Regular players of The Lord of the Rings Online are undoubtedly aware that the game’s newest expansion, Riders of Rohan, shipped without any end-game dungeons. But that was something developer Turbine has been working hard to remedy, in two updates spread across the winter months of 2012/2013.
Back in December, I got to explore the first three new dungeons, all of which were designed to be tackled by three-player teams. (You can read about my adventures here, or you can go play them yourself, as they’ve been live for several weeks now.)
Just recently, though, I was given a chance to hop back into the game’s beta server and take another guided tour of the dungeons of Middle-earth.
I was once again accompanied by Leo Tan, Digital Communications Manager, and Hannah Foell, Producer, but this time Aaron Campbell, Senior Producer, also joined in.
The new intances here are going to be especially exciting for fans of The Hobbit, as we got to explore several locations from the beloved book, including the Lonely Mountain. Our first stop, though, was Dale, in a six-man dungeon called The Bells of Dale.
As Foell explained to me, “Gandalf noted that the Easterlings did not come and invade Rohan, and the reason they didn’t come and invade Rohan is that they were too busy sacking Dale and laying siege to the Lonely Mountain. That’s happening at the same time as the War of the Ring is happening, and it’ was really important to us to tell that story because it has a lot of bearing on what happening in Rohan.”
As players, this instance required us to push back the first wave of invading Easterlings as they made their way into Dale. Our ultimate goal was to get through the city to the bell tower where we could ring the bells and warn the villagers of the attack, prompting them to flee to Erebor.
The first boss we encountered was the incredibly fun-to-say Skrizg, a troll that summons a fresh wave of Easterlings every ten seconds. It’s important to keep those waves in check too, because for every wave present, Skrizg gains a 10% damage bonus, and those stack. So fellowships that choose to ignore the adds can find themselves taking huge amounts of damage.
Another notable encounter during this session was a group Easterling Sorcerers, who could call in various pets. These ranged from some terrifying bears to some fearsome hawks to some adorable-as-long-as-you-don’t-get-too-close squirrels.
In fact, the final boss of the instance was another Sorceror, who would call in spirit animals. These were basically gigantic ethereal versions of animals like rats and bears, all of which have elemental auras. Killing the Shadow-Rats was especially important, as they were trying to get inside the bell tower of Dale so they could chew through the ropes that are holding these bells in place, thwarting our efforts at sounding the alarm. You can let six rats through without failing the encounter, though Challenge Mode requires you to not let any through. Additionally, we had to keep the amount of shadow animals at a minimum; if too many were present, the boss would become invulnerable. The final phase of the fight, though, is just the Sorcerer on his own.
After our bell-ringing shenanigans, we got to see The Flight to the Lonely Mountain, which was a twelve-person, ten-minute survival run against waves of enemies. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time here, but I was told there is no boss in this raid; if you can hold off the attackers for ten minutes, you win. Of course, there’s a twist here: If you’re taking down these waves too quickly, they’ll speed up to make things more difficult for you, encouraging you to use strategic tactics rather than just DPS your way through it. Oh, and if you can kill 100 enemies in those ten minutes, you’ll complete the Challenge Mode and earn extra loot.
My favorite instance in this cluster, though, was The Fires of Smaug, another twelve-man raid set in a place (which Foell assured me was taken straight out of Tolkien’s books) called Raven Hill. Here, the Easterlings have built a furnace that has several tentacle-like pipes sticking out of it, each ending with a model of a dragon’s head. This furnace is filled with chemicals, and there’s a fire grim inside it to burn the chemicals and send toxic smoke through the pipes into caves where people are hiding. It’s your job to keep the valves closed so the poisonous gas doesn’t seep through and kill the people in the caves, as well as bring down this fire grim. (As a cool visual detail, the dragon heads will have their mouths open when the valves are open, and their mouths will shut when you close the valves.) Oh, and the grim goes through phases where he’s resistant to different types of damage, so you’ll want to be cycling through which party members are attacking at various points throughout the battle.
The final instance, a twelve-man raid called The Battle for Erebor, was a single-fight instance that pits your team against two trolls—named Laugshat and Vadok—with some truly terrifying masks, as well as eight sorcerers. Here’s the twist: You can set up to six “Terms of Battle,” each of which adds an effect that will make the battle more difficult. For example, there’s one Term of Battle that sets the floor on fire, and another that causes exponential damage output increases to the trolls if their current health differs by more than a single percentage point. For Challenge Mode, you must select all six Terms.
There was also a new addition the game that I got to see firsthand during these dungeons. There are now visual hotspots that show up on the ground to alert players that there are locations where they can be helped or hindered. For example, white hotspots will help you and/or hurt your enemies, while red ones will hurt you and/or help your enemies.
This update should drop at some point during the next few weeks, though we haven’t been given an official date yet. For those hardcore LotRO players, these raids should satiate that hunger for end-game content, at least for a little while. After all, MMO players are a hard bunch to keep satisfied for too long.
Editor / Social Media
Date: February 12, 2013