LOTRO Legendarium: Heading into the Wastes as update 20 advances

If all goes well, within a few days the Lord of the Rings Online community will be getting its first glimpse of Mordor with the release of Update 20 (Standing Stone Games said that it is “tentatively planning” to roll out the patch next week). I don’t know if I’m prepared, but after months of speed-leveling my Lore-master through the last few expansions, I’m in a place where I will be among the crowd that charges into the Wastes on launch day.

Update 20 is a big event for several reasons and should give us some insight into what the developers are thinking with their Mordor expansion later this year. Plus, with the 10th anniversary event right around the corner, the LOTRO community will have a bounty of content and activities to keep it busy during these spring months.

So as we saddle up our horses (and ponies and goats) for the trip north into the Wastes, let’s mull over what we can expect when Update 20 lands.

The Wastes lands

Any time that LOTRO adds a whole new zone to Middle-earth is a cause for celebration, even if it’s one of the less aesthetically pleasing regions. Making its debut with Update 20 is The Wastes, the area of land around the Black Gate in the northwest corner of Mordor. While the entirety of the zone is technically outside of Mordor, it clearly functions as a nominal part of the country.

Zone-wise, the Wastes is practically the opposite of where most all players will be coming from, North Ithilien. Whereas North Ithilien was one of the most stunningly beautiful regions of the game, with clear blue skies, crystal waterfalls, lush flora, and scenic overlooks, the Wastes is as attractive as its name suggests. It’s a lumpy, ash-strewn, toxic wasteland that’s part battlefield, part junkyard, and part ruins, with pregnant grey clouds hovering overhead.

I’m very much a creature of my environment, so I’ve been steeling myself for the transition from summer camp valley to a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Some of these LOTRO areas can wear on me emotionally, especially when I’m in them for weeks on end, so I’m going to plan to take some breaks to revisit older areas with a low-level character to remember what sunshine and the color green looks like.

The Wastes is roughly divided up into three regions (Noman-lands, Dagorlad, and the attractively named Slag-hills), and will continue the story of Aragorn march north with his army as he draws out the forces of Mordor in an attempt to provide a diversion for Frodo. We’re getting a new book of the epic (Volume 4 Book 8) as the backbone of the story in this region, although there will be plenty of other side quests as well.

There are two resource dungeons in the zone for those who enjoy (or need) that sort of thing. The update will also toss in new endgame crafting recipes, and a pair of repeatable flora quests, just in case you didn’t get enough flower picking in North Ithilien. I totally have, for the record.

While I’m not exactly over the moon about the whole visuals of the place, they can’t really be helped due to the story and setting. And the story itself could be terrifically exciting, especially as this marks the final part of the saga of the One Ring before it is destroyed. When we go into Mordor later this year, it’ll be a new post-Ring era — and completely unexplored territory for this game (in more ways than one).

Anticipating Mordor

Most players that I’ve talked to have expressed the same sort of sentiment that they’re keen on exploring Update 20 to get some sort of idea about what Mordor will hold. It’s along these lines that I’m a little fearful, because my greatest hope is that the devs will be able to provide some measure of visual diversity and even attractiveness with Mordor instead of having it be wall-to-wall evil aesthetic sponsored by the colors brown, black, and grey.

It’s always fun to see what storytelling and visual tricks that the devs can pull out of this game, even after a decade, and we’ve been teased that there are a few surprises with Update 20.

One thing that I definitely picked up on from watching preview videos and reading some tester accounts is that this zone is no joke. There are some areas that will kick your butt and are designed for a fellowship of players to explore together. This reminds me of the epic areas of the old game — and even some certain portions of newer regions since then. As long as it isn’t mandatory to do these parts, I’m all for their inclusion for the extra challenge and change-up of landscape content.

It’s also important to remember that an upcoming expansion means that there will be a gear reset, so don’t kill yourself on grinding out too many essences and picking cartloads of flowers. As SSG reminded us, “Brace yourself for a bit of a ‘green is the new teal’ sort of transition as you pass through the Black Gate.”

For some additional reading and watching, I highly recommend checking out Andang’s Update 20 preview videos and Dadi’s LOTRO Guides for the new reputation gear.

See you at the doorstep of Mordor, and don’t forget to wipe your feet!

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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