The Road to Mordor: Middle-earth scrapbook

Even for a four-year-old MMO, Lord of the Rings Online is singled out as one of the most visually lush titles on the market. From its sweeping vistas to its intricate ruins, LotRO is a screencapper's dream. I know I'm not alone in wearing out my screenshot button, and whenever I play, I'm constantly on the lookout for a good photo-op in the middle of saving the world.

Unlike some MMOs, LotRO skews more to the "realistic" side of the visual spectrum without descending into the creepy, plasticy, uncanny valley that I've seen elsewhere. Instead, the art team created a place with solemn character, exuberant life, dreadful decay and rich history. Long after I grow bored of the game's mechanics, I suspect that I'll still be very much in love with its looks. Guess I'm shallow that way!

So today, I'm going to present to you 37 of my favorite screenshots that I've taken over the past year in the game. Some are chosen for their significance; some, for their details. But most were picked simply because I thought they looked rad. Join me on a scrapbooking journey through the world -- and when you're done, hit the jump to read my commentary notes for each (many pardons for the awkward setup, but we're having issues with the galleries showing captions)!
1. This has the honor of being the very first picture I ever posted on Massively, with my newly revived Captain setting out on an adventure near Bree.

2. Every LotRO player worth his salt has a bundle of Rivendell pictures, so here's mine!

3. The Hall of Fire in Rivendell. I really love this room -- it's so atmospheric, majestic and downright cool. No wonder Bilbo loves to hang around here!

4. Does your MMO have dragons? Well, LotRO decided to one-up that with a zombie dragon! I gotta admit, every time I do this epic storyline, I always get the chills when this previously dead dragon is brought back to life.

5. This is my favorite shot of the Shire because it encapsulates the peace, beauty and Hobbity style of the land. When I'm fighting the forces of the Enemy, this right here is what I'm fighting for.

6. Here we have the front door at Bag End following Bilbo and Frodo's departures. You'd have to be pretty immune to Tolkien lore not to be at least a little bit moved when you come across this landmark.

7. Getting drunk in real life is nowhere near as fun as getting tipsy in LotRO, although after a while, both give me headaches.

8. Evendim has plenty of impressive ruins and structures, and I've always been partial to this one near the lake. Ruins in LotRO always make me wonder what life was like way back when in this world vs. today -- one gets the impression that the First and Second Ages were much more advanced.

9. Weathertop dominates the Lone-lands landscape, especially considering that there isn't much else to check out in the area. It's another one of those lore geek moments that's thrilling if you're a fan of the books.

10. While it's really known for them, LotRO does have quite a few disturbing and downright gross images, especially of corpses -- if you've ever bothered to look at them closely. If you're not looking up from time to time in game, you could be missing out on a lot. Check out the details on that ceiling!

11. The throne room of (I think) the Witch-king of Angmar. Mental note: The Witch-king does not appreciate it if you sit in his chair while he's monologuing down below.

12. This is just a slice of a Ranger funeral that takes place during the epic storyline. The funeral itself took me by surprise and made me actually care about the NPCs who had just died. The line "He laughed and laughed" always gets me for some reason.

13. Sunsets and sunrises are another common favorite among screenshotters, so I'll limit myself to just this one. Oooh. Ahhh.

14. When you look at screenshots like this, it's not hard to imagine what the concept art looks like because it probably didn't look much different. Check out all of those details! It's insane!

15. I'm not the biggest fan of Elves or Elrond, no matter how much the game tries to force me to be in their presence, but I had to take this image of Elrond's outdoor council. The wings of his chair are framed just so they look as though he's ready to launch into flight. Golly, I'm artistic.

16. As I've said before, Forochel is one of my all-time favorite zones in the game, particularly in the field of visuals. I totally love the northern lights when they come out at night, and I could take pictures of them forever.

17. Say what you will about the frozen north, these Lossoth huts look downright comfy!

18. This picture marks the very first time I stepped foot into Moria, and it certainly didn't disappoint. Those stairs are huge and powerful, telling you that anything could be beyond them. But what? And why won't my horse work up the nerve to ride around down here?

19. Moria offers plenty of opportunities for photo-ops. I'm a sucker for these big Dwarven stone sculptures that suggest practicality as well as craftmanship.

20. Speaking of craftmanship, check out that lighting! It's like I'm on a dark ride in Disney World and those four faces are about ready to sing a deep dirge about stone and sweat.

21. Moria's Waterworks is my favorite of this expansion's zones, especially because it's just "lighter" than the other places and unique in several ways.

22. Hey! What's this stupid picture doing in... ALL GLORY TO THE DEEP-TOAD.

23. Spoiler Alert: There is a Balrog in Moria. You can purchase Balrog-related plushies and postcards at the nearby gift shop.

24. It's the frowning bridge in Bree -- c'mon, that totally looks like a frowning face -- with an unexpected visitor perching on the top. Showoff.

25. LotRO fascinates me by often showing the off-duty hours of your enemies, who have lives of their own beyond menacing and stubborn attack patterns. This picture is so bizarre because here you have the frightful Blackwolds (a) playing instruments and (b) singing about one of their primary enemies.

26. Sara Oakheart. If you stare at this picture long enough, you'll be experiencing one of her escort quests as if you were actually there!

27. While Elves may be a little too glitzy and garish for my tastes, I have to admit that parts of Lothlorien are certainly purdy.

28. The Old Forest is one of the best-realized parts of the game, with more atmosphere than you can shake a (probably deadly) stick at. Here the mist descends over the glen of bears. Feel free to walk in first. I'll be right behind you.

29. A fallen statue outside of Moria in the Misty Mountains. The icicles are a really neat touch.
This is one of my all-time favorite screenshots from the game. Seriously, it almost looks completely real unless you squint at it. Beautiful!

30. Enemy camps usually reward the observant with interesting and funny details. Here some orcs have put up scary totem poles. GROWL!

31. Hobbits + too much beer = sparkly grossness.

32. Mirkwood is another excellent photography locale, especially when the shadows hit the trees just right. I love this picture because it almost looks like it was hand-drawn.

33. Here's another captivating scene in Mirkwood. The trees look almost like hands to me, grasping upwards with gnarled joints.

34. My memory's foggy, but I'm sure that this ghost lady is from one of the epic storyline quests. I chose it for this collection because she looks so startlingly different -- and blue -- than the typical NPC fare.

35. My Lore-master steels his nerve before heading toward the same pass that was denied to Frodo and Gandalf not too long ago. It's interesting to think that without that avalanche, Moria might've stayed out of the story altogether.

When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.
This article was originally published on Massively.