LotRO's Rise of Isengard: The Road to Level 75, Last Stretch

The final stretch of the road to level 75 is a bit rocky, but Gunky forges bravely ahead through the Gap of Rohan, Nan Curunir and the ring of Isengard.

LotRO's Rise of Isengard: The Road to Level 75, Final Stretch

The Road to Level 75


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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

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

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Gap of Rohan - Map

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Gap of Rohan - The River Isen

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Gap of Rohan - Enemy camp

LotRO Rise if Isengard - Gap of Rohan - Grimbold

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.

Iron Pit

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

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Iron Pit Mine - Smelters

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Iron Pit Mine - Underworkings

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Iron Pit Mine - Dunlending Slave

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Iron Pit Mine - Rohirrim Slave

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.

Nan Curunir And Hitting The Wall

I hit Nan Curunir, the valley in which Isengard is the dominant
feature, at level 74. This is where I hit the wall, and I was
not alone.

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Nan Curunir - Map

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Nan Curunir - Pillar of the White Hand

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Nan Curunir - Quickbeam

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Isengard - Tower of Orthanc

As grand and beautifully-designed as the new areas are, there
are simply not enough quests. The guys who raced to 75 on the
first day did so with a combination of pre-completion of
Enedwaith and Mirkwood quests without turning them in, Enhanced
XP purchased with Destiny Points and from the LotRO Store, and
using Turbine Points to unlock daily task limits for the
significant contribution of XP and rep from turning in hundreds
of tasks. If you don't use these tactics, you basically run out
of quests around level 74 and have to grind out difficult
repeatables for the last stretch.

The quests in Nan Curunir are all marked as solo, but some
players will find them extremely difficult. For instance, the
quest inside the ring of Isengard to kill overseers defeated me
several times before I enlisted the aid of a friend. There are
also three repeatable solo instances out of Galtrev,
but these can also be very difficult. The Defense of Galtrev
instance is particularly brutal, and I was not able to complete

This is incredibly frustrating. The first 4/5ths of the
expansion content is great - there are some buggy bits yet, of
course, but it's still early in the release and these will be
remedied. But that last 5th is problematic when you have limited
options for going forward. You can either backtrack and grind
or... backtrack and grind.

Grinding old content (even scaled up to your new level) or even
new repeatables is a terrible way to reach the new level cap. In
all previous versions of the game, there was still much to do
once you reached level cap - in Shadows of Angmar, there was
Carn Dum, Urugarth, Barad Gularan, the Rift of Nurz Ghashu, and
Helegrod, and whole maps like Forochel. In the Mines of Moria
expansion, you could hit level 60 before you ever got out of
Moria, and then there were instances and raids to conquer and
all of Lothlorien to explore. Even Siege of Mirkwood, which was
a much smaller expansion than Rise of Isengard, had more quests
than you could finish by the time you hit level cap, and then
you still had Enedwaith afterward. With any of these, you could
hit level cap early and still have a ton of stuff to do with a
full quest log. But if you enter Dunland at level 65, this is
not the case. You'll run out of regular quests and be left with
nothing but repeatables and grind.

I'm going to go ahead and accept part of the blame for this
myself. I was chasing the levels on just this one toon, pushing
through at a fairly hard pace. If I had spent more time on my
alts, for instance, Gunkydoc would have had more rested XP and
the last half of level 74 would have gone faster. That's the
price you pay for chasing the levels.

On the other hand, characters who were not yet level-capped
before the expansion launched might not face these kinds of
problems. A player first entering Enedwaith at level 65 will
have that whole area to level with, and the final-stretch wall
might not be an obstacle at all. These players might find that
they hit the cap before they even get to the Gap of Rohan.

But it's also clear that these later areas need more quests,
and a lot more bug-fixing. The Iron Pit is inexcusable, and the
anti-exploit exploits of the mobs in Nan Curunir and other
places was frustrating. When you're standing directly in front
of a mob and he starts to inexplicably "quizzle," you have to
start questioning the design of the area. Logs laying flat
against the ground should not be unscalable walls. As
outstanding as everything has been leading up to this final
stretch, this last bit is rather disappointing.

When Gunkydoc got finished with the first set of repeatables in
Isengard, I took him to Galtrev and did the two instances there
that I was able to actually complete. Then he had an hour or so
to wait until everything reset and he could do them again. I was
one bar away from level cap and not willing to wait, so I went
to Forthbrond and handed in a bunch of tasks. I had to buy
several task daily limit reset tokens from the LotRO Store to do
it, but I had enough Punctured Shields and Decorative Sword
Sheaths stockpiled to put me over the top. And that was how
Gunkydoc hit level cap - not with a triumphant victory, but by
swapping vendor trash for XP and rep. Not a bang, but a whimper.

75 And Beyond

Handing in all those tasks to reach level cap had the added
bonus of bumping up Gunkydoc's standing with Theodred's Riders
to Kindred, and my first act as a level 75 character was to go
shopping for new gear from the rep vendors in Galtrev. The
Rohirrim vendor has some excellent jewellery, and the intrepid
Hobbit bumped his Agility score to 991. There is going to be a
lot of tweaking in Gunkydoc's future - perfecting his gear
load-out for a better balance of stats by discovering and using
different combinations of equipment. At this stage, I could
re-equip Determination and bump his Agility to
well over 1000, but his power pool would suffer for it.

LotRO Rise of Isengard - Gunky's Character Record at Level 75

He will also need to work on his crafting some more. I didn't
spend a lot of time on crafting - just enough to clear out bag
space and get halfway to Master of the Guild for Tailor. There
are some excellent Tailor recipes he still needs to find and
learn, and a new tier he as yet to master.

But for the most part, Gunkydoc will be kept busy running old
skirmishes and instances at level 75. Groups on Arkenstone have
been running 12-man skirmishes like Defense of the Prancing
Pony, and have been making out like bandits from them. Since I
spent so little time running skirmishes between 65 and 75,
Gunkydoc's Herbalist soldier has fallen behind and requires
substantial upkeep. This requires running a lot of daily
skirmishes and spending the marks on upgrading her skills - as
it stand now, she is barely capable of keeping Gunkydoc alive
during Tier 1 skirmishes, and I end up having to do a lot of
kiting to stay in the fight.

When I'm not busy running Gunkydoc through skirmishes, old
instances and (hopefully) the new dragon raid, I will probably
be concentrating on my Captain, Capngunk. I made a conscious
effort to avoid questing in Enedwaith with him when he hit 65,
and didn't worry about getting him geared up. He will be able to
hit Dunland at a running start, and shouldn't have to worry
about replacing precious raid armor. And he will probably not
hit the endgame wall like his predecessor.

Right now, Rise of Isengard feels like a strong - but
unfinished - foundation upon which to build. It's completely
unfair to decry the entire expansion simply because of the
dearth of late-game quests, or the bugginess of a couple of
areas that likely didn't see all that much testing in beta. Yes,
those are frustrating when you reach them, but there's a lot
going on before you ever reach these places. Every day from Day
1 through Day 5, I would find a new favorite thing about the
game (the Culling

Pit in Avardin, the

Peaceful Glade in northern Dunbog, the truly excellent

chapters in Volume III Book 4, etc), and I fully expect
more to come in December when Turbine plans to launch a new
instance cluster.

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