Rise of Isengard: The good and the bad

This is a “first impressions” posting. ROI hasn’t been out for long and I haven’t seen everything. Please also note that I’m not saying ROI is bad. I’m also not saying it’s good. ;)

Let’s start with the ‘bad things’. Some are my own (subjective) opinion. Other things I’ve seen mentioned on the forums (so still subjective but not my own opinion).

I remember Turbine saying that they’ve increased the level cap to 75 instead of the first planned 70 because they have so much more content that only 5 levels weren’t enough. That raised my expectations – too high as it seems. People already reported that around 74 1/2, they’ve run out of quests. I saw others saying that at some point between 68 and 69, they ran out of quests and the next ones were for 71 – 72 (I’m level 69 and haven’t reached such a point yet). It could be that those players are missing a quest hub (the one up in the north eastern part of the Dunland map, for example). If that’s the case, I’d say it’s not a perfect world design then if you can easily miss a quest hub and then there’s no alternative quest hub for you to go to. On the other hand, some exploring might solve the issue (unless you need a certain quest in order to unlock the quests in that area).

Still, the problem with running out of quests before you reach 75 remains. Berephon replies on the forums: “Questing alone will only get you most of the way through a level. Skirmishes, landscape kills, and other sidebars are expected to maintain the level per division ratio.” – Keep in mind that ROI didn’t add any new skirmishes and no new instances so far (in 3 months, we’ll get the instances that belong to ROI but I think they’re for level 75 and not meant for levelling up). So… we have to go back to old content or grind mobs in order to reach 75? Where is that abundance of content that made them raise the level cap by 10 instead of 5 then? This is something I don’t like at all. It also diminishes replayability. If I want to level my second level 65 character up to 75 by doing quests, it means I’ll have to do all the quests again. The very same quests. There’s no question which quest hubs I want to do and which ones I found boring and would prefer not seeing again. Well, not entirely true. I can choose to do old instances, old skirmishes or Enedwaith. My point, however, is that ROI doesn’t add enough new content alone to reach level 75 AND keep me entertained on an alt. That’s rather sad and I would have preferred 5 additional levels instead of 10.

I’d started in Trum Dreng and did the quests there and I had fun. Then I moved to the Bonevales. It was, especially compared to Trum Dreng, boring. I just wanted to leave again. And I felt fooled when I’d turned in one quest and just a few minutes later, got a quest that asked me to do the very same objectives again. And it wasn’t a ‘daily’ quest either (like the one in Galtrev not long after that). All quests seemed alike (kill X boars, dunlendings or whatever else is on the road… wights were very popular!). The story surrounding those quests didn’t catch my attention either. I advised friends to start with the quests in Bonevales and then move on to Trum Dreng. It’s better to have the worse of the two quest areas first and then move on to one that’s better (in my subjective opinion but it’s one I’ve heard more often from other players as well).

Look at the image on the right. Both of these NPCs are quest givers in Galtrev. Remember that I’m still writing about the bad things of ‘Rise of Isengard’, so please, for now, disregard the fact that they included children and how pretty the pictures are. ;) But imagine the voices those two could have. Are they similar? Probably not, right? In ‘Rise of Isengard’, I hear this one female voice all too often. It became apparent when I had mistaken the little girl for the old woman and only realised my mistake (which explained why the ‘old woman’ was talking about toys) after “zooming in”. It’s not just a case of having the same voice actress speak different characters (like Billy West speaking Fry and Professor Farnsworth – among others – in Futurama, who sound similar but still different). It’s the exact same voice. You can’t hear any difference between those characters and it’s like the whole of Dunland’s female characters are obsessed by the same female demon lending them her voice. ;) That’s sloppy, boring and confusing! And it breaks my immersion. Especially as the voice does sound like it belongs to an older woman and it’s weird having a young woman and a girl speak with the same voice.

There is apparently no new music either. I was under the impression that of course, a new expansion in an MMORPG comes with a new soundtrack. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case (my comparisons are World of Warcraft and Guild Wars who have always added new music so far – and Mines of Moria did come with a new soundtrack as well, didn’t it?). I usually play without music after having heard it for a while, so it doesn’t bother me that much. But I’d turned on the music because I wanted to hear the new songs and it’s a bit sad that there are none.

One thing that I hadn’t realised because I’m playing with the English client is that the localisations for the German and the French client aren’t completed yet. I switched my client to German and had a look at what my warden was wearing. I’m wearing “Pocket TBD” and on the right picture you can see an item I found on the AH called “pocket item (level 66) 1”. The picture on the left shows other items called “cloak of the Dunlands 1”, “light armour of the Dunlands 1” and the great “cloak of the Rohirrim 3”. That is definitely not the actual name but a placeholder. It’s not only for the German client but the same happened to the French version, as a player reports here. Apparently, that is not the only issue with the localisation. The tooltips for the classes weren’t changed which makes it especially hard for minstrels etc. who got lots of their skills changed. Now, thankfully, that’s not an issue for me as I’m playing with the English client. But again, it seems unfinished.

One thing that’s annoyed me rather a lot is the layering. Now, usually, I’m all for it! If the server crashed without layering, then yes, please use this technique and separate the players but let the server live! ^^ It’s just annoying if you’re in front of a mining/wood node, want to collect the ore/wood and all of a sudden: Loading screen…! And the layer you’re in has no node. Boo. Instead, you find yourself facing two hostile mobs. Not exactly what I was hoping for. ;) My character hasn’t died because of it but having loading screens sneak up on you like that is annoying nonetheless. That’s something that players always complain about and why a game like Lotro is loved: No loading screens in the open world! Except that now, we have them. And without a warning, too. *sigh* But that’s probably something that will go away when there aren’t that many players around anymore, I hope.

The thread I linked to above already also mentions another issue: Pit of Iron, the last or one of the last quest hubs, is bugged. I haven’t seen it myself yet but since I’ve seen more people complain about it, I thought I should include it here. It doesn’t have a map and apparently, people get stuck with their character or fall through the floor every so often. Another thread about it is here and here is one wondering why it’s not a ‘known issue’ yet.

I’m not going to write about crafting because I haven’t seen enough to say anything negative about it (or positive. It seems quite the same than before only that it’s a new tier).

Now that I’m done with criticising, let me get to the points that I like about ROI. The obvious part first: The landscape is pretty and pictoresque as usual. “As usual” doesn’t mean, however, that I’m ignoring it. On the contrary. It means that I do the same that I’ve been doing ever since entering the game the first time. I stop and take tons of screenshots. ;) I even managed to choose a few and upload them in case you’re curious and want to have a look:

Rise of Isengard

Photo 11 shows the barber shop. There’s even an NPC sweeping the floor with a broom. They added lots of little details into the towns and villages. Like the dog gnawing on something and barking in between (which confused my dog who tried to find out why another dog was barking in her living-room! ;) ). And something that goes hand-in-hand with the details of the town etc. is how “phasing” works. When I first heard that there’ll be “phasing” in the game, I was excited. I’ve seen it in World of Warcraft (heavily used in Cataclysm) and really loved that! There were huge difference between separate phases and I imagined it would be like that in Rise of Isengard as well. It’s not. It’s a lot more subtle in ROI. For example, there’s an NPC who sends you to do something and once that’s done, they leave/disappear (for whatever reason). Usually, the player sits in front of the PC and just shakes their head… “Yes right. You left…” while still seeing the NPC stand there where they stood before. Not so in Dunland. Thanks to the phasing NPCs appear and disappear depending on your quests. If you’re at a stage where the NPC is gone, you can’t see them anymore. It’s just a tad confusing to see players interact with something that’s not there. ;) I also really enjoyed the stories in most quest hubs (with the exception of Bonevales). I want to know what happened to the little boy! :( (Not going to say anything else, of course. This is not supposed to be a spoiler-ish entry).

I also really love the amount of non-combat quests. It’s refreshing and nice to be doing something else than fighting X mobs all of the time. Now, it might not be that different from collecting X apples, after all, but still. At least, it’s a difference and it’s nice for the atmosphere such quests create.

One thing that seemed to make a lot of people cheer for the expansion was a tiny little change: You can now mount your horse in 2 seconds instead of the previous 5! And de-mounting is instant. The latter was criticised by some because it was nice to see the animation of your character getting off its mount. Still, all in all it’s a good change if you ask me especially when you’re out in the wilds collecting wood or ore.

Last but not least: One thing that made me exceptionally happy is the way the new armour looks. I didn’t care for the raid sets, so I was disappointed until I started questing and saw how the reward items looked. I even decided against an upgrade just to get that great-looking robe that I immediately put into my wardrobe, so my low-level scholar elf can proudly wear it while strolling through Rivendell. The only downside is that I wish there were mooooooore looks. But I’m only level 69, so who knows what else is in store (well… “store” meaning “in game”, not the Lotro shop… I hope ^^). I am seriously thinking about getting more cosmetic slots unlocked and, of course, my wardrobe space isn’t big enough. It probably tells a lot about me and my preferred play style that my favourite things in this game are the scenery, the cosmetic items (and in this case, the regular armour) and the non-combat quests. ;)

All in all, however, I find the expansion rushed. There’s apparently one area that’s bugged, there aren’t quite enough quests to reach level cap unless you started in a non-expansion region with your questing, grinded or did old instances/skirmishes. The German translation is lacking… translation. The instance cluster isn’t even finished yet.

I’m curious to see what the December update brings and how fast they can fix the mistakes, bugs etc. There are, as I’ve said, parts of the expansion that show such a love for detail that I don’t think they really just wanted to rush something to get money without investing anything at all. Why have such pretty art additions (like the new armour items) when you’re only interested in getting as much money as possible from an expansion without investing anything at all? Doesn’t make much sense.

My guess would be that they wanted to have the expansion out of the door before SWTOR (and maybe Diablo 3) was released. Because when a big MMO releases, people will go there and check it out. At the same time, they’d be more unlikely to pay for Lotro’s expansion. “I’ll buy it once I come back to Lotro”. But what about those people who don’t come back? They wouldn’t buy the expansion. But right now, SWTOR isn’t out yet and people need a distraction (or just enjoy their time in Lotro anyway). So they buy the expansion and Turbine wins. Once SWTOR comes out, they’ll go there and whether they’ll come back to Lotro or not, at least Turbine got some money from them. If they had released the expansion in December (together with the instance cluster etc.), they’d not get money from those players at all or for quite some time, at least.


  1. Nice write-up! I was down in Dunland just long enough to do some sightseeing and die egregiously – at level 48, surviving long enough to see the outside of Isengard was a challenge! – so it’s great to read your perceptions of it.

    I should mention, though, that there have been a Hobbit Lad and Hobbit Lass hanging out up near Scary (or is it Brockenborings?) for as long as I can remember, not to mention the hobbit kids gathered ’round for storytime in… erm, one of the towns in the Shire; can’t remember where, offhand. So there have been kids represented in-game – not directly in the storyline, but present nonetheless.

    Also, you’re right, the scenery is as amazing as ever. There’s a view of the Gap of Rohan from Wulf’s (Cleft? Crest? forgot) that’s just stunning, and the emotional impact of running up to Isengard (while chased by mobs, no less) was kind of amazing. Really good stuff.

    As self-appointed chief cook of my kinship :) and being level 48 at launch-time, my main focus has been crafting, and I can definitely give some insight on Westfold tiers, especially cooking and farming. (Hint: Think EXPENSIVE.) I’ll ping you elsewhere; we can discuss.

    Stop by Brandywine sometime and say hi, if you can.

    -Mieja Halfdrunken a/k/a your favorite white-bearded wizard ;)


    1. I think I made a character there but I can’t remember. Have to check later. :)

      And yes, right! I totally forgot the hobbit kids even though I used that picture on this very blog for advertising for our kinship. ;) I’m not sure I’ve seen human kids, though. But either way, it’s nice to see them more prominently featured. Makes everything more realistic.


  2. I was very much underwhelmed by Isengard. (1st) Could we please have some real symphony orchestra choir music and not some guy in his basement playing on his Casio? The music alone completely wrecks any epic feeling. (2nd) My 65 practically could have slept during the 15 minutes of safe travel just to get to the paved (& empty) road and doors of Isengard. The two trolls there were adequate bouncers to repel strays from getting in, but still… the epic feeling was rendered “meh” again by the just the fact that I never felt in peril. Let me say this again, I never felt in peril nor any danger while approaching Isengard. I mean Moria felt huge and dangerous. Isengard feels unfinished, ant-climatic, and boring.


    1. Was there any new music? But yes, I definitely prefer those epic sounding orchestras.

      You could get to Isengard with 65? I haven’t tried it yet – and she is 71 by now – but that really sounds disappointing. I mean, I couldn’t move a foot in Moria without being attacked and I’d assume the same for the way to Isengard and, of course, getting defeated because they’re all much higher level than my 65 character. ;)


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