LOTRO Legendarium: Minas Morgul is off to a better start than Mordor

    
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While we have known for a long while that this was coming, the official announcement of Lord of the Rings Online’s 2019 expansion was exciting nevertheless. Standing Stone Games formally revealed Minas Morgul this past Wednesday alongside of Update 24.3, giving us a trailer, pre-orders, instant access to the new Stout-Axe Dwarves, and plenty of info about what’s coming our way this fall.

While initially it seemed as though SSG was fumbling the announcement as it scrambled to clarify some announcement omissions, by the end of the day I felt more reassured that the studio had a better grip on the lead-up to this expansion than what happened two years ago with the disastrous Mordor pre-order. We have plenty of details to go through today, so let’s dig in!

The key details

I have to admit that I kind of miss the old “BLANK of BLANK” expansion naming format that used to be the norm, but ever since Helm’s Deep, SSG seems content to give its expansions simple, location-based names. I’m not sure what “Minas Morgul” conjures up in the mind of the non-Tolkien expert, but it does suggest a sinister, death-related locale. It’s adequate, especially since the game and its developers have been pointing us toward this place for a couple of years now in anticipation of this moment.

We learned a lot — although not all — of the expansion details from the initial announcement and its follow-up FAQ. For starters, it looks as though Minas Morgul will release on October 29th, although there is that weasely disclaimer allowing for a delay up until the end of November if SSG deems it necessary.

We know that we’re getting 10 more levels for our characters, making a nice level 130 cap with presumably a few new class trait points to spend. Some fans are wildly excited that the expansion is coming with a huge number of dungeons: seven party instances and a raid against Shelob (all of which will come post-launch). There’s the new Stout-Axe Dwarf race, of course, 250 more quests, and the extension of the Black Book of Mordor questline.

What intrigues me the most is a mention of two regions: Mogul Vale (presumably the city) and Mordor Besieged. The latter sounds like a redressing of perhaps the entire Mordor landscape, which may account for the otherwise minimal number of new zones. All in all, it sounds like a solid, dependable content dump without any new systems or exciting changes.

The expansion editions come in $40, $80, and $130 packages, each including the new race, an extra character slot, and a few goodies. The higher tier ones toss in cosmetics, pets, steeds, titles, weapon aruas, and a Valar level boost to 120 for a single character. Prefer to buy the pack with LOTRO points? You’ll have to wait until March 2020 and save up 2495 LP for the buy. I appreciate that SSG showed pictures of the pets, mounts, and cosmetic armor sets to help players decide whether or not to make a more expensive purchase.

A teasing trailer

Standing Stone also pushed out a teaser trailer that showed off some of the locations of Minas Morgul. As expected, they’re all dark and sinister and not very inviting, but that’s to be expected of Mordor. At least it wasn’t the embarrassingly bad Mordor launch trailer of a couple of years ago. Sometimes a simple pan-and-scan approach is enough to excite the crowds.

Stout choice

One of the biggest missteps for Mordor’s expansion was that SSG had withheld the High Elf race from all but the priciest of pre-orders (or an a la carte purchase), which greatly angered players who expected the race to be included in the expansion proper. Thankfully, SSG did not make this mistake this time around as it included the new Stout-Axe Dwarf race into all of the Minas Morgul editions, even the base one. Even better, the second a player pre-ordered a pack, he or she had instant access to the Stout-Axes in the game.

While the Stout-Axe Dwarves don’t look radically different than their plain vanilla cousins, there is a sheen of graphical upgrade to their appearance and some nice options for those who would like to roll a shorter class. The Stout-Axes can be Burglars (a Dwarf first), Champions, Guardians, Hunters, Minstrels, and Rune-keepers, leaving only Captains, Lore-masters, and Wardens out of the selection. And while, yes, you can roll up a female, visually they are identical to the male model in every way.

Their racial passives include increased will, might and vitality, one-handed axe use, and some useful mitigations. They do have to contend, at least initially, with reduced vitality and fate. Their racial traits include a quick travel to Thorin’s Hall, fire mitigation, the ability to throw shadow resistance on a Fellowship, and (perhaps most interestingly) a skill to block attacks even without a shield.

While some people are crying “fluff” over what they see as minor tweaks, others are enjoying as another racial variant that gives them an excuse to play a different character experience.

My thoughts on Minas Morgul

My great hope with any expansion announcement is the reveal of an imagination-grabbing feature that instantly gets me excited to play it. There’s nothing like that here, not unless Stout-Axe Dwarves really rock your world (and I’m pretty neutral on them). Nothing here changes up the status quo of the current game, but rather the approach here seems to be delivering proven, well-crafted quests and areas for players who want to go on more adventures.

So while there’s some disappointment that there isn’t a tentpole feature with Minas Morgul, I’m not going to complain about what we are getting. Hopefully this expansion will hold a lot of thrilling moments and be less of a slog than Mordor was, and I’m always for increasing the power of my always-too-weak Lore-master to be able to handle difficult situations.

After the northern excursion of the past year or so, I think we have soaked up enough beauty and vistas to weather a giant haunted city of doom. Ever since seeing Minas Morgul from the outside in the Peter Jackson movies, I’ve wondered what it might look at inside of those desecrated walls. SSG’s designers have been doing outstanding work in creating the places of Middle-earth, and I have no reason to suspect that this won’t delight and awe me a bit.

All in all, a good start to the spotlight event of the LOTRO year. We’ll see how Minas Morgul plays out when it (hopefully) launches next month, but right now I find myself rather encouraged by what I’m seeing.

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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Slim neb

Oh SSG, when will they get it? If they just offered all of the content except the most recent expac for say…£10-15 then i and many other would buy it.
I played the F*** out of LOTRO with my friends years ago, and we always think about coming back, but it’s just impossible now – it just costs too much money.
SSG just aren’t bringing in any new players who stick around because with all the expacs and quest packs the game is so inaccessible now.
I don’t get why they don’t take a risk and do it – they have nothing to lose at this point really.

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Будусов Виктор

Why you need old content? You may buy latest expac with Aria of Valar (MM one gives 120 level)

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teppic

When you look at the patch notes of older expansions, they look like regular MMO expansions – brand new systems, major overhauls to endgame, complete class rebalance, pvmp updates, instance changes, etc. This is a couple of zones and some unknown instances. While their world building content creators are fine, it seems little more than that, and not really an expansion. It feels now they’re just milking players with the existing game with new zones and absolutely no innovation, which is sad to see.

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Baemir

I guess the budget just isn’t there anymore.

outbound_flight
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outbound_flight

To be fair, every time Turbine tried something new (mounted combat, big battles), nobody liked it. LOTRO players generally favor the status quo, but that’s not to say Minas Morgul does nothing new. It’ll likely be the size of the last expansions, so it won’t be small, and story-wise they’re trying something kinda new and interesting for an MMO.

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Kickstarter Donor
Louie

The Minas of Morgul would be a great title.

butterpanda888
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butterpanda888

Thinking about rolling a Stout Dwarf (either Rune Keeper or Minstrel) when I return to this game…which will hopefully be soon.

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MightyForty77

Could someone (author himself perhaps?) explain very casual LOTRO player (who doesn’t possess any of the expansions yet) why exactly Mordor was such a “slog”? I’m just curious, because as a DDO player that is pretty satisfied how SSG handles it, its expansions, additional content, playerbase, etc., I wonder how they are handling LOTRO?

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Fisty

There are quite a few articles. This one, for example.

LOTRO Legendarium: Why Mordor fails and Northern Mirkwood succeeds

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Vincent Clark

The fact that you can’t even be objective about the ridiculous pricing of the packages–again–and what (little) they offer and still claim, “it’s a good start”…I guess when the bar is set very, very low…even mediocrity looks good.

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2Ton Gamer

The engine really can’t take on many new features. The over-priced edition should at the very least contain some older zones or past DLCs to entice new players to join but SSG has clearly showed that they don’t care what other games have done with offering older content at a low price so I’m done with them and have been since they squandered the opportunity to lure new players back when Mordor came out. This game can’t end fast enough.

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Vincent Clark

Imagine a new player thinking about starting to play the game and then realize that they have 130 levels to get to cap. 130. No thanks. And the valar boost is so inadequate, especially when you compare it to other level boost items (i.e. WoW and FFXIV). Oh and look, it’s not included in the standard edition–of course!

smh

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PanagiotisLial1

I am on the opposite side of this

I as a new player would love games have at least 150 levels till cap or no cap at all. A high level cap is usually considered a positive when I start something

Seriously, if a player wants to play a game lets say for 10 years, why cap them? of course the increase cant be too meaningful after a point but they could gain hp etc

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teppic

A lot of the levelling process has barely been touched after they’ve made changes to stats etc. meaning much of it you just run through aoe one shotting everything in sight. And this is content you have to pay for.

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2Ton Gamer

I completely agree because although I’ve played within the last 2 years I still live like to start from scratch so yeah the thought of those 130 levels is a huge turn off.

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Krista Allen

It’s true, as someone who has played since 07 I couldn’t imagine trying to get all the content for this game. Cheap punk has the quad pack for 15 dollars. And you could hunt down a Steely Dawn starter pack for a few bucks, it includes Evendim 500 points and some other stuff, so you could by Angmar or The MM before heading into the MoM.

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Vinnie travi

I wish this game was still good. Upto Mines of Moria it was a favorite game of all time. The closest thing to old Lotro is Wow Classic (huge world, Group focus, Challenging quests, slow leveling) so that is what I am playing. People keep saying that the only reason people play Classic is for their Vanilla nostalgia but I was never a Wow player. I play because it is the closest thing to the Lotro I loved

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styopa

Hopefully there’s more mounted combat!

/I kid, I kid…