Previews

Lord of the Rings Online - Siege of Mirkwood Live Preview

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Expansion time is always a time of eager anticipation and quiet dread amongst gamers, as the promise of new and exciting content is tempered by the uncertainty of change. Even the most stable...Expansion time is always a time of eager anticipation and quiet dread amongst gamers, as the promise of new and exciting content is tempered by the uncertainty of change. Even the most stable and venerated games of the genre aren’t immune to this mixed bag of emotions. To help alleviate your concerns and illuminate the darkness of the unknown, Ten Ton Hammer has gotten hands on with the newest addition to the storied world of Lord of the Rings Online, with a behind the scenes in game look at Siege of Mirkwood. Join Medawky, fresh off his guided tour of the new content, for a preview of what’s coming and a review of what is already in place in the current pre-open beta build.

At the dock, ready to venture into Mirkwood with my tour guide- Live Producer, Aaron Campbell.

Even though open beta is still a couple of weeks out it is fairly obvious that the bulk of the content is in place for the upcoming expansion. With many sites dubbing this a “mini-expansion”, I was surprised and delighted by the overall depth and scope of this newest installment to the franchise.  With only close to two hours of hands on time I can already tell you that the aforementioned branding of Siege of Mirkwood is a complete misnomer, this is no mini-expansion but rather a vast enhancement that will add a whole new layer of playability to the game. While it is true that there isn’t an entire new continent or other worldly realm being created to explore, the addition of one of the most feared and foreboding forests from the works of Tolkien can hardly be dismissed, but the real star of the show is the skirmish system.

My journey into the new area began on a lonely dock where I boarded a small boat with my tour guide, Live Producer Aaron Campbell, and pushed off for the far My journey into the new area began on a lonely dock where I boarded a small boat with my tour guide, Live Producer Aaron Campbell, and pushed off for the far shore. One of the first things I noticed after disembarking was the stark contrast between the two shores.

"We want you to feel the contrast immediatley" - Aaron Campbell.



Elvish Army base camp that is established after instanced assualt encounter.

Players will gain access to the new content via the completion of a “D-day” like encounter where the southern shore of Mirkwood is invaded by the player and NPCs pushing in from Lothlorien to form an elvish beachhead and encampment that will serve as the initial quest hub. The camp lies under the looming shadow of Dol Guldur, former home to Sauron and the current residence of an army of Orcs, Trolls, and other minions of The Dark Lord of Mordor, led by three of the Nazgûl.




 Dol Guldur will serve as the focal point in the culmination of the story that began with Mines of Moria, as players ultimately ascend to the top of the keep to put an end to the evil that resides there. Featuring the full scope of group content by way of three, six and twelve player instances, the stronghold is even more impressive on the inside than it is on the out.

The fighting is intense just to reach the entrance to Dol Guldur

You will need to arrive at the place together, as even the outside is heavily guarded by some menacing looking foes. The inner courtyard was large and it gives you the sense of just how big the place really is, as you wander through a portcullis into a large opening where high up at the top of the tower the ominous fell be  Dol Guldur will serve as the focal point in the culmination of the story that began with Mines of Moria, as players ultimately ascend to the top of the keep to put an end to the evil that resides there. Featuring the full scope of group content by way of three, six and twelve player instances, the stronghold is even more impressive on the inside than it is on the out.  You will need to arrive at the place together, as even the outside is heavily guarded by some menacing looking foes. The inner courtyard was large and it gives you the sense of just how big the place really is, as you wander through a portcullis into a large opening where high up at the top of the tower the ominous fell beasts swirl.


During my tour I was able to experience two of the dungeons, the three and twelve player versions. The three player encounter was an arena style battle with several waves of trash capped off by a boss fight, with each boss becoming progressively harder.

Ignite the challenge brazier if you dare..

While the pedestrian version of this encounter was nothing mind blowing, the bosses did have interesting abilities and look to offer a good test. What really piqued my interest here was challenge mode; by clicking a brazier in the arena you can up the difficulty considerably by removing the trash and only fighting the bosses… at the same time.  Teams will want to have a high level of coordination and skill to knock this one out. The twelve player raid instance was a classic keep style fight with the players attempting to get to the top of keep to vanquish the main boss. There were several boss encounters on the way up, with the most interesting encounter being a gauntlet run that really keeps you on your toes. The game’s built in dread mechanic is on full display here and you will need to keep a brisk pace to limit the number of adds and keep the dread low.



The Mirkwood quests, level cap increase and Dol Guldur all make for an exciting addition to the game and are worth the price of admission alone, but the skirmish system is what pushes this over the top and makes it a quality release. Players of level 30 and above can now organize a party, complete with NPC additions that you can load out to help you, from anywhere in the world and enter the fray of these goal oriented scenarios. Similar systems already exist in other games and the folks at Turbine have done their homework, taking the best of those ideas and blending them into a cohesive element that fits within the context of the LotRO world.

Shire Skirmish

"We are able to take players back to areas of the world that were always considered safe and add a story based challenge to it" - Aaron Campbell

While still in the testing stages it is obvious that the main goal of the skirmish system is not one of a new and completely separate part of the game, but one that enhances the existing game. Skirmish marks are obtained upon completion of the encounter and the type and number is determined by several factors including the characters level and the difficulty of the encounter.  The encounters have several mini bosses called Lieutenants that are randomly placed throughout the instance to keep things fresh and to keep players on their toes, as you don’t know which ones or where they will be located from one iteration to the next.  Each skirmish will have several main objectives that need to be completed as well as optional encounters that will come up throughout the battle to offer additional rewards. Our skirmish took place in the Shire of all places, allowing for an engaging fight as well as a great way to add new lore into a game that is already brimming with it.

Redeeming your Skirmish marks also looks to be a fairly easy process as skirmish camps are located throughout the world near every major city.

Skirmish Camp, complete with vendors eagerly awaiting you to redeem your badges of battle.

Players can elect to hold on to the marks and accumulate them to trade up to more robust rewards or spend as they go and enhance their characters with virtually every type of item in the game. The vendors on display at the camp we visited were numerous and diverse in their offerings. The “Legendary Items” vendor looks like it may be the most popular when the content goes live.

Whatever your opinion of game expansions may be, it is easy to tell when one is done correctly and Siege of Mirkwood is an obvious winner.  The overall direction these additions will take the game should be to a new level of success among both current players and game expatriates alike. If you have been away from LotRO for a while or always wondered if it was worth checking out, I would definitely recommend you take a look and start your own journey to middle earth.
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