I confess that I am a little puzzled how Standing Stone is currently handling the reveal of the Mordor expansion. One assumes that there’s an official reveal in the works, yet at the same time, the studio’s been quite chatty about some aspects of the expansion if particular outlets happen to ask about them.
The end result is a scattering of information around several sites, including the main LOTRO site and its producer’s letter, leaving us with the task of putting together a picture of what we know so far about this next step of our epic journey through Middle-earth. Today, let’s count down 10 things we know will be in the Mordor expansion proper (the title of which I am guessing will be The Doom of Mordor).
1. There’s going to be a huge country to explore
Thanks to the in-game map, we have a good idea of the layout of Mordor and how large it will be. Update 20, for example, will be that tiny area in the top-left corner there, and if you draw a line from Minas Morgul to Mount Doom (roughly the path that Frodo and Sam took), you’ll see that the books only covered a small portion of the whole country. My greatest hope is that Mordor will be, if not pretty, then visually diverse, with more than just lava fields and endless jagged brown rocks to look at.
It’s unclear how much of Mordor we’ll get with the expansion launch, but SSG is calling it “multiple regions.” There will undoubtedly be other regions left for future patches, such as Update 22 later this year.
2. The High Elves are coming (back)
Everyone is abuzz about the addition of the game’s sixth race, the High Elves. There is a lot of confusion about them, thanks to SSG being partially cagey on the details of how this race will work. We know that the High Elves won’t be a race/class combo the way the Beornings are, which means that there’s a big question mark about which classes they’ll being able to access. The one that frequently pops up in conversation is the Captain, which is currently restricted to the race of Man.
Standing Stone said that the High Elves are the descendants of those who went to Valinor (over the ocean), making a journey back to Middle-earth. They won’t be as powerful as Galadriel (obviously), but will have their own starting instance, racial traits, and more fluid animations.
3. It takes place after the One Ring was destroyed
I think this is the part that a lot of players are still getting their heads around. After a decade of making the journey toward Mordor to help the Free Peoples of Middle-earth fight Sauron and give Frodo a chance to destroy the One Ring, by the time we actually step foot in Mordor, Frodo’s quest will be accomplished. Lore-wise, it makes sense — Frodo didn’t have thousands of allies scuttling alongside of him, after all — but it’s up to SSG to show us that the story didn’t end on the steps of Mount Doom and with Sauron’s fall. The devs seem very enthusiastic about the narrative possibilities, so I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt for now that it won’t feel anti-climactic.
4. The expansion will finish one big story and kick off another
To piggy-back on the above, Mordor will mark a turning point for our characters, not toward home, but toward new destinies and new quests. The fight against evil won’t be done just because the One Ring is slag, after all (and this is something we know from simply reading the rest of the Return of the King and the appendixes). The devs are using Mordor to establish a staging ground for our adventures into the Fourth Age and “hint(s) at things yet to come.”
“This will be the first time that you, your character now, has to step up. You no longer have the security blanket of all of those, you know, all of the Tolkien heroes sort of moving the story along,” the devs said in a recent interview. Moving off into unknown, strange directions reminds me of earlier times in the game that we would diverge greatly from the path of the Fellowship. That actually fills me with excitement.
5. It will have a choose-your-own adventure element
One of the core features of Mordor questing will apparently be something called the “allegiance system.” We know very little about it other than what the devs summed up in this statement: “You can pledge yourself to the Dwarves, or the Hobbits, or the Men or Elves, and then follow each individual storyline.”
At first I thought that the allegiance system was going to be a rep grind of sorts (and who knows, maybe it still will be that), but the thought of having a choice of quests and to go on a journey that’s imbued with the flavor of a particular race of the core four is downright fascinating to me. If nothing else, it would be a boon for alts!
6. Minas Morgul will be a major landmark
Astute players might have already seen the dreaded fallen city of Minas Morgul from afar, but from the devs’ lips it sounds like that we’ll be enjoying this haunted set-piece at some point in the future: “Once we go into Mordor and then follow up with Minas Morgul, which will sort of be a big content chunk after you have a chance to go in Mordor and explore it a bit.”
So Minas Morgul is Update 22? Or are they just saying that we’ll venture into Mordor then loop back to go through Minas Morgul after the introduction? Either way, I can’t wait to explore it.
I had forgotten that the team previously said that Minas Morgul might also feature a brighter version and function as a quest hub after the Free Peoples free it.
7. “New creatures, new mechanics, new treasures”
After years of covering LOTRO and Turbine, I am quite familiar with the developers’ penchant for giving broad, vague details in their preview letters. Still, this line is worth mentioning for the adjective “new.” We won’t be seeing merely reskinned Orcs, getting the same essences, and playing the same old way. It sounds like effort is being put in to make this not as dull and predictable as it could be, and that is appreciated.
8. The classes will get more work
Another throwaway line was a mention here and there that SSG will be using the expansion as an opportunity to address some issues with classes and perhaps make improvements to them. I think we all have a wish list of changes we’d like to see done to our classes, and I’m hoping that on top of that, we might get new abilities.
I’ve heard it said that there will be a level cap increase with Mordor, but I couldn’t find anything to confirm that. I wouldn’t be surprised, however.
9. There will be a raid (which will probably be Shelob)
While some of SSG’s communication about the expansion enjoys the vague label of “large-scale group content,” in some places (such as in this interview), the word “raid” is more clearly stated. So we’re getting a raid, perhaps other group content too, and it’s not a big secret what that raid will be. Back in 2016, the team was already strongly hinting at a Shelob raid, and I can’t imagine anything more iconic or perfect for a large-scale encounter (especially since Sam didn’t kill her!). The raid will feature at least five bosses, so the other four are anybody’s guess.
10. Our character appearances will get an upgrade
After 10 years, our characters look rather long in the tooth (and I would argue that they had ever since, oh, 2009 or so), and one of the most-repeated criticisms by non-players and players alike is how dated they appear. So it’s of great relief to hear that avatar upgrades are one of the headlining features of the expansion. It’s something that several older MMOs have done, and while it is certainly needed and probably desired by most, I’m also very glad that the devs will not force it upon you if you want to retain your “classic” look.
We have a while yet to go before Mordor opens the Black Gates and lets us in (summer or early fall is the launch window right now), so we have plenty of time for the devs to talk more about this expansion and for us to prepare for the journey. What has you most excited about Mordor so far? Sound off in the comments!