E3 2011: Lord of the Rings Online's Rise of Isengard expansion: first walkthrough

Josh Augustine

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Let's get my personal favorite news out of the way first: with Rise of Isengard, Monster Play will finally be free-to-play for everyone, instead of reserved exclusviely for subscribers. Monster Play is LOTRO's version of PvP, where one team of players assumes control of "monster" characters like orcs, goblins, or spiders.

But there's a whole lot more going on then just an existing feature becoming free for everyone.This expansion is a doozy, with over 400 quests included (which can of course be purchased in quest packs semi-individually by strict free-to-play gamers) in its 3 new zones: Dunland, The Gap of Rohan, and Isengard. Dunland and Rohirrim are two semi-primitive groups being pitted against one another by Sauron, which you need to convince to get along and fight their true enemy. The new zones remind me a bit of Age of Conan in their art style, with a strong medieval Asian vibe to the buildings and set pieces. It's a great part of the Lord of the Rings story to flesh out--where Tolkein briefly mentioned a conflict, Turbine has brought entire civilizations to life in stunning detail. LOTRO's newly-added phasing technology - which allows the world to change in response to your actions (save a town, and they stay saved, to your perspective at least) - is used to its full effect for the first time ever in these new zones.

The level cap is being increased to 75, opening a bunch of new character skills and ways to customize your character as you attempt to bring peace to these warring people having to deal with Saruman's failed breeding experiments being dumped on their doorstep.

Look for more details soon as we jump into the closed beta for a hands-on preview in the coming weeks.

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