the XP per kill. Rest XP is earned while you are not playing. And to have access to all of the Monster PVP classes is cool as well. They’re fun to experiment with to find which class is best for you.
With a major update on the way, plus an entirely new expansion, LotRO is still managing to remain one of the top MMOs in the industry. For those of you who are new to the game and just want to try it out, the free to play model is really great is your just a casual player and take things slowly. However, if you plan on speeding across Middle Earth or you happen to know that you’ll be around for a while, going VIP would be the wisest and cheapest route to go.