Hot on the heels of their Riders of Rohan expansion, Turbine is putting the final touches on the release of their first major content update: Against the Shadow. There is no firm release date yet but it is expected to go live before the end of the year.
Titled "Against the Shadow" this update adds content, expands a number a existing features, and brings additional environmental technology to the game. The most noticeable change of the update is the addition of three all new instances. These instances will send your character back in time where you will be tasked by Gandalf to complete the following missions: Head to the Misty Mountains and prevent a giant eagle's egg from becoming a stone giant's breakfast. Travel underneath the Misty Mountains to the home of the Goblin King and prevent the goblins from reorganizing. Finally you will be asked to travel to Mirkwood and cull the wildlife. All three of these instances are designed for 3 players and scale in level from 20 to 85. In addition to talking to Gandalf you can access these through the instance finder.
The first instance located in the Misty Mountains will have your characters encounter the Dourhand dwarves as well as their stone giant allies. While not the best of friends these two races live together in a loose confederation that will have them eventually come to each other's assistance to kill your hero. Associate Producer Hannah Foell explained to me that one of the challenges, but at the same time opportunities provided by the development of the stone giants, was their lack of a solid description in Tolkien's lore. While they were known to play catch with giant bolders not much more was known about them. This allowed the team at Turbine to put their own stamp on the villains. You will see a handful of stone giants as you make your way through the instance and notice as they become more powerful they appear less humanoid and more elemental. While the stone giants at the beginning look almost like large humans, Helf, the main protagonist of the zone, is almost entirely made of stone.
This instance will also provide you with one of the first opportunities to see the new environmental technology added to the game. As you walk through bushes they will move and react to you. You will also see trees sway in the wind on the Misty Mountains. Turbine has also added a feature that makes for windblown snow across surfaces, further adding to the immersion of the world. While the character models in LotRO may be starting to show their age, the environments always appear second to none.
The second instance in the update will send your fellowship under, instead of over, the Misty Mountains. This event takes place 83 years after Gandalf freed the Great Goblin. Since that time the goblins have been in disarray and you can see that from the moment you walk into their lair. Trash and decaying flesh litter the halls. Be glad that we cannot smell the environments (yet). Uloga has stepped up to the challenge and has become the new Great Goblin. It is our challenge to kill him, and his successors. This event also serves to explain why goblins from the Easterlings never invaded Rohan. While you are traversing this instance you will want to take your time to explore the out of the way nooks and crannies. There are a series of goblin painted murals that you will earn a deed for when you discover them all. On this walk through I found one depicting Gollum who at the time was an invisible stalker feeding on the goblins.
There will be two tiers to the new instances and they will reward class specific loot to your character so you do not have to worry about wasted items. The instances will also have challenge modes that will increase your likelihood of earning legendary items. At the time of this interview the third instance was not yet ready for public display. However we did learn of a few features that were added in Rohan that will be expanded to the rest of the game. Open tapping will be expanded to all of the open world areas. Remote looting will also be expanded to the entirety of the open world. However, old instances will still require you to click glowing corpses to loot the shinies. The town of Bree has received a facelift. Turbine has implemented lessons learned from building towns over the past few expansions and have attempted to make Bree a more vibrant and living area as well as bringing it more in line with the lore provided in Tolkien's books. Also the Dol Guldor instances have been adjusted and now scale to the new level cap of 85.
Less than two months after the release of Riders of Rohan and Turbine already has a beefy update to provide the players. In addition to the instances the quality of life items like open tapping and remote looting will be welcome additions to the old world. Turbine seems intent on building a world for players and not just a game. This is evident as they spend so much time on getting the environments just right. If they can keep up this faster development cycle they will have a vibrant and full world of things to do for the foreseeable future.
What is your favorite feature in Riders of Rohan so far? What do you think of open tapping being added to the old world and the increased level cap of Dol Guldor? Do you think Turbine should spend their time and resources creating new content and not reworking the old world? I'd love to read your comments below. You can also reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter.