Updated Thu, Oct 06, 2011 by gunky
I ended Day 5 on my Road to Level 75 in the Gap of Rohan, the southernmost region in the Rise of Isengard expansion for the Lord of the Rings Online. Gunkydoc had reached level 73 and was looking forward to continuing his association with the Rohirrim, who are involved in a long military engagement with the Draig-luth tribe of Dunlendings. The Riders of Theodred are a bunch of hard-fightin' badasses who ride the best horses, wear awesome armor and follow their own rules. They're the cool kids of Middle-earth.
At this point of the game, I was still using a lot of level 65 gear - Helegrod armor pieces, a Second Age spear, jewellery from old raids and instances - and I was rapidly running out of consumables since I needed to stay buffed up and quaff morale and power potions for just about every fight. But no matter. The thrill of the hunt was on me, and the end was in sight.
Forthbrond and Grimbold's Camp are the last bastions of friendly civilization before you get to Isengard, and the quests will generally send you out into the hills and valleys of Isendale and on into Nan Curunir. There are a couple of tricky instances here, but for the most part it feels pretty standard.
An interesting battle instance takes place on the top of the purple-heather-crowned hill of Dol Baran (88.4S, 6.8W). For this one, you need to help Grimbold and his riders fend off a Draig-luth attack force and help them secure the hilltop. This hilltop is a heavily-contested battle-zone already, but the battle instance is even more intense. The goal of this instance is to destroy 4 Draig-luth battle standards while the Rohirrim defend their encampment against the attack. This is tricky, because the Dunlendings spawn in right around the battle standards, and each one is guarded by another Dunlending. Move in at the wrong time and you can end up fighting 4 or 5 of them at once, which can be overwhelming.
The strategy I used for this was to run wide around the standard, wait behind it for a fresh enemy spawn (which then rushes towards the barricades to attack Grimbold and his guys), quickly take out the lone guard defending the standard, and then burn it. When that was done, I would run back to the barricades and help with the attackers.
The Rohirrim fight like mad and have loads of morale, but the Dunlendings tend to attack in big numbers, so over the course of the instance, several of the Rohirrim will be defeated, and Grimbold (who has around 31,000 morale) becomes more vulnerable. By the time the Dunlending boss shows up, after the 4th standard is destroyed, Grimbold may be pretty weak. This can be a difficult situation for a squishy Hunter with poor defenses, limited self-heals and no way to keep an ally standing. If Grimbold starts getting into real trouble, you may need to pull as much aggro as you can and kite the mobs around through the Rohirrim forces.
Isendale is the same as all the other areas in that there are only just enough quests in the area to complete the quests-completion deed. Unfortunately, this involves going into the Iron Pit Mine, a bug-ridden aggravation-fest that shouldn't have made it past beta.
Let's start this discussion on a positive note: the place looks awesome. It's epic in size and scale, reminiscent of Moria, with a vast central chamber surrounded by scaffolding and tracks. Down below, the orcs whip the captured slaves into submission and ship the ore off to Isengard to be smelted into weapons of war.
If only the place worked as well as it looked. The walkways and elevated scaffolds are terribly glitchy, with gaps in the floor that characters and mobs can fall through. These are not breaks you can see - they look like paths you can walk on, but you fall clean through the floor. In some lower areas, you can get stuck behind obstacles, and in the high areas (for example, at the top layers after you run through some of the shell-game blind tunnels), you can plummet to your death. The mobs can also fall through the floor, and if you pass over or near them, they can aggro on you and glitch out, locking you in combat mode. This happened to me every few minutes or so when I was walking around on the scaffolding areas trying to complete quests, and the only fix for it was to log out and back in.
Another fairly significant problem with the Iron Pit is the lack of a map. The quest tracker direction arrow on the radar can be pretty vague when you are being directed to find somebody within the pit, or to gather up Strange Ore for that quest. It's very easy to get lost in here, especially with the blind tunnels leading you to different levels.
The worst part is, in order to complete the quest-completion deed for the area, you need to do some of the repeatable quests in here. I only had to do one, so I did the one that involves killing the orc slavers and looting their whips. The ore-gathering repeatable is too frustrating because of the broken walkways.