The Road to Level 75
of Isengard is not the biggest expansion that the
Lord of the Rings Online has launched. Mines of
Moria was epic, and it also had a 10-level increase. But it is a
damn sight bigger than Siege of Mirkwood, and the lands are much
brighter and more open than either of these two dark, foreboding
expansions. Turbine is striving once again towards the light and
giving us areas with open vistas and clearly-visible skies.
I ended Day
1 of my Road to Level 75 in Dunbog, in
the southwest corner of Dunland, having
achieved level 68 and feeling mighty proud of myself. The
rolling swamp and the rickety backwater bayou shacks-on-piers
town of Lhan Ros puts me in mind of a
particular Jerry Reed song (a hint: I spent a few minutes
looking for a cat named Doc Milsap and his pretty wife,
Hannah... but they weren't there), so I started Day 2 happy,
beating up slugs and collecting mudballs. Despite the dreary
damp, there are some interesting things going on in Dunbog.
Dunbog and the Bonevales
There are a few camps of hunters and such scattered around the
bog, and they will require you to kill and loot the mobs there.
Nothing out of the ordinary... until you are tasked with
battling the giant avanc living in a ruin. Avancs look rather
like worms crossed with primeval alligators, and the big one in
the ruin is an epic beast. For that quest, you can summon an NPC
named Gwin to help you out (provided you did his quest earlier). If you run this with a group,
apparently everyone in the group can call forth their own
private Gwins. I ran this with a Warden friend, and we each
got our own Gwin.
There you will find the town of Lhan Colvarn,
where the inhabitants are feeling... a bit under the weather.
Might have something to do with their drinking water. If you
look close, you can see the dead fish and human remains floating
on the surface.
At any rate, the nasty late-movie-Terminator-style disease
isn't the only thing afflicting this town. They're also infested
with rats and horribly-mutated orcs and trolls. The design of
this town showcases the trend towards more solo-oriented
gameplay - the quests require you to gather crates and interact
the diseased Dunlending Abominations, but if you go there with a
group, expect to stay a while. The crates despawn when a player
uses them, and when a member of your group interacts with one of
the sick Dunlendings (some of them will attack after you warn
them, and some will cheer), it doesn't count for your quest.
This was a bit frustrating, especially during these early days
when traffic in these areas is very high - someone runs through
and grabs the crates or activates the NPCs and you have to wait
for lengthy respawns.
style="float: left; margin-right: 10px;" />This particular
quest chain is geared for solo players. There are a number of
forced-solo instances, including a run through the town with
your old pal Gwin, another NPC named Delwin and an
aggressive Huntard Dunlending named Blaire. This is a
challenging instance - it took me several tries to complete, and
I had to leave it and come back later when I had gained a couple
levels before I had a chance of beating it. In the end, you must
make a moral decision: do you stop the killing and try to save
the afflicted souls, or do you kill 'em all and cut off the
source of infection? In these situations, I often ask myself
what my mentor and kin-founder would do. The answer was clear...
and then I saw the quest reward, and my decision was further
cemented: KILL 'EM ALL!
Hey, sometimes you have to amputate the gangrenous foot to save
the leg. I don't feel bad about my ruthless decision, and plus
the kill-'em-all cloak looks WAY better than the save-everyone
However, like I said, I wasn't able to complete this instance
the first couple of times, and had to come back when I had
another level or two under my belt. My solution was to backtrack
a bit and rip through the Bonevales,
completing all the quests at the small, scattered camps there.
Then I went back, completed the instance and continued that
storyline, which introduced me to two more of my new favorite
The first new favorite thing I found was the Peaceful
Glade in northern Dunbog. You go in here as part of
the quest chain from Lhan Ros, and it's breathtaking.
The massive tree in the middle is a spiritual thing for the
Avanc Luth and the Boar Clan, and they are fiercely defending it
against White Hand raiders. I kinda didn't want to leave this
place when I got here, but the road lay before me and I knew
that I must.
After you finish up here and rally all the camps to the defense
of the Dunbog, you attend a meeting. If you have been thorough,
the meeting is basically about how awesome you are, and all the
Dunlendings sing your praise and swear their allegiance in the
coming battle. This part is great, but it's not my favorite
thing. My favorite thing is what they are vowing to help out
with - Wulf's Cleft.
This is a skirmish-like instance, Tusks of the Boar, where you
pick a small 4-man strike team from the assembled soldiers and
go wreak havoc on the Dragon Clan and the White Hand, destroying
their siege equipment. The soldiers are warriors, archers or
herbalists, and you can pick whatever kind of group you want.
Your soldiers are brutal and efficient - for the most part, I
would just pull the mobs and run back and let the soldiers do
all the slaughtering. My team consisted of two warriors, one
archer and one herbalist, and they carved a path through
everything the enemy threw at us. This instance ends with a
great flaming battle, and when you take down the enemy leader,
you hop on a horse and bail.
I had been looking forward to this particular instance since
first trying it in beta. Improvements have been made since then,
but there is still some AI-related weirdness - friendly soldiers
fighting on the sidelines will occasionally break through the
lines and attack your targets, greying them out so you get no XP
from the kills. This is especially prevalent in the last battle,
where aggressive "friendly" NPCs will attack the enemy leader.
Also, unlike skirmish soldiers that can be directed to attack,
you have no control over your soldier escorts here, which can
cause some occasionally unpredictable results. They will
instantly aggro on any enemy in range, and will fight whoever
they damn well feel like. At least the instance-exit bug has
been fixed - on beta, you would ride up to the red shimmer at
the edge of town and stay there for several minutes before the
instance shut down.
I ended the day at Barvanon, a town in
south-central Dunland in the Carreglyn region,
at level 69.
Barnavon is a pretty horrible town. It's split into two levels
- Upper Barnavon, where all the inhabitants are hostile and will
try to kill you on sight, and Lower Barnavon, which is populated
mostly by women and children - actual little kids, which you
don't see anywhere else in the game - and only SOME of the
inhabitants try to kill you on sight. There are a number of
hostile guards patrolling the streets of Barnavon, which can be
aggravating. One is tucked out of sight just inside the gate,
behind the main quest-giver NPC and right beside the town's only
mailbox. It's not all that uncommon to find the bodies of slain
player-characters here - victims of bad timing and terrible
planning. If you have to send mail to someone or go AFK for any
reason, go somewhere else to do it.
Quests here will send you up into the "bad part of town," and
out to the wilderness and to the nearby mines to help with
matters there. The mines are infested with bugan - the
hobbit/goblin things that you first meet in the Gloomglens in
Enedwaith. They're not very strong individually, but you usually
end up fighting them in twos or threes or more. There's a neat
encounter on a patrol-type quest where you meet another huge
avanc lurking in a pool.
At around this point, I was beginning to wonder if I had missed
an area somewhere. All the mobs were orange to me and I was
getting chewed up pretty badly in some cases. I had been
following the epic quest line, which is, as mentioned before,
more or less "go to this area, help everyone there as much as
you can and then move on." I'm doing every quest in each area -
I skipped one repeatable quest from Galtrev (I hit Kindred with
the Dunlendings on day 2 and didn't need the rep), but with
everything else I was as thorough as possible. I completed all
the "Do X number of quests" deeds for each area (except for Trum
Dreng, which is a known bug and sits at 36/37) and left no stone
unturned. But as I moved on from Carreglyn to Gravenwood,
further east, I was feeling even more under-leveled.
Well, it turns out that this is by design. The devs want
players do supplement their questing with non-quest stuff like
skirmishes, tasks, deeding and the like. Without gaining
non-quest levels, some of the instances are nearly impossible.
For instance, I attempted the Tribunal of Shadows instance in
Gravenwood at level 71 and got my ass handed to me. So the goal
for now is to gain a level or two from skirmishes or instances,
and come back to the Tribunal of Shadows when I am better able
to survive it.
On the plus side, I did get to meet Theodred at Saeradan's
Rohirrim scouting camp. Theodred looks like a true bad-ass.
alt="LotRO Rise of Isengard - Rohirrim camp - Theodred" />
As mentioned, my main goal over the next couple of days is to
gain a few levels from skirmishes, instances and other non-quest
content. The closer I get to Isengard, the more I'm going to
The other thing I'm going to be working on is how to overcome
the weaknesses in the new gear my Hunter will be using. The new
gear in Rise of Isengard seems tailored to min-maxers - a couple
of primary stats are given massive boosts, and everything else
is ignored. This is not great for people like me who prefer to
have some kind of balance for survivability. Obviously, I want
my Agility to be very high - Hunter damage is entirely dependent
on Agility, Ranged Offense rating and powerful gear - but I also
want to have good Will, Fate and Vitality scores, and decent
defenses. What good is having an Agility score of over 1000 if
you have no power, or if you can't take a few hits while
soloing? Right now, Gunkydoc's Will is an abysmal 172, while his
Agility is over 800. That's not good. Swapping Determination for
Wisdom and Fidelity for Zeal drops his Agility and Vitality down
a bit, but gives him more Morale overall and a higher Will score
for more Power. I can easily make up the difference with gear.
These plans are for the future. For now, I'm wandering around
the glorious Gravenwood, marveling at the scenery and trying to
think of appropriate adjectives to describe it. Perhaps, when
our chronicle continues, I will have found some good ones.
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