There are many things about Lord of the Rings Online I really like. Then there is the housing, which I do not. Focusing on the positives: you can have a house. This obviously is an upgrade on games like World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online, where you cannot have a house.
That is pretty much the list of good things done.
The first problem is that while you can own a house, you cannot own two. All your characters have to share the same house.
I have five characters in the game, covering each race, but they all have to share the same Hobbit hole. Frankly, my Elf does not want to live in a Hobbit hole, certainly not one also inhabited by a Dwarf. I play on a Roleplaying server; if the topic of ‘where you live’ ever comes up in conversation, the Elf may have to depart to the Grey Havens to avoid the shame.
The second problem is size.
My Hobbit hole is a basic model, which allows me to slot two pieces of large furniture and no huge furniture at all. I do have other slots in which I can put chairs, small boxes and paintings, but as far as real furniture goes, two bits is the absolute limit. This covers items such as beds, tables, the large kegs of beer I can cook (don’t ask), the Stuffed Warg I had made and so forth. Unfortunately, I cannot really fit a single bed in a house shared by five people. This means that I personally live in better accommodation than my fantasy characters. Where is the wish fulfilment in that?
Neither of these problems is unfixable and, to be fair, there are mutterings from Turbine that the limits will be relaxed in the future. Sadly, however, they are not the real killer.
As anyone blessed with elderly relatives who watch daytime television will tell you, the crucial factor in property is location. Location, location, location, they used to proclaim, possibly to pad out word count. So, where are the houses in Lord of the Rings online located? Damn silly places.
Hobbits probably come out best. The Hobbit Homestead is a mere short jog from Michel Delving, over the festival racecourse and through fields inhabited by lethal swarms of shrews. The Dwarf Homestead is in the Dwarf Starter Zone. Is it in a nice bit? No. It is in the middle of the rusting Dourhand bit where the goblins live. No sane Dwarf wants to live in the middle of a rusting area full of goblins. Humans have it marginally better: a Homestead in the middle of the Midgewater Marshes, halfway between Bree and the Forsaken Inn. Now to my mind, if someone offers you a house and the local pub is called the Forsaken Inn, I would be looking at other neighbourhoods. Elves, however, have it the worst. Their Homestead is simply miles away from anything. Honestly, getting back from Halls of Mandos is a small trip compared to travelling to the Elf Homestead.
The developers obviously realised this could be an issue. So, in a manner which totally missed the point, they added some transport options to make the houses easier to reach. You can either teleport to your house or catch a horse from the nearest travel location to the Homestead door. What you cannot do, however, is ride that horse the other way. These are the only four one-way horse routes in the game. Rather than taking you from in the middle of nowhere back to civilisation, which would be useful, they do the opposite, which is not. It’s a problem. Lord of the Rings Online has some fantastic community centres. Bree, Rivendale, Esteldín, Thorin’s Hall: all these places brim with players, crafting, role-playing and interacting in general. If you see another player in the Homesteads however, you tend to assume they are lost.
I am not sure that Turbine can fix this last issue. The Homesteads are where they are and, unless they are radically redesigning the maps, it is presumably where they will stay, which is a shame. Because no matter what fixes they make or cool furniture they add, housing in LotRO will remain largely unused, tucked away and unvisited, full of defaulted houses acting as monuments to the system’s failure.
Read more about Jadrax’s adventures in LotRO: