This is your weekly public service announcement to remind you that even for a game that was made in 2007, LOTRO still has the ability to be quite beautiful. Been screenshotting the heck out of it lately, including the above early-morning pic of the silhouette of a statue against the sky.
Anyway, lately I’ve been indulging this return-to-LOTRO streak that I’ve had going on by re-reading the Lord of the Rings. It’s been a while; I think the last time I went through it was back in my fantasy lit class in college, and that was… 1998? Since then I’ve seen the movies, played LOTRO extensively, and listened to the illuminating Tolkien Professor podcast. I like to think that my understanding of this world and the books has grown.
But as I’ve been reading the story, I’ve realized that I can’t help but to do so from the vantage point of a LOTRO gamer. I know that probably many fans of the game had extensive knowledge of the books first and went into LOTRO that way, but I’m coming at it almost the other way around. Everything I read in the book, I’m thinking of where I might have seen it or heard about it in the game.
While that might be a horrific thought to novel lore purists, it’s actually really neat. When I was younger, I always felt a little lost in Lord of the Rings, especially with the weird names, barrage of locations, and extensive fictional world history. But now I realize that the game has provided me with a solid education on all of these things and more besides, so not only am I constantly making connections between the two, but it’s deepened my enjoyment of the book.
Turbine’s always said that LOTRO was the “game of the books” (as opposed to the “game of the Peter Jackson/Ralph Bakshi films,” I suppose), and while some have taken the studio to task for liberties with the lore, I think that the attention to detail and the relative accuracy bears out. I didn’t realize before how the LOTRO Hobbit racial skill “stoop for a stone” actually comes from a phrase from the “Concerning Hobbits” prologue, and that was a neat moment when I read that and went, “aha!”
One other thing that I’ve come to realize — although it’s not so much of a shocker — is how much the LOTRO game world presents a condensed, not-to-scale version of what’s in the book. I’m only in the first part of the Fellowship of the Rings, but I keep noting how very big the Shire is and how long it takes the Hobbits to traverse it in their journey to Buckland. For a player, it’s a mere handful of minutes to run border-to-border in the Shire, although there seems to be most (but not all) of the main settlements and attractions from the book.
I think I’m really going to enjoy reading the book from the vantage point of a LOTRO veteran, and I definitely want to see what the Tolkien Professor does with his LOTRO world tour, whenever he gets that done.