Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard Preview

“Smoke rises from the mountain of Doom. The hour grows late and Gandalf the Grey rides to Isengard seeking my counsel.” These are the first words we hear spoken by Saruman in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Tomorrow, Turbine is going to let you ride the road that Gandalf did, as Lord of the Rings Online launches the Rise of Isengard expansion.

The Grey Company is heading for a rendezvous with Aragorn, and LotRO players are helping out along the way. Rise of Isengard takes us into the Gap of Rohan, Dunland where the various tribes of Dunlendings dwell, and beyond, to the very foot of Orthanc itself.

We were fortunate enough to get a guided tour of some of the new content from Aaron Campbell, producer for LotRO who reprised his role from our Echoes of the Dead preview. There’s a lot to cover, as Turbine is rolling out all sorts of goodies in the new expansion.

First off, there are two branches of the eipc story, depending on which path you choose to take. The braches converge again, so you’ll end up in the place. All that will differ is how you got there. This is a very welcome addition for LotRO players with multiple characters, as it will allow them to play through the new content witout repeating the exact same content every time.

Entering the new area for the first time, we traversed an area called the Bone Vales. It’s home to a cursed tribe of Dunlendings that is forced to wander it even after death. As you can see in the photo above, their weight-loss programs are remarkable. There are 10-12 different tribes of Dunlendings in the new areas, each with their own distinctive markings and totems. Players will be interacting with each of these tribes as they make their way through the new content.

We also learned that players will be able to choose between two starting areas to quest in for this expansion; a sign that Turbine is expecting a fair number of people to be heading into the new area simultaneously. That’s a testament to just how much their playerbase has grown since they went free-to-play.

One very interesting thing we discovered was Turbine’s commitment to use phasing in the new content. If you aren’t familiar with phasing, it basically means that as your character moves through the world and completes quests, the world around you will change to reflect your progress. NPCs that you encounter earlier in the story may show up somewhere else down the line. The only downside to this is that it can sometimes be difficult to sync up with friends you want to play with who’ve made more or less progress than you.

But that isn’t the biggest thing in Rise of Isengard. It’s not even the second biggest thing.

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