As soon as Ten Ton Hammer heard about the newly announced third expansion for the Lord of the Rings Online, Rise of Isengard, and how it will pit players against the machinations of the traitorous White Wizard Saruman., we phoned LotRO Producer Aaron Campbell and PR Director Adam Mersky for a brief Q&A on the subject. While all things Entish were off the table for now (who doesnÂt want to know how TolkienÂs mechwarrior will be adopted into the game, honestly?), Aaron and Adam offered us a little more insight into the expansion due out late next year.
ÂOnce he was as great as his fame made him.Â Â Aragorn, on the steps of Orthanc
Along with a level cap raise to 70, Rise of Isengard will encompass three huge new areas. Since itÂs been a short while since most of us submerged ourselves in all things Tolkien, hereÂs an impromptu geography / history lesson on the lands and current goings-on in Rise of Isengard:
tower at Isengard, Orthanc. Who needs windows when you have this much
- Dunland Â With Enedwaith and the Old South Road to the West and the Misty Mountains to the east, Dunland is a hilly, brown land populated by a degenerate, xenophobic tribe of men. The DunlendingsÂ historically poor treatment at the hands of Gondor made them an easy mark for Saruman, himself desperately in need of allies in his mad quest to make the Ring his own. Players will probably have a front row seat for the negotiations.
- The Gap of Rohan - Aaron was careful to point out that this is not Rohan proper, but rather the Gap of Rohan, which covers the strip of territory between the Misty Mountains (to the north), the Kingdom of Rohan (to the east), and the White Mountains to the southeast. Mountains make rivers, and the lush valley farmland formed by the Isen (flowing from the Mistys) and the Adorn (originating in the White Mts.) is a historical point of contention between the Dunlendings and the Kingdom of Rohan.
- Isengard Â A tower fortress meant to protect Rohan from invasion via the Fords of Isen, Isengard (along with HelmÂs Deep to the south) and its tower, Orthanc, commands a vast swath of the Gap of Rohan. Historically a territorial holding of the stretched and depopulated Kingdom of Gondor, Isengard became a flashpoint in the battle between the Rohirrim and the Dunlendings. When the White Wizard Saruman offered to guard the tower on GondorÂs behalf, the Steward of Gondor was only too happy to hand over the keys. Now the once green and lovely lands of Isengard have become a mill of murderous orcs. What could come next? Ents, orcs, and a wizard vs. wizard breakdancing battleÂ oh my.
ÂAnd now it is clear that he is a black traitor.Â Â Treebeard to Merry and Pippin
Oh man, Saruman looks PISSED! I would not want to be a hobbit trampling the geraniums on the front lawn of Orthanc right now...
With LotROÂs previous two expansions, Mines of Moria and Siege of Mirkwood, we arrived on the scene after the members of the original Fellowship had already passed through. So our first question to Aaron and Adam was: are we still a part of the Middle Earth mop-up team, or would we play (or at least feel like we play) a role in how the Isengard story progresses. Happily, Turbine is taking the ÂRise ofÂ in Rise of Isengard literally. ÂClearly, in terms of story and progress, weÂre at the beginning of The Two Towers. WeÂre continuing down the epic storyline, so for much of Dunland youÂre going to be seen as journeying with the Grey Company south.Â
Since all of our RoI questions were now being met with a polite Âwait and see,Â we went with a purely technical question - what happened to the old Volume and Book way of describing new chunks of LotRO content? We'd heard a great deal about expansions and updates, but no handy volume and book versioning to go along with it. "The epic story continues," Aaron explained. "We're going to be doing both updates that have specific feature sets in them, and we're still going to be releasing epic books as well."
Adam explained further: "You may get updates with Books in them. We will be doing updates associated with Books, but just not every update. That way we're not holding back changes and fixes and player requests and waiting for the story to progress."
Out-and-out battles as well as nuanced quests and intrigues are on the menu, but with nearly a year to release, Aaron and Adam were content to tease us with concept videos like this one:[video]http://video.tentonhammer.com/LotRO/LotRO_RiseOfIsengardReveal.FLV[/video]
Freeps vs. Creeps, Reloaded
Big changes are also coming to LotROÂs unique take on PvP gameplay. LotROÂs home of its distinctive "Freeps vs. Creeps" subculture, the Ettenmoors had been the last bastion of subscriber-only domain in Lord of the Rings Online. Next year, however, non-subscribers will be able to experience PvMP as Turbine expands LotROÂs PvMP presentation.
Aaron hinted that new Monster Play areas are coming with Rise of Isengard, along with some key PvMP changes. ÂWeÂre taking a harder look at monster advancement and player advancement for PvMP, and expanding out those advancement paths Â making sure those skills are meaningful and integral.Â
Rise of Isengard is still close to a year away, so what's coming to LotRO in the meantime? Next week, Ten Ton Hammer's Gunky will reveal what Aaron and Adam had to say about LotRO in the coming months, things like tasks, more raids and instances, First Age weapons and much more. Tune in to LotRO Â Ten Ton Hammer for all the details next week!