Everyone has her/his own favorite book or film in a series. For the two big ones, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, it’s become fashionable to like The Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towers, respectively, and pooh-pooh the others. Yet, Return of the Jedi and Return of the King have always been my favorite movies in those trilogies, as they represent the most epic and climactic moments in fantasy storytelling.
The Lord of the Rings Online’s latest update, The Siege of Minas Tirith, aligns itself with the sheer scope of the iconic White City of Gondor as described in J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece. At the same time, it seeks to offer the kind of narrative texture that is LOTRO’s hallmark, presenting stories and characters of which we previously may have only received glimpses in the books and films. I got to take a brief tour with the Turbine team this week, and can tell you that Minas Tirith looks as epic as you’d expect, with an attention to detail that shouldn’t be surprising from the seasoned developers.
The timeline for Update 17: The Siege of Minas Tirith begins on March 13, 3019 of the Third Age. The White City is poised to be assaulted by the forces of Mordor, after Osgiliath falls and Faramir is brought in to the healers. The update includes a thirteen-chapter Epic Book which follows the preparation and defence of Minas Tirith, and you’ll be encouraged to either pick up right at the beginning of the action or play through the previous books if you prefer.
The scope of LOTRO’s vision for Minas Tirith is astounding. The city has seven tiers in the style of a layer cake, with each having its own specialty. The bottom tier, for example, is the Workers’ Tier, where you’ll find all manner of laborers and their establishments, while the top is occupied by the Citadel, which will likely be the most recognizable of the locations within the White City’s walls. Exploring it, you’ll find the Tower of Ecthelion, the Court of the Fountain, and of course, the White Tree of Gondor, which happens to be modeled after Tolkien’s favorite tree in the Oxford Botanic Garden. Entering Minas Tirith is like walking directly into Return of the King, and every building has been created with a purpose in mind.
Minas Tirith is a decently-sized medieval city, coming in at about one kilometer across, and with each tier being about one hundred feet in height. A lot of care has gone into LOTRO’s construction of the city, building it to appear to be easily defensible and appropriately themed. The architecture is amazing, and looking down from the upper tiers provides for some breathtaking vistas. There’s a whole lot of white marble, a good smattering of greenery, a fair number of taverns, and a sizable population of Gondorians and others.
When you first arrive at the White City, expect to see the enemy encamped outside of the walls as you prepare for the update’s two Epic Battles, Defense of Minas Tirith and Hammer of the Underworld. You’ll be treated with the incredible view of the siege around the city sending volleys of fire over the walls, and the detailed destruction of Minas Tirith as the war rages on. Additionally, you’ll learn a lot more about iconic characters like Denethor and their motives in the Epic Quests. Turbine has painstakingly worked out the timeline -- down to the half hour! -- of what the main personae are doing throughout the period described in the book, and has you, the player, participating accordingly.
Update 17: Siege of Minas Tirith is out now, and includes three new areas for exploration, two Epic Battles, a crafting update, and over seventy quests and deeds for players over level 100. Get out there and defend the City of Kings!