The Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard Preview for PC

The Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard Preview for PC

The Real War Is in the South

The Lord of the Rings Online has had an interesting history as a game. It began as a monthly subscription-based MMO, but about three years into the project, it went free-to-play. The surprising thing about this transition is that it has worked very well: the world of LotRO rings no less true to hardcore Lord of the Rings fans than it did before this transition. Now, Turbine is expanding this game world toward the tower of Isengard, the fortress of the wizard Saruman. I got to spend some time with the folks at Turbine and get an early peek at this brand new content.

Right off the bat, they confirmed there will indeed be a level cap increase to 75. Yes, that adds ten whole levels to the current cap. This immediately begs the question: will there be enough content to make the ten-level grind interesting?

The Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard Screenshot

From what they showed me, the answer is a resounding yes.

First of all, there are three brand new regions being added to the game, with many various biomes to explore. I was shown quite a few of these places, and so far, they have all stood up to the traditional LotRO standard of beauty.

The most breathtaking thing I was shown was probably Wulf’s Cleft, an overlook above a camp filled with enemy soldiers preparing for war. One thing that stood out was just how many people were swarming about in this camp: it was like watching an anthill. This is more NPCs than we’ve ever seen in one place in LotRO, and all of them are moving. Other places I was shown include the Bonevales, a resting place for the undead; Tur Morva, a village that reminded me a bit of Lhanuch in Endedwaith, only with snow; Dunbog, a swampy area; and Galtrev, which will be the major hub of this new landmass. Basically, Galtrev is to Dunland what the 21st Hall was to Moria.

The Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard Screenshot

These new locations come with new storylines as well. Being in the heart of Dunland, players will encounter various clans of Dunlendings. Each of these clans has a very different relationship with the forces of Isengard. Some clans are doing everything in their power to hold back Saruman’s forces, while others have sold themselves completely to the cause of evil. Other clans are caught somewhere in the middle of the balance, unsure whether they have the strength to stand against this darkness. Sadly, many of the clans siding with Saruman don’t have much of a choice in the matter.

Some very important cameos have been revealed for Isengard. Most importantly is Saruman himself. LotRO players will finally get a look—albeit probably a very brief one—at the White Wizard in-game. Secondly is Quickbeam, the hasty Ent from The Two Towers . Thus far, Ents have been rare in LotRO—the only one we’ve seen so far was Longbough up near Lake Evendim—so this appearance is very exciting. Thirdly, Halbarad, a Ranger long-time LotRO players should be quite familiar with, was spotted carrying buckets of something-or-other to help out one of the Dunlending clans that was friendly to the Ranger cause.

The Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard Screenshot

To top it all off, there is a brand new 24-man raid shipping with Isengard. And if this isn’t enough end-game group action for you, all dungeons that could scale to level 65 before will now be able to scale up to 75. Of course, there will be new loot to accompany these new level 75 versions of familiar dungeons.

Rise of Isengard won’t just add content though. There are some tweaks that have been a long time coming for LotRO fans. Most importantly, Monster Play will be available to free players. This means you’ll finally be able to participate in PvMP (Player vs. Monster Player) even if you don’t have a paid LotRO subscription. Free players will be able to use the Reaver class, but will have to purchase the other Monster classes.

To keep the PvMP areas balanced, Monster Players will now have access to their own version of the LotRO store tailored specifically for their evil ways. Since the Creeps will be getting store access, the Freeps (Free Peoples of Middle-Earth) will now be able to use a lot more of the powerups that have been prohibited in PvMP for a year. Finally, the gloves come off and players are allowed to really lay into each other.

The Rise of Isengard expansion is something fans have been looking forward to ever since it was first announced last year. Thankfully, Turbine has been working hard to ensure we’ll be getting something special in September. The only difficult part now is waiting for it.

Game Features:

  • Experience the Rise of Isengard – The Epic Story continues as the Grey Company makes its way south into Dunland. But troubles arise as their road takes them into lands where Dunlending forces, marshaled by the Wizard Saruman, prepare for war.
  • Increased Level Cap — Players will be able advance their characters up to level 75, gaining access to new traits, virtues, skills, and class quests.
  • Expanded Monster Play – LOTRO’s monster play system will get a major revamp, including opening up the feature to all players, changes to monster player skills and advancement, and a brand new region for players to battle for or against the forces of evil.

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