Monday, 21 November 2016

LOTRO Update 19 review: Minas Tirith after the battle and North Ithilien

I don't like to rush through content to get to the end of it; rather, I try to enjoy the road there. This is especially the case in Lord of the Rings Online. Conrad and I have enjoyed our quiet evenings together playing through LOTRO's latest update that added North Ithilien. Because the MMO has old fashioned quest text to read through rather than voiced cut scenes, we've been making things more lively by reading the quests out to each other. Turns out this slows down things a lot, and hence I am unfashionably late with this update 19 review.

I decided to post this anyway, because, well, North Ithilien is pretty! If I did it right, this post will give a solid impression of the region both to LOTRO players that aren't high enough level to enter yet, and Tolkien fans that do not play the game.

To get to the content of this update, you have to take a horse to Minas Tirith After the Battle. I was flabbergasted. It was so nice to see the blue sky above Minas Tirith! Before the battle, the red sky Tolkien described in The Return of the King surrounded this part of Gondor and (fittingly) gave everything an air of impending doom. Now the air has cleared, the impressiveness and beauty of Minas Tirith surprised me.

The first quests of the update send you all over the battlefield for various tasks. I feel they capture the strange mix of sentiments - sadness (because of lost friends), relief (because of not being taking over by the forces of Mordor) and happiness (because of victory) - quite well. Most impressive are the quests that send you to check for people that are missing. It is heartbreaking to see NPCs that you became fond of during questlines not having made it; similarly, a huge sense of relief filled me when finding those that through some wonder did make it.

Some parts of the battlefield look very realistic, others seem strangely untouched by the battle. I would have expected the grass around this dead mumak to have been trampled.

After things on the battlefield have been taken care of, we follow Aragorn and his army to Osgiliath, which also looks so much different by proper daylight! A funny twist of events is that it's now the orcs that hide in the culverts.

We are sent to scout ahead and ensure Aragorn and co a safe passage on their way to the Black Gate of Mordor. The first stop: Ithilien.

This is the road from Osgiliath to Minas Morgul. It has deteriorated under the influence of the forces of evil; riding around here feels downright spooky. Luckily we don't continue eastwards to Minas Morgul (yet). Instead, we head north to North Ithilien.

This region has not been permanently occupied by orcs and the likes. Smaller contingencies of soldiers have passed through, but they have not left many marks. North Ithilien is lush and wild, and full of flowers.

Although Ithilien seems mostly inspired by the Mediterranean landscape, some parts are almost jungle like. There are worse things in life than running errands in this beautiful region.

A minor issue is that trees in the distance sometimes look pixellated. I've seen this happen in multiple places. It is the first time I've noticed this in Lord of the Rings Online, but Conrad ensures me he has seen it before somewhere - but doesn't remember where. If you know more about this, let me know in the comments.

North Ithilien is also a great place for lore fans. You get to meet the rangers of Ithilien and discover Faramir's Hideout. Here I'm standing in the waterfall overlooking the Hidden Pool. There is also session play that shows you what happened to Frodo and Sam, and you are able to help out the rangers with various things.

I have this odd habit of checking out the clothes and hairstyles of NPCs in new areas. I'm very jealous of those boots the Ithilien rangers wear! They look comfy and elegant; pretty much perfect for any ranger or hunter outfit, but as far as I'm aware it's not available for players.

Overall I was impressed by update 19. Not only did it add a beautiful new region filled with quests to the game, it also covered even more quests on the Pelennor fields and Osgiliath. It took me quite a while to play through it all. I must say I was also positively surprised by the size of the North Ithilien map. There is only one thing I am not such a fan of in this update, and that is the flower picking and Ithilien essence system, which I will probably ignore. But LOTRO Store shenanigans aside, North Ithilien was an absolute joy to play through.

IntPiPoMo count: 46/50


  1. Having got distracted by the SWTOR expansions - and now we have another one - LOTRO progress got halted short of Moria. (My wife is outside Lothlorien) Your post tempts me to get my best character in LOTRO questing, but then someone posted great pics of Zakuul

    P.S. Desktop not set up yet after move from UK, so can't play either. Instead got to level 60 in League of Angels II....................

    1. Awww... guilty as charged! Sorry to hear you can't play LOTRO and SWTOR at the moment although you want to. Moving abroad... that's huge! I hope you'll be able to put the desktop together soon and, more importantly, get settled in your new environment. I'm sure it will take a lot of energy, but hopefully it's for the better! Zakuul and Ithilien will still be there when you have everything set up. :)

  2. It was the trees of Lothlórien that had that pixelated look when you looked at them from a distance.

    1. Thanks, someone on Twitter told me the same. I've spent some time in Lothlórien recently to take pictures of the landscape (and finish some exploration deeds while at it) and didn't see any pixelated trees, so they must have fixed that by now.

  3. Whoa. Dude. The visuals are stunning.. I do not need another game right now but DAMN, this is tempting!!! -

    1. I know, right - and that for a game from 2007! I don't know how they do it, but LOTRO's landscape are spot on when it comes to immersion. :)

  4. The pixelated trees are called 'distant imposters' and they're found in most forests around the game. They function as a sort of 'filling' when looking far away. The game cannot render the real objects from that far off and because of this they are replaced with these pixelated images. If you're really annoyed by them there's an option to turn these imposters off.

    1. Thanks for the explanation. Somehow I never noticed them before - and I've been playing since 2007! Don't worry, I'm not very annoyed by them. It's just something that caught my eye when riding through North Ithilien.

  5. Good day!
    Sorry for being terribly late with this comment, but no one else has answered so I'll do my best to help you. Actually you can get boots what look pretty similar to the ones what ranger on screenshot wears. They are called Medium Nadhin Boots and can be batered from vendor in Dol Amroth or looted from any mob in the game with a low chance! Here's my little hunter wearing those:
    I hope this will help you to create your own ranger outfit!
    P.S. Your blog is amazing and fun to read, I just discovered it today thanks to LOTRO's facebook page and spent 3 hours reading it! Keep it going!


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