Monday, October 31, 2011

Sights from Isenguard

Minor spoilers abound ahead, be warned!

I'm about halfway through the Rise of Isenguard expansion in Lord of the Rings Online, I just started in the Gap of Rohan over the weekend. Towards the end of the first zone you catch a glimpse of a Dunlander village where preparations for war are busily underway. One thing that's pretty neat about this scene is all those tiny guys you see in the distance are moving around. In order that animating so many dudes doesn't murder your frame rates, the normal models are replaced with lower poly ones that look just fine at this distance. I can't help but wonder if this is some of the same tech we are going to see used for depicting big battles such as Helm's Deep.

I also shot some film of this, but my first attempt at filming with FRAPS didn't turn out so well.

In between the first zone and the second, a book quest has you kidnapped and taken to Isengaurd where you engage in manual labor. In some ways the quest didn't make a lot of sense, for example they don't confiscate any of your gear when you get there:

Silene with her warden soon after arriving in the dungeons of Isenguard.

As you complete tasks, you earn a set of cosmetic prison rags. Once I had enough for a full set, I immediately bought and new cosmetic slot so I could equip them:

Full prisoner's regalia.

The zones where you are engaging in labor are fairly large, and you spend a lot of time running around between locations. However, you can get temporary 50% runspeed buffs by picking fights with gaurds. I'm not sure if that stacked with my normal runspeed buff or not, but I was running fast through most of the area. Despite the mechanical oddities of the quests, the storyline you experience down there is pretty neat. There are also a lot of cool things to see. One of your first stops is a dining hall where you mop up slop:

Reminds me of Harry Potter for some reason...

After that you perform a variety of menial tasks, such as hauling crates of weapons for these guys:

Eventually you make your way into the tower of Orthanc itself, where some fairly nerdastic encounters await if you are into the novels:

Saruman's audience chamber.

The wizard himself.

Orthanc and the grounds of Isenguard before Saruman screwed them up.

Gandalf trapped on the roof of Orthanc.

A bit of oddness is that you actually play as Wormtongue for a while. Soon after that, you free yourself and move on to the Gap of Rohan.

One thing I have mixed feelings about is that the expansion is a total gear reset, which I suppose was inevitable. The gear I spent so much time getting since Moria launched was completely replaced by the time I was 70 or so, including my second age bow. I like how the new armor looks, for once they managed to include a helmet that doesn't look utterly stupid. I also like a lot of the texture work on the new pieces. This is Silene in her quested gear, standing in her house:

I can't remember the last time I had my helmet turned on in LoTRO.

All in all I'm still having a lot of fun with the new expansion. It's looking to last me pretty much up until the launch of SWTOR.


  1. Good news about the expansion, then. I've wondered if going F2P softened up Turbine, but it looks like they haven't lost their design chops. Can't wait to hear more!

  2. I love that screenshot with the caption "The wizard himself". Gorgeous.