Last year's delayed release of Riders of Rohan, the
latest expansion for the
Lord of the Rings Online, complicated the release schedule of
the Rohan instance cluster. Instead of being pushed out all at once, it
was broken into two halves and released as two separate updates. We got
the first half in Update 9: Against the Shadow last
December, and Update 10 delivers the second half. But
where Update 9 was largely a hefty "quality of life" patch with some
small-group instances tacked on, Update 10 is much heavier on the
big-scale group content. We got to experience these new instances - one
6-person instance and three 12-person raids - with Turbine staffers Leo
Tan (Digital Communications Manager), Hannah Foell (LotRO Producer) and
Aaron Campbell (Senior Producer).
The new Road to Erebor instances thematically coincide
with the December release of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, featuring
locations that play major roles in that book. Update 10 continues along
this path, using these locations as a backdrop in the War of the Ring
setting. And they are all available starting at level 20, scaling all the
way to 85, so new players fresh from their Hobbit cinema experiences won't
be feeling left out.
Quality of Life & In Their Absence
Update 9 saw the scaling of the Dol Guldur instance cluster, so players
could run the Mirkwood stuff at level 85, earning level 85 rewards. Update
10 continues this tradition, scaling the In Their Absence
instance cluster to level 85 and adding level 85 loot to those instances
as well. This includes both of the small-fellowship instances, both
6-mans, and all five wings of Ost Dunhoth.
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One of the more noteworthy "quality of life" changes is the addition of
the Mithril Coin, a streamlined "currency" that replaces
Writs of Passage, Tomes of Revival and other, similar store-bought items.
It behaves like a currency inasmuch as it is stored in the character's
Barter Wallet and it is exchanged directly for services, but it's a
currency that players have to buy from the LotRO Store using Turbine
Points - sort of like amusement park tickets or ride tokens. The Mithril
Coin is one currency to rule them all.
The change that is most likely to cause rioting in the streets is a
change to the Warden class, switching the primary stat from Might to
Agility. This will bring it in line with the other medium-armor classes
(Burglar and Hunter) and should streamline things for the developers in
charge of designing unrestricted medium armors. But it might mean a fair
bit of grinding for Wardens who have built up a large chunk of Might via
jewellery, relics, virtues and non-set armor pieces.
Bells of Dale
"Aid will not come to the Men of Gondor from the North, for in
these last days of the Third Age, war has come to the foot of Erebor.
Easterlings answering the call of the Dark Lord prepare to besiege Dale
and the Lonely Mountain. The only comfort is that Mordor's host will also
be bereft of these forces...."
Our first stop was the city of Dale, prior to the siege of the Lonely
Mountain, where King Brand seeks to warn the people of the Easterling
attack. While technical issues prevented us from charging through this
instance all the way to the end, it did showcase some interesting new
tech. Enemy "hotspots" - non-targeted area-based attacks, buffs and
debuffs with persistent stationary effects - have undergone a bit of a
makeover, making them more visible in areas with a lot of concentrated
action. In this case, hotspots appeared as large square patches,
colour-coded to show the effect. A white square meant player buffs and
healing, red squares meant damage, green meant enemy buffs. They are
different in each of the instances and this particular colour code is not
necessarily representative of all of them, but they are all very clear and
According to Hannah Foell and Leo Tan, who were jointly controlling the
other character in our 2-man group, the Bells of Dale instance has a lot
going on. We got up to the first boss, an Olog-hai named Skrizg, who
summons groups of adds. Each group of adds he summons adds to the amount
of damage he deals, so the goal is to take him down quickly - but not too
quickly. The adds can get overwhelming very fast. The final boss, an
Easterling sorcerer, summons in spirit animal companions including rats,
which gnaw at the bell ropes. For a regular run, no more than 6 rats can
be allowed to chew through the bell ropes; for challenge mode, none of
Flight to the Lonely Mountain
"The Ring has passed beyond my vision into the pass of Cirith
Ungol. Dale has fallen in the North, and the survivors of the siege are
retreating to the Lonely mountain, with the Easterling forces not gar
The first 12-player raid occurs at the start of the siege of Erebor, with
King Brand attempting to clear a path through the forests for his people
to escape to the Lonely Mountain. The raid group will encounter him
struggling to hold a clearing, but will not arrive in time to save him.
The goal here is to hold the clearing for ten minutes, battling wave after
wave of Easterling attackers.
The waves of Easterlings are randomized, and a fresh wave comes every
minute - or as soon as the previous wave is defeated. The faster the raid
kills the waves, the more enemies come with each successive wave. The
challenge is to find a balance between fast killing and manageability - if
the group kills too fast, it gets hammered with more enemies, but if it
pulls its punches too much, it will be overwhelmed. Finding the balance
can be very tricky - I tried running this at level 20 with a level 85
Guardian, and found that at around the 25% mark, I would get swarmed by
what looked like around 30-plus mobs at once. None of them was doing much
damage and I was blocking and parrying like mad, but it was still a death
by a thousand cuts. Challenge mode in this raid requires killing 100
enemies in 10 minutes. There's even a progress bar that stays on-screen to
show you how much time remains and how many enemies have been killed.
Fires of Smaug
"The dwarves of Erebor wish to send forth ravens with news of
the Battle of Dale and to request aid, but the Easterlings have
constructed a device of great evil to smoke the dwarves out of the Lonely
The next raid is set halfway through the siege of Erebor, on the slopes
of the Lonely Mountain. The Easterlings are trying to kill the ravens that
the Dwarves use to send messages, and have built a chemical furnace in the
shape of a great dragon in an attempt to smoke the Dwarves out of their
tunnels. The furnace has a number of long pipes leading to valves pumping
noxious smoke into the underground tunnels, and a huge Fire Grim in the
middle providing the fumes. The goal is to douse the fire and prevent the
smoke from reaching harmful levels inside the mountain.
This raid has a lot of moving pieces. Each of the valves has a group of
tough Easterlings guarding it, and these valves need to be closed off.
They all start out wide open, with a reading of 5, and when one valve that
value is knocked down by 1. In order to beat challenge mode, only a
minimal amount of smoke can enter the tunnels. This involves dividing the
raid's forces between shutting down the valves and attacking the grim in
the central furnace, defending that position from groups of attackers and
thwarting the Easterlings who come in to dump more noxious chemicals on
the raging fire.
Battle for Erebor
"The Ring has been destroyed and Sauron is vanquished from
Middle-earth! The Easterlings in the North are dismayed by the news, and
the time has come to break the siege of Erebor. However, Sauron's
champions await you at the gateway to the Lonely Mountain...."
The final raid is kind of a spoiler. It is set at the end of the siege,
after the One Ring is destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom and the message
has been sent out to all armies. The Easterlings are teetering on the edge
of defeat, and have been camped out at the foot of the Lonely Mountain for
a month. The Dwarves mean to send them home with a resounding, absolutely
unambiguous declaration of victory by embarassing the Easterling champions
in one final, brutal arena match. They're even confident enough in their
own champions that they are willing to accept up to six handicaps -
basically, the Dwarf equivalent of "I could beat him with one arm tied
behind my back! And hopping on one leg! And blindfolded, carrying a crying
baby, weak from eating too many iffy tacos and composing an epic power
ballad in a new language!"
There are six terms that can be set for this battle royale. Tier 1
requires selecting two terms, Tier 2 requires four, and Challenge Mode
requires all six. Each term does something different; the Blood Brother
term, for example, causes the twins to deal more damage when their morale
begins to vary. If they are not burned down evenly, their damage can get
out of control fast and quickly overwhelm the group, and this is
challenging because they have different damage-resist buffs. The Inferno
term causes the entire arena floor to burn during the last stages of the
fight, dealing 5% morale damage every tick - this term will almost
certainly be largely reserved for Challenge Modes. Catapults is a fun one,
creating random hot spots where falling boulders crash down.
A few players have expressed some confusion about the timeline and
setting of these instances, and have questioned why they are tied to
Rohan. According to Senior Producer Aaron Campbell, the new instances
answer the question of why the Easterlings never invaded Rohan from the
north - the invasion force got held up by the men of Dale, and foolishly
attempted to root the dwarves out of the Lonely Mountain with a failed
siege. The Battle of Dale and the siege of the Lonely Mountain are not a
direct part of the main narrative of the Lord of the Rings story, but are
recounted in the appendices of the Return of the King, and mentioned by
Gimli and Gandalf at various times. And while the Battle for Erebor raid
skips ahead to the end of the book, after the good guys have won, its
inclusion in the instance cluster isn't a total derailment. It's a side
trip, one that follows its own progression and takes its own time. And
it's not the only instance that takes place post-war.
Update 10 is on the Bullroarer server now, undergoing public beta
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