PAX Day 2: LOTRO: Rise of Isengard
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-In-Chief
While Spunkify was shooting clips of all the cute cosplay girls at PAX, I took some time to visit the Turbine booth to chat with Executive Producer Fernando Paiz about Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon and Dragons Online's upcoming expansions, both slated for September launches!
The Lord of the Rings: Rise of Isengard is set to launch September 27th and there is A LOT to be excited about with this expansion. Of course they started off with the basics, raising the level cap to 75 along with new more powerful end game skills to acquire. But this should be expected of any traditional MMO expansion.
What really stood out is the sheer amount of effort put into the new worlds built for this expansion, Dunland, The Gap of Rohan, and Isengard. Dunland is lush and gigantic, taking up the majority of the region introduced in this new expansion. Each barbarian NPC looks unique from the last and the villages truly feel alive.
At one point the game driver took me to a hillside that allows you to look down at an entire Dunland war camp in one view. NPCs were charging back and forth. Villagers seemed focused on bringing horses to one location, or carrying supplies to another. All in all there seemed to be over 100 NPCs in this one village each actively going about their daily lives. I hadn’t seen village activity in a game like this since Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask, and witnessing it within an MMO made it all the more impressive.
Moving on to the southern region of the map was the Gap of Rohan. Mighty rivers filled the area and wild horsemen rode around. The world they are building is truly one of majesty and the capabilities of their graphics engine are still impressive after so many years of operation. Of course by now I was really pumped for what lay over the horizon, The Tower of Isengard!
Now the majority of MMOs I have played in the past go the lazy route and only render the player’s nearby surrounding, allowing the horizon to slowly come into view as they approach it and it becomes relevant. This simply wouldn’t do for the ambitious art team at Turbine! They decided they wouldn’t settle until the player was able to see the Tower of Isengard from a great distance, with the surrounding mountain peaks forming a protective cone around it in all directions. You truly gain an appreciation for this behemoth structure when you ride towards it for a good number of minutes before you are even inside of the Orc Encampments.
This map is cleverly designed. Though you will need a large party to break into the inner sanctum, due to some massive trolls guarding the front gates, once inside stealth is the order of the day. Brutally powerful trolls patrol the main pathways and smaller goblins lurk in the shadows of various huts and trash strewn throughout the once beautiful courtyard. I can’t say how important the stealth mechanics are for completing quests inside Isengard, but from the look of those trolls and the sheer number of them patrolling the walkways, I imagine you won’t want to attract a lot of attention.
Another really unique feature of this expansion that should send fanboys squealing is a scene in which you play as Grima Wormtongue and visit the lands of Isengard before Sauroman turned against the Free People of Middle-earth. This gives you some impressive visuals of the lush green courtyard, the shining white tower, and the friendly wise Sauroman before his turn to darkness.
Although I was running short on time and didn’t get to witness it myself, I was promised a new Legendary 24 man raid would be introduced in this expansion. Players must unite against the dark dragon Draigoch to claim his ample treasures. This sounds incredibly challenging and I wouldn’t recommend pugging it! For more information on the new expansion, be sure to check out our Developer's Diary posted earlier today.