ZAM Gets First-Hand Look at Siege of Mirkwood

Lord of the Rings Online's newest expansion, Siege of Mirkwood, promises quite a few exciting features, and we were lucky enough to see many of them first-hand at PAX.

Shadow looms over Mirkwood. On the western edge of the forest an ancient tower, Dol Goldur, harbors incomprehensible evil. To the brave souls who would dare stem the tide of darkness and challenge Sauron's dominion, remember: "There is always hope." As in level 65, baby. Nazgul? Bring it!

Lord of the Rings Online's newest expansion, Siege of Mirkwood, promises quite a few exciting features, and we were lucky enough to see many of them first-hand at PAX '09, showcased by Executive Producer Jeffrey Steefel from Turbine. Some of you might know the end-game raid properly as The Necromancer's Tower from "The Hobbit," only briefly mentioned by JRR Tolkien in that book but later expounded upon in "The Lord of the Rings" appendices and "The Silmarillion." Apparently, one o' them no good Nazgul has taken up residence by order of The Dark Lord himself, and it's your job to send him packin'. Before we get to that, though, I'd like to cover some of the other elements of the expansion.

The team intends to send you back to old zones; this time around with the new Skirmish system. Skirmishes are essentially instanced, repeatable mini-quest zones that you can hop into and out of at any point during your travels. Each Skirmish presents your party with a main objective and up to nine randomized secondary objectives that you will encounter during the course of the event. By completing your objectives you'll be able to earn Skirmish Points that can be spent on nifty rewards. Skirmishes will track several stats as well, like the number of kills you've achieved.

There will be Skirmishes in higher level areas as well as some of the older starting zones. As the storyline in LotRO has advanced, some familiar areas have come under attack and are in need of assistance. In the Skirmish we witnessed, the town of Bree was under siege and it was your job to rescue the patrons of The Prancing Pony lest they be burninated in their sleep by the crazy henchmen of Sauron. Needless to say, our fearless rep from Turbine cheated his way through the encounter so we could witness it all, though a normal Skirmish match is expected to last somewhere around thirty to forty minutes. If only Frodo had GM hacks...Poor Frodo. Each Skirmish is highly customizable, and will scale the enemies and loot to match whatever difficulty and group size you have it set to.

When you decide to join a Skirmish you'll be issued your own personal soldier on the side of the forces of goodness and furry cute things. The soldier is A.I. controlled and will mercilessly slaughter any orc he comes across until he is slaughtered himself. You can choose from up to six different roles that your soldier can fill, like ranged, melee, or caster. You don't have to worry much about your soldier once you've started the Skirmish, but keeping him alive can make completing your objectives significantly easier.

Talking about the Skirmish Points, Steefel said, "You're gonna be able to get some pretty cool rewards. The balance for us, and hopefully we've got it right, is we wanna make sure that the rewards feel worth it, that its worth going through all this and getting the rewards and they’re very cool, but we don't want them to be so cool and so abundant that people will start doing only this and forget to play the game. We also don't want to invalidate the cool stuff that you're working hard to get in instances. So that's been the design goal. We feel like we've balanced it out pretty well. The design intent is that this is a complimentary system."

Some of the other additions include legendary items getting a buff to level 60, and there will be player-craftable legendaries. Items in general will offer more information to the player about their capabilities so you don't waste time upgrading them only to decide later it's not what you really wanted. You'll be able to name your mounts, and you'll get an extra inventory slot freed up as mount items disappear and change into a skill. Your bank is getting an upgrade to allow you to share items between characters on your account. Combat is getting a bit of a revamp, too, but we didn't get a lot of detail on that.

Ultimately during the course of the main storyline players will make their way to the tower of Dol Goldur at the behest of the elves of Lothlórien. The intent is to strike first before Sauron musters his forces, and there are additional quests to rescue prisoners in the dungeons below the tower. You'll eventually make your way to the top to face off with the expansion's final boss: a Nazgul mounted on an exceptionally cool-looking Felbeast. During the walk-through we were given we saw quite a bit of Dread during the mob encounters, even with our guide's godlike GM toon, so players will probably need to take care to monitor their characters' moods carefully as they advance through the tower. What we saw may be subject to change, though, since not even the mob pulls were finalized yet.

We tried to get some details on the loot in the tower, but in the end all we got was "Very, very cool stuff." Overall, this expansion sounds like it has some very, very cool stuff, and as it gets closer to completion we'll keep reporting. It should be coming out this fall, but as you know, "A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to."

Chris "Xenophage" McGraw
Junior Editor


Free account required to post

You must log in or create an account to post messages.