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Lord of the Rings Online Previews: Playing an Ent in The Breaking of Isengard

By William Murphy on March 27, 2014

The 7th anniversary of Lord of the Rings Online is right around the corner and so is the release of Lord of the Rings Online’s 13th Update: The Breaking of Isengard. Previously, players had taken part in Isengard content by being held captive by Saruman and the orcs within.  Now? The story has progressed with the books and players will get to explore what happened and how Saruman came to lose power. Yes folks, that means lots and lots of Ents and the Entmoot.

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In The Breaking of Isengard, players get to head back to the ruined fortress of Saruman, blanketed in water, its deep caverns filled, soggy, and creaky with ruin. In a way, Turbine expects this to be cathartic for players, as they’re sure no one really “enjoyed” being slaves to Orcs in previous book chapters. You had to clean up slop, literally kill ten rats in a tongue-in-cheek quest, and so forth. Now, the player is the “clean up” man, going back in to take care of the rabble and help get the region back to the way it was before Saruman’s treachery. It’s a big part of how Turbine’s always envisioned their Middle-earth changing as the game progresses along the books’ story.

But just because the player’s focus was on the Battle of Helm’s Deep at the same time this retaking of Isengard was happening (in terms of chronology of the books), that doesn’t mean Turbine’s not going to let you see what happened. Using the wonders of literary retelling, we’ll get to play through a lengthy Session Play instance as none other than Treebeard himself. It’s entirely optional, but come on… who wouldn’t want to play as Treebeard?

You’ll experience meeting Merry and Pippin, and the whole thing will be narrated Mr. Brandybuck himself.  You’ll watch the little hobbits drink the entdraught, they’ll grow a bit taller, and all of that. The team’s paid very close attention to Tolkien’s work (as always). During the Entmoot, since you’re playing as Treebeard, you’ll experience everything in real time.  But as fans will know, the Ents’ real time is very slow compared to the rest of Middle-earth’s creatures.  So while you move normally for an Ent, you’ll watch Merry and Pippin move around in super speed, eating, sleeping, chatting and generally being bored while the Ents converse about Isengard over a period of three days (which was considered hasty by many Ents). That’s not a real three days, but rather implied via the game.

Players will get to see Derndingle for the first time in game, and while it’s only part of the Session Play this time, it will be used in the greater game eventually.  There are loads more surprises with Treebeard’s instance, but Turbine rightly chose not to spoil them for us or the players so you’ll just have to log in on April 14h to play it yourself.

The Breaking of Isengard also wraps up Volume 3 of the Epic Book – four years in the making, it should put an end to the big bad threat of Saruman for the foreseeable future as the narrative moves ever closer to Mordor and Mount Doom.  Out of the Session Play, you’ll move into Fangor yourself to work with Quickbeam (a rather “fast” Ent by their standards). He’ll enlist your help to clean up the place and turn the wildlife back to the status quo. 

Roots and trees are still out of control, there are angry Huorns, wood trolls that have been awakened, slugs, bugs, and other beasts all still in fighting mode. The content of Fangorn comes in four flavors: a daily repeatable set of content, randomized each day and given out by Quickbeam himself.  There will also be a Huorn that will follow you, and give you quests as you happen upon things that need done.  The third bit is a set of new resource instances that will introduce new resources and crafting recipes into the game.  

The fourth type is a new sort of quest that Turbine’s experimenting with: the Incremental Quest. Essentially, this is a time-gated arc that has Quickbeam paying tribute to three fallen Ents by planting their seeds anew and asking you to help him do so. Each leg of the arc will have a gap of time that must pass before Quickbeam has another quest ready for you to complete. The idea is simple: by making these quests time-gated, players will be forced to actually stop and smell the roses and take the narrative in steps. And if you complete the Incremental series, you’ll get one of the very first ever vanity pets for LotRO: the baby Huorn. They come in three varieties: snowy, black and Fangor. Fear not, Turbine’s not about to slap them up in the store either. For now, vanity pets will only be given by actually playing the game.  Never say never, of course, but it’s good to hear that Turbine wants these kind of special rewards to be given to players for participating.

Alongside all of the new content, the inventory system is getting completely updated.  You’ll be able to edit bags' shape and size, group items so that you can move chunks of them around as needed, and buy additional slots for each back as well.  The current price is 333 Turbine Points for five additional slots, but that could change between now and launch on 4/14.  The Anniversary Festival is also coming up with new rewards for Seven Year players, new cloaks, and new items for everyone.  You’ll have to work to get these, as not everything will come via mail.

Lastly, as a brief tease for Volume 4 of the Epic Book? With Saruman’s story done for now, it’s time to move the focus of the narrative. Simply put, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Frodo and Sam moving forward. And as you can probably guess, that means more of Gollum too, no doubt.  Keep an eye out for more news from LotRO after PAX, as that’s when Saruman’s army will fall and we’ll all be there to witness as much.

Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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