Unlike some other writers here on staff, I do not like playing betas and going through new content before it goes live for real, so I will not be participating on Bullroarer (I’d prefer my first time to be for keeps!). However, that doesn’t mean I’m avoiding the news or the previews! There’s so much to take in and digest, so this week I want to thumb through the reveals and preview videos to share some of my reactions to what we’ll be seeing when LOTRO: Mordor comes out later this summer.
Whether you walk, ride, or hobble (you took fall damage, didn’t you?) into Mordor, the important thing is that we are all going there in 2018. So what will we find?
It bears repeating that when players move from the end of the current epic volume and into the next book, the storyline will jump forward from the Battle at the Black Gate to the fall of Sauron and the destruction of the One Ring. We’re not getting a lot of insight into what the next steps of the epic will entail (the devs want to keep it under wraps), but we know that the expansion takes place in the aftermath of Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom andthe downfall of the Enemy. But the big question is — what happens next?
After all, it’s not as though the second Sauron was defeated, Mordor as a whole would be transformed into a flower-filled meadow populated by Smurfs. It’s still a nasty place, filled with nasty enemies, and now there’s a power vacuum. Seeing how this pans out definitely has my attention, especially as we start to inch past the official story of the books.
Five regions ahoy
Of particular interest to me was the reveal of all five regions that will make up the Mordor that players will venture into when the expansion launches. I fully expect more regions to come later (the expansion only covers maybe a third or a fourth of the country), but this is a good starting lineup. So what do we have?
The first area, right off the Black Gate, is Udûn (which means “hell”), a dark and gritty valley filled with industry, forges, and two huge fortresses. The area certainly starts off players’ journey into Mordor on the appropriate note, telegraphing that this will not be a stroll through the park.
If that’s not to your liking, then take a stroll down to Lhingris. It’s a narrower zone full of spiders and… spiders. Very spider-themed. Even the Tower of Cirith Ungol looks to be decorated with banners and webs to pay homage to a certain massive spider lurking nearby.
Players will eventually be able to ride right up into Barad-dûr, the dark tower itself. Well, most of the dark tower — a goodly chunk of it collapsed into lava following Sauron’s downfall. Right across from Barad-dûr in Dor Amarth is Mount Doom, a giant, lava-spewing volcano that dominates the region.
On the southern slopes of Mouth Doom is Talath-Urui, a lava field that has some enemy camps and fortresses, but is mostly a gloomy and ash-covered landscape.
If all of the cloudy and fiery landscape gets to you, then you’ll want to take a trip over to the east in Agarnaith. Unlike the other four regions, Agarnaith boasts both sun and flora, making it stick out from what you’d expect from Mordor. It’s still really creepy (blood water everywhere) and not at all welcoming, but it’s a very nice change of pace and indicative of what we might see with the remainder of Mordor (if it ever gets made).
Mordor isn’t expected to be, nor should it be, a cakewalk. In addition to brutish mobs and an antagonistic landscape, the country will feature a “shadows” system that will work against players. From what I gather, the further off the road you go, the more subject you will be to the detrimental effects of this country and will need some light to help counteract these debuffs.
From Ashes to Dust
The devs talked a little more about the many different systems and changes coming to the core gameplay, such as a level cap increase (to 115), a virtue cap increase (to 20), and another crafting tier. There will be new essences, but no flower picking this time around… hallelujah!
Instead, we’re going to get a special item called the Flame of Anclamir that will deconstruct unwanted gear into a new barter item called Ashes of Gorgoroth. By collecting Ashes, the idea is that players will be able to buy needed gear that they’re not getting from drops or quest rewards. I like it.
High Elves on their high horses
The first new race since Beornings, High Elves are a different breed from their more common brethren that are currently in the game. But the question is, why roll up a new Elf if you already have one? Are the changes that significantly different?
It’s hard to tell the answer to this. Other than the difference of lore (which does matter strongly to some people), the High Elves will have their own racial skills, traits, and a slightly different appearance. They’ll also be getting a special starting area, which is to my knowledge not playable yet on the test server. We do know that if you want to create a High Elf, it’s going to cost you: The race is not free and will require a purchase through the LOTRO store.
And Sir Not Appearing At Launch Time
While solo players are going to have their hands full with Mordor come launch, those looking for new group challenges are going to need an extra measure of patience. The new raid and smaller group content is all being held back from Update 21 to a later patch. That’s kind of a bummer, but it isn’t that unusual in MMOs these days. Gives the studio something big for later on and allows the devs time to focus more on balancing the leveling content without worrying about group content at the same time. PvMPers are going to have to wait for a future patch as well to get their expansion changes.
I’m actually a little more upset over another delay, this one concerning the much-anticipated character visual revamp. Apparently only Man and Elves will get the upgrade by launch time, with the two shorter races coming at a later date. Discrimination, I say! But seriously, it’s a let-down that it can’t be all done at once. Here’s hoping that Hobbits and Dwarves won’t have to wait for long!