LOTRO Update 14 Preview: The Strength of Sauron



By W.B. Wemyss (Tagspeech)

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Once again, the charming devs of Turbine's Lord of the Rings Online have invited me to one of their press events, to debut the upcoming additions to the game in Update 14.  This is an official continuation of the game's famously involved main storyline quest, which tracks the progress of the story in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  As of this update, we're well into the Return of the King, and the dark lord Sauron is becoming a major player in the events of Middle Earth.  No more wandering around in Angmar and dealing with little fish – the main event is about to begin.

To that end, the developers have been working hard on designing an entirely new region for exploration – one that has been anticipated since the game first began almost a decade ago.  It's been a long journey, and Lord of the Rings is a venerable title whose dedication to storytelling and immersion have seen it through thick and thin.  The community is loyal and growing, and with the addition of Volume 4, The Strength of Sauron, things will truly be getting epic for long-time LOTRO fans.

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Of course, all of this is said with the assumption that the reader is somewhat familiar with the Lord of the Rings mythos and storyline – if you're not, well, then this is probably going to be a confusing article!  Given the game is primarily focused on storytelling and capturing the feel of the novels for fans of Tolkien's work, it's highly unlikely you'd be interested in the game in the first place.  So, onward and upward, then.  Let's see where we're at.

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As of this update, Aragorn will have already traveled through the Paths of the Dead, and convinced the ghostly oathbreakers there to fulfill their ancient obligation to fight Sauron, and thus free themselves from the curse that keeps them bound to the world.  Of course, players can't travel with him on this endeavor, because the books never mentioned anything like “a million blinged-out randos accompanied Aragorn on this dark trod.”  Unfortunately, you're going to have to explore the paths alone.  It's a fun zone, with both solo and fellowship versions, and the developers thought long and hard on how to portray it.  They decided not every oathbreaker followed Aragorn – some didn't believe he could help them, others were simply too far gone.  So what's left in these caves are the most wretched of all the undead, and of course, it'll be up to the players to deal with them.

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After this adventure, players will have the opportunity to, at long last, set foot in the land of Gondor.  Gondor is a green, vibrant kingdom.  Unlike the sprawling fields of Rohan, Gondor is a touch more arid, and the villages tend to be built into steep hills and hilltops, being quite vertical and defensible – not to mention beautiful.  The vistas are phenomenal, and despite LOTRO's aging engine, they continue to outdo themselves when it comes to capturing a sense of the majestic in their landscapes.  Gondor is of course no different, and perhaps their best work yet.

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There are all sorts of adventures players can get up to in Gondor.  Primarily, the Southron corsairs in the employ of Sauron are taking advantage of the undefended coastline to wreak havoc and make landfall – after the lighting of the beacons, the majority of Gondor's armies traveled to their capital of Minas Tirith to make a stand against Sauron's assault.  This left much of their land vulnerable, and pirates are of course apt when it comes to exploiting vulnerability.  Dealing with these vultures will be the responsibility of players – more unsung heroes to add to the amended annals of Middle Earth's legacy.  Minas Tirith, unfortunately, is not quite here – but it will be soon enough.  The story is already nearing its climax and conclusion.  I can only wonder what happens once the books have been covered.

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Of course, this update also has mechanical features as well.  With it they'll be introducing a new item system, one that allows for the swapping and customization of stats on higher level items.  This system is called the Essence System, with Essences being the modular aspects of an item that represent its stat spread.  This is something players have been wanting for a long time.  There will also be a six-player, fully outdoor fellowship area for long-term adventuring in a dynamic instance.  Think of it as a more open-world dungeon.

The developers attribute LOTRO's continued success to the story, the world, the atmosphere, and their dedication to the integrity of Tolkien's masterpiece.  For now, players will have to settle for only a taste of the new Gondor region.  Perhaps more will come in Update 15, when Beornings hit the field, and let players turn into bears.  That'll be fun, won't it?

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Tagspeech is the alias of author W.B. Wemyss, who was responsible for the bizarre cyberpunk fever dream called Children of Athena.

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Comments

  • Destiron

    I am actually really excited about this update after playing on BR.
    The landscape is great as always, quest design is much less linear and feels like SoA, difficulty is finally being added into the game again for most classes, and there is a fun area that is similar to Limlight Gorge and is just as fun.
    The only other thing that I wish they would do is make the 3 man longer (it is very short) and doable as many times as you want (you can only run it 2 times a week)

    • alice maldonado

      I am very much happy that they limit the amount of times you can run instances. Why burn yourself out on runs in the first week grinding out gear, when you can actually get excited for what drops, and plan epic adventures. Saruman wouldn’t be the same if it were repeatable.

  • John

    lol ok first off this is a misleading article. The “player base” is not “growing” as stated it is actually dwindling. Secondly the reason why is stuff like this a grind for gear that has no end game content which makes it so that having the best gear does nothing but gather dust or help you run the same instances over and over agian that have been scaled since 85. Last we have not wanted the essence system (which by the way is a rip off of Diablo 3 and also Aion, but who is telling) we have wanted devs that knew the classes and made things that were useful to the classes that we played. These posts like this should state the facts of what is going in the Lotro community not just praising and very unsatisfying update. I mean one of the regions is Lamedon? lol enough said

    • Bigkev

      John your not the john from Brandywine server who used to troll the wargs from the brigde with me are you?

      • Cimpathetic

        Always a possibility

      • John

        no I am not dont play on brandy though alot of my friends have transfered there

    • Destiron

      I think one of the trolls escaped from Tarlang’s Crown, the U14 group questing area and got into the www

      • John

        no not a troll just want the truth to be told not hype up something that is not that great. Yes it is cool that we get a new region but what about end game content. But its ok to be a fan boy and think that everything Turbine pushes out is great. People like you are the reason they get away with releasing half ass broke content and dont fix the existing stuff. I have played this game for over 5 years and seen the downhill slide and the catering to the fan boys that cry we want things easy we want to have this and raids are to hard. And now he we are

        • Destiron

          So you want to talk about how LOTRO has no endgame?
          With U14, there is a new LG like questing area, a new 3 man, a serious ramp up in difficulty in instances, multiple challenging daily instances, and some very large Epic Battle improvements.

          • Brynhildn Mistress Over Fear

            All those improvements already constitute a good amount of time on top of the aging legendary grind (poor sods who invested in a FA). Why does Turbine feel the need to add an additional grind in with essence then?

            Raiders are, by definition, looking for raids. Not Epic Battles, nor fellowship content. Tower of Isengard, Helegrod or Ost Guruth gigantic endeavors with wings and the best endgame items. This is the standard of MMO endgame laid down by the Unholy World of Warcrack.

          • john

            Since when is “questing” endgame? Last I check in for example ROI The Tower of Orthanc Raid was endgame content. The 3 man and such is just a rehash of Limlight Gorge. The Epic Battles are a joke. When I play my guard I want to come tank something not be a engineer and throw off hooks and ladders or shoot catapults. But hey whatever tickles your fancy. The point of this whole discussion was the fact that this article pumps up Lotro which gets more people to join and spend money due to the appeasing look of Lotro. Yes when first play lotro it is amazing but after you see the grind and more grind and more grind it becomes more tedious. Hence the reason of the dwindling player base. Last if you want to talk about difficulty yes they have worked on that. Wouldnt have been broke if we didnt go to a half assed trait tree system made by people who don’t really understand the classes. But that is another topic for another day.

          • Destiron

            Limlight Gorge might not have been your end game, but it was for many people. Also, about what you are talking about in Epic Battles, you now can tank with U14! Mobs can now be aggroed.
            Classes are also getting many improvements in U14.

            Now I disagree with your claim, the game does deserve this article. It is still very entertaining and U14 is a strong update.

  • Cimpathetic

    I am really excited about this update.
    There is great quests and landscape all around, and the new essence system is promising.

  • Andang

    Great article except for one thing… it is Middle-earth not Middle Earth. Thanks for the write up. LOTRO doesn’t get enough news coverage.

    • Cimpathetic

      So true

  • Valar Morghulis

    I personally hated LG but i’m curious to see what its like…

  • vennethor bloodrage

    im still waiting for new mounts, lotr offer a lot of friendly animals and creatures, for example… a deer for elves or a carriege of rabbits like radagas or eagles…