LOTRO Legendarium: What can we expect from Mordor?

Welcome to LOTRO Legendarium, the continuation of my old Road to Mordor column from Massively. Why the name change? First, I never got to name RTM (it was chosen by another author before I came on board as a writer). Second, I wanted to work in Lord of the Rings Online’s name into the title. And third, I liked how Tolkien used the term Legendarium to refer to his writings on Arda. And here we are!

As I make my way through Central Gondor on my Captain, my attention and thoughts have increasingly turned to our assumed great destination: Mordor. While 2015 holds large updates for us in Gondor, including Osgiliath and Minas Tirith, it’s a reasonable assumption that our next steps will take us through the Black Gate and into the foul lands of the Enemy.

So if and when that happens, what can we expect from a nation that personifies evil with its very essence?

mor2“One does not simply walk into Mordor…”

I’ll admit that I have some apprehension about going into Mordor overall. It’s not that I’m terrified of the Eye of Sauron pestering me; after all, he’s been doing that since the tutorial. And I think I’ll be able to handle fighting more orcs, goblins, and uruk-hai.

My fear is that we’re about to leave the gorgeous lands of Rohan and Gondor for a realm that inspired every horrid endgame MMO zone ever. Boromir put it best in his famous description of Mordor from the Council of Elrond when he said, “One does not simply walk into Mordor. Its black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. The great Eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire, ash, and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume.”

While a giant volcano and blasted lands might be appropriate for the land of the Enemy, I can’t but help but think how depressing and possibly monotonous it will be to spend weeks and months in such a place. You know how we love to whine about how oppressive Moria feels after we spent so long roaming it? Mordor could easily top that by being thematically appropriate and still a turn-off to the playerbase.

I also worry about the possible lack of friendly NPCs and settlements. I know you’re thinking, “No duh, it’s Mordor!” but consider how pretty much every zone in the game is populated by the civilization of Free People. Even Angmar has an outpost or two because we need some beacon of hope in the midst of shadow and death. Our characters’ stories have always been tied in closely with those of the peoples of Middle-earth, and that is not something I’m prepared to leave behind.

So it it just going to be one vast post-apocalyptic wasteland with nary a friendly face or green tree to be found? And more importantly, what could Turbine do to make an extended trip into Mordor exciting for us? Quite a bit, I should think.

mor3Frodo’s guide to Mordor

Mordor may not be brimming with Hobbit holes and cozy taverns, but that’s not to say that it isn’t brimming with interesting locales with lots of storytelling and vista potential.

I think that our first steps into Mordor will be through Minas Morgul, which used to be the former Gondor city of Minas Ithil. The fallen Gondorian city just oozes sinister fun, what with its eerie glow and the fact that it’s the headquarters to the Witch-king of Angmar. I also fully anticipate our taking a detour, as Frodo did, to square off against the most famous oversized spider of all time (since Shelob is not a confirmed kill in the book, there is about no way that Turbine will miss the opportunity to have us fight her).

Once inside Mordor, there are several other well-known destinations. We could party down with Sauron at his fortress of Barad-dûr, which I found out today is nearly twice as tall as our world’s tallest skyscraper. There are the volcanic plains of the Plateau of Gorgoroth, the somewhat fertile region of Núrn, the Eastern Desolation, several forts, and of course, Mt. Doom itself. Mordor may not be the most hospitable place in Middle-earth, but empty it is not. Just kind of ugly.

No matter what, Turbine will be forced to take a tonal and narrative shift for Mordor. No longer will it be about getting to know and sympathize with the inhabitants of a certain region; instead, our journey into Mordor will most likely be about sneaking into the belly of the beast and waging small-scale assaults in an effort to help Frodo’s quest and tip the odds in the favor of the Free Peoples.

Of course, the team could also devise other reasons we’ll be going into Mordor — after all, we don’t have a Ring that needs tossing into a volcanic vent. If our journey coincides with other stealthy efforts, we might be able to meet up with hidden camps of friendly NPCs even in the midst of angry orcs and troublesome trolls.

If Turbine decides that it doesn’t want to use LOTRO’s traditional zone questing model for Mordor, I can think of a couple of other options. We may be treated to instances, since we do know that the current team is open to working on them once more. Skirmishes and epic battles are other options as well, and if all of these are bundled up, then we might get the Mordor “experience” without exploring it as a traditional zone.

Mordor does seem like a great place for a new PvMP map, but if the team is already working on one for Osgiliath (possibly), then I sincerely doubt the devs will see a need for more. One more possibility that comes to mind is some sort of dynamic map in which players can fight against the PvE forces of Mordor and help take over portions of the country (although it would have to avoid breaking lore outright).

Personally, I would like to visit Mordor in one good, meaty update that hits all of the region’s points of interest and then gets us out after a final confrontation (with… what?). Lingering too long in Mordor would be a mistake, I feel, because it would send the signal that this is it for the game. Instead, I’d rather see the devs be quick to announce other regions and adventures that we’ll be seeing past the Black Land.

What do you think we’ll see and do in Mordor?

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