Shine on you crazy diamond. UPDATED!
UPDATED Friday October 18. Added a few more pictures of Barad-dûr and Minas Morgul, see below.
The first preview of the upcoming LOTRO expansion, Minas Morgul, was released on the Bullroarer test server today. The expansion contains two new areas (or rather, one new and a new version of an old one):
- The Morgul Vale, with iconic places like Minas Morgul, Cirith Ungol and Shelob’s lair.
- “Mordor Besieged”, a Second-Age version of the existing Dor Amarth area of Mordor.
Minas Morgul is extra-super-duper iconic in this version, given that it has some heavy-duty strobe lighting on top. Seriously, it’s like Sauron complained that the place was too hard to find and ordered the Witch-King to put out a light in the dark so he could find it whenever he came over for tea. And it is ALWAYS dark in that vale. Hence… laser show. See pictures below.
“Mordor Besieged” allows you to follow in the footsteps of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, doing battle with Sauron at the end of the Second Age. Apparently you’ll play a version of your character there, and later be able to “dig up” the rewards you collect from chests in the present-day maps. Any similarities with the age announced for the upcoming Amazon TV series are purely coincidental, I am sure. Although, given that this is the War of the Last Alliance, it was a lot of fun to run around in Second-Age Mordor as a hobbit!
You can read the full beta patch notes on the beta test server forums. These notes are subject to change before the update is released, as usual. Not least this time, since they’re a bit thin on detail: Several features have not been added yet, not least crafting. Which might be a bit worrying, given that the expansion is planned for the end of October…
In the first version of this post, I have a lot of screenshots from the new ares. I’ll try to update the post with more information as the beta rounds roll on. Naturally, if you want a pristine expansion experience, there will be many spoilers in this post. You have been warned – look away if you want to go in with a completely fresh look!
The new map of Morgul Vale.
Map of the city of Minas Morgul. This was the old “twin city” of Minas Tirith, so the multi-tiered layout is no surprise.
“Mordor Besieged”, the Second-Age version of Dor Amarth.
The Dor Amarth map has been slightly updated as well, with a link to the Second Age version.
Screenshots of the new areas
When in Mordor, you can swap between the Second Age and the Third Age with these blazons.
Dingarth, the starting city in Mordor Besieged.
I know at least one mining-hobbit who will be happy with the sight of new ores!
Mordor in the Second Age is a bit bland and dusty, but slightly fresher-looking than the lands we went through in the previous expansion.
And on the slopes of Mount Doom, the Second-Age hobbits fought for the freedom of their brew.
Amon Fuin in the distance.
That looks like a small tower of sorts. A slightly dark one.
A holiday gazebo on the Mount Doom slopes, perhaps?
It is Barad-dûr, apparently, Sauron‘s tower. Um…Given that this was the greatest fortress built since the fall of Angband… a den of evil which was held together with dark magic… a massive tower it took 600 years to build… this is a little underwhelming, innit? I mean, the bounder park in Michel Delving has more textures than this…
Admittedly, what little is there looks pretty foreboding.
And on the slopes of Mount Doom, the second-age hobbits once more had to fight for the freedom of their brew.
Back to the present day and the entrance of the Morgul Vale, it looks like the Eiffel Tower up ahead, with the strobe light.
Looks like the light show at yer average Jean-Michel Jarre concert.
Minas Morgul. Don’t let those strobe lights catch yer!
Say, there is a small path up the hillside north of Minas Morgul.
And a narrow stair up the hill.
The pass of Cirith Ungol, where no hobbits have trod before. Except two. Or three, depending on how yer count.
The Tower of Cirith Ungol in the distance to the west, Minas Morgul to the east.
I followed a trail of bones through Cirith Ungol until I found a rather sizeable cave of sorts. Hobbits are always on the lookout of new premium underground property, after all.
That being said, this place was a bit of a fixer-upper.
The caves grew larger the deeper into it I got. Imagine the sizeable parties I could throw in here.
Larger still. I’d be the envy of hobbits all around with this burrow!
Although this wasn’t really the best of signals for new property buyers.
Gee, I wonder who could live behind that huge web there? (Hint: This is Torech Ungol, home to a sizeable spider-thingy called Shelob. You know, a Great Spider and the grandest offspring of Ungoliant. That’ll put a damper on any plans to buy the place. Even Messrs. Grubb, Grubb and Burrowes would have a hard time auctioning off this place).
When leaving the caves, you find… more spiders! Inside the Tower of Cirith Ungol.
I wonder where this ladder goes?
Up to the tower top, apparently.
Climbing a few more ladders and stairs and following a trail of dead orcs, I find myself in a room where no hobbits have trod before. Except two. And it looks like Super Mariolas has bounced up here too.
Entering the Morgul Vale again, this time from the east.
Looks like some interesting structures ahead.
Quite a tall-looking tower of sorts.
The area below the tower is a heap of scary ruins.
And a slightly creepy forest area.
Bar Nirnaeth, likely home of at least one of the instances coming with the expansion. And, dare I say it, somewhat more imposing and impressive than Sauron’s Second-Age gazebo home?
And that’s all for this first round. Stay tuned for more in the coming days and weeks.
New screenshots, Friday October 18
Different-angle view of Barad-dûr. It is a sizeable construction, have no doubt about it. Still, it feels like all foundation and little in the way of towering pillar, and that is unfortunate.
Below the walls of Minas Morgul.
Main gate into Minas Morgul. Just follow the rays of light towards the top!
Minas Morgul is a ghostly city, with lots of weird streaming effects and spirits roaming around. Mob density is pretty high, so you need to take care if you go in alone. Here I have started climbing up from the lower circle of the city.
Minas Morgul, interior city walls.
On a higher circle, but the top of the tower is still way up there.
There are lots of entrances into city buildings and towers too. I bet we’ll spend a lot of time doing quest and running instances in here.
Next beta round?
The next beta round will likely be in a week. I’ll try make a visit then too, to see how things are shaping up.
This first round, things felt decidedly rough and unfinished. Much content had not been added (like, the crafting update), there were lots of missing texts and titles, a fair few “TBD” labels (“To be decided/determined”), etc. Hopefully, SSG will fix much of this reasonably fast, but then again, the set expac release date is only two weeks away.
The Morgul Vale will likely be a grand place for most to visit once the expac goes live, but else… if you haven’t preordered already, a “wait and see” approach might be worth considering.
Any comments or questions? Please add them in the comments below!