Posted: August 30, 2014
From a player that's played this game since release back in 2007, playing across 3 servers, founder account, over 15,000 hours logged over the years. I can tell you that my feelings for this game are very genuine and it's taken me a good two months to write this review after leaving the game.
I'll be honest, the game truly has fallen from what it used to be, it's become, let's say, easy from what I remember years ago. Angmar content is probably on par with what vanilla WoW was for me, The massive amount of meticulousness that had to go into every single character that you had. From the start of character creation, you were in danger of getting absolutely smacked by landscape mobs if you were a certain class and pulled mobs badly (I'm looking at you hunter). The way you had to play a class was very different from launch than it is now, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing at all, things change, just me reminiscing over times long past. This is just the tip of the iceberg so to say.
Now, on to the content. The developing team behind LOTRO has put out content consistently that appealed to the audiences up to Rise of Isengard, which in my opinion, was one of the best expansions I've ever played in any MMO. The content before and including Isengard (Angmar, Mines of Moria, Seige of Mirkwood) are incredible, everything from the instances, zones, questing, down to the ambient sounds, it was amazing. Now this basically talking about the expansions as a whole, (I consider Angmar an expansion in this list, but it was vanilla content more or less) but the zones in between the major content areas were amazing as well, North Downs, Lothlorien, Evendim, Enedwraith, If you have never experienced the night in Forochel, you are missing on one of the most amazing game sceneries ever. Great instance designs in all of this content, from forging into Carn Dum with your friends and overcoming the managerie of bosses and Mordirith, to conquering places like Barad Guldur and the Tower of Isen along with toppling Saruman in an incredible battle atop the tower itself. Many many memories will never be forgotten that pertain to such events that took place in the game.
Alas, many new players will never get to experience this content simply because the game has progressed far beyond all of this. Most of the players that I met during my final year and a half or so were players that were there to rush to level cap and do "end-game", that's the joke kids, there is no end-game. All it is at level cap is a daily grind for your daily reputation factions for that "highest tier raiding set" that you will never put to serious use because most of the players that play the game now will NOT run content that will challenge them. It's that simple, I led pug tier 2 challenge runs on my main server of Windfola for years for players not in raiding guilds, and people would rather run Sambrog 6 man spams for crap rewards than spending a little more time in a bigger, more challenging instance for big reward. It pained me to see that the game populace had declined to such a lazy group of "give it to me without the challenge" group of people, because let's be honest, anyone that played in vanilla LOTRO can tell you how bloody hard it was, JUST to get your resistances right to actually stand a chance in Carn Dum, let alone actually fighting the bosses. But don't be let down, there are groups of players on many servers on both EU and NA that play around the level of that old content when it was released so they can specifically run that content and have it challenge them, they are great people and they organize themselves in server world chats and forums still.
Now on to the "current" content. After Isengard, the game started to decline, Rohan was a let down for most players, the introduction of mounted combat looked fun on paper, it was ok, but it was buggy, and it never really fit in with most players. The landscape was pretty for a bit, but you got used to the rolling plains. The instances were sadly a joke in terms of difficulty, aside from the raids in that cluster for the expansion, the three raids that were introduced were pretty fun and challenging at the highest difficulty of tier 2 challenge, Fires of Smaug and Battle for Erebor were great fun, but the third, Flight to the Lonely Mountain was pretty much impossible at release because it was buggy, it got fixed, but far to late for such a simple problem. Then you had the the most outrageous rep grind in the form of Hytbold reconstruction, something that would take around a solid month to complete if you were very diligent about your dailies, something that had to be done to aquire your level 85 class set pieces. It wasn't the worst thing ever, but the real knife in the back really came with the area expansion of Wildemore with the atrocious rep grind at the end of finishing every quest in the zone, it was terrible, an everyone that I knew hated it, and it was all for a shiny epic accessory piece that didn't mean a whole lot.
After this Helms Deep released, Big Battles came with it, I won't go into detail about it, but it was something to see, especially as a player from the beginning. All the classes were redone, traits were completely overhauled into tree progression, basically the game was stripped and redone in most aspects. No new instances were included, no raids, nothing except the battles that most hated, I did my progression through them, did A LOT of bug report testing for them over the months, some say to this day that they are still buggy. When they released update 14 I called it quits, said my goodbyes to many, and uninstalled.
As for players that really enjoy playing PvP, I STRONGLY recommend you watch videos and visit the official LOTRO forums and read through the PvMP threads. Personally, I think the community for PvP is toxic and players are simply looking for who has the bigger E-Peen at any given time. On any server you will find flavor of the month players that jump from class to class every update so they can destroy you with minimal effort, it's just terrible habits that a fair amount of them have and it's nasty, one of the main reasons that led to me leaving the game, considering there really is no PvE endgame anymore.
Now, don't get me wrong I will recommend this game to anyone that every asks me about it, it's very good looking, classes play pretty well, questing isn't a total bore, crafting can be ok, there is amazing RP opportunity. Just remember that this game has been around for a good while and is going through it's decline because of recent content release, but there are still servers with 200+ player login, people still play this game, I leave it up to you to decide whether to drop subscription money to do a large amount of things that this game has to offer in terms of content. I've made many dear friends because of this game, maybe you will as well.
As for the players that have never progressed anywhere near the end of a character's leveling path and experienced a large amount of this game, they truly have no opinion of the game. They haven't gone through anything that would give them any right to judge the game in any way shape or form, it hurts greatly when I read a review from someone that hasn't even logged an hour and down votes this game.
Aa' lasser en lle coia orn n' omenta gurtha
(May the leaves of your life tree never turn brown) :)