LOTRO Update 17 Beta
Since the launch of Update 16 in May this year, I and many other LOTRO players have been standing on the cliffs of South Ithilien, looking across the River Anduin to Minas Tirith. It’s been a long and hard journey over the last eight years but finally players will be able to visit that iconic city in Update 17. At present a beta build is available on the Bullroarer test server, so I spent several hours over the weekend exploring the Pelennor Fields and the surrounding area known as Old Anorien. The city itself has numerous placeholder NPCs and it is clear that some textures and additional details are missing from the environment. However the essential layout and design of Minas Tirith is obviously set and as ever Turbine have done an interesting job interpreting Tolkien’s source text.
The Tower of the Guard is accessed by a breach in the Rammas Echor at Harland. As I initially rode across the Pelennor Fields, I was at first impressed with the design and imposing nature of the White City. However upon reflection I think my reaction was mainly due to the iconic nature of Minas Tirith and its size. Once I entered the main gate it became very clear that Turbine have used standard Gondorian assets. I appreciate that there is an architectural style to be maintained but the streets are identical to those of Pelargir and Dol Amroth and devoid of anything distinctive. The same statues, Swan Wing embellishment and Númenórean faces adorn all structures. After a short time Minas Tirith becomes terribly familiar.
The journey through winding streets and the seven levels to the citadel becomes tiresome once the novelty of its initial completion wears off. I sincerely hope Turbine includes a quick travel system of some kind, especially in light of their penchant for fetch quests. The court yard of the fountain and white tree is adequate but the terrace set on top of the bastion of stone is somewhat bare and lacklustre. I took some comfort in riding off the edge but sadly there was no deed for such a foolhardy act as there has been in the past. Perhaps further embellishments will be added to Minas Tirith during the course of the beta testing. As is stands it’s more monumental than functional.
North of The Pelennor Fields is the region of Talath Anor. This includes the settlement of Crithost and Cair Andos. Again these areas are far from unique and are simply adequate. There are both roaming Orcs and mounted foes scattered throughout the new area. Stables are few and far between as are resurrection circles. At the Northern point on the map is the ubiquitous blocked bridge which leads to The Beacon Marches. It if from this direction the Rohirrim rode to Gondor’s aid.
Turbine have established a pattern since they moved away from paid expansions to free updates and Old Anorien seems to very much stick to it. I do not doubt there will be yet more rep factions and more daily repeatables. Minas Tirith will also feature more Epic Battles which doesn’t fill me with delight. Yet this sort of content seems to be keeping the faithful engaged and frankly I don’t think Turbine have the resources or the will do anything radically different at this stage in the games lifecycle. In a nutshell LOTRO’s future is simply more of the same. Content will meet a standard but nothing more. Therefore players will have to content themselves with variations on a theme. Those seeking more will have to rely upon emergent gameplay.