Update 16 is on the Bullroarer test server for early testing (patch notes). Included so far is the somewhat unfinished imbuement system, three new instances and the region of Eastern Gondor. It’s the first beta build, so everything is still in a pretty rough state, though the landscape seems the most polished at this point. We also expect to see Bingo Boffin’s “episodic content” before release, but the new PvMP experience will arrive later. You can check out all the in-progress area maps here and there are lots of screenshots at the end.
Not to toot my own pibgorn, but it seems my speculative post about update 16 is remarkably on point. The next region is Eastern Gondor consisting of Upper Lebennin, Lossarnach, South Ithilien and Osgiliath. This update also adds another epic book that left off with Aragorn at the camp of the Grey Host which leads you through the eastern garth of Pelargir onto new adventures.
Think of Upper Lebennin as a continuation of Lower Lebennin but with fewer haradrim and corsairs. I presume this time period occurs after “Retaking Pelargir” and most of the enemy have been routed from this area except for a few fleeing mercenaries. Your mission is to prepare the way for Aragorn’s Grey Host on their new corsair ships as they stealthily wind their way through enemy-controlled waters up the Anduin toward the white city of Minas Tirith.
Situated between the Erui river and the gates of the Rammas Echor, we start to encounter plenty more of the enemy in Lossarnach. We’ll also take refuge in the mountain stronghold of Imloth Melui built along the Erui as it snakes down from the White Mountains. Even a seasoned adventurer may be tempted to lie down and lose oneself among the colorful rose bushes.
Row across the Anduin from a landing hidden among the reeds and end up in the wilds of South Ithilien. Littered with Gondorian ruins overtaken by ivy, this area has almost a jungle feeling to it. Since the haradrim have snakes all over their banners, I’d expect to see more serpents, if not shooting from sorcerer staves, at least shimmying through the ruins looking for a nice meal.
Sneak past the Mûmakil (or Oliphaunts to you halflings) guarding the gates of Osgiliath and get your first taste of the new PvMP map. While it’s much more of an urban setting (radar map here), there are still plenty of places to get stuck and invisible walls breaking the immersion. Again, the PvMP won’t come with this update and the layout will likely change between then and now. Here is also where two of the three instances take place; the third in the sewers beneath the ruined city.
If you follow me on Twitter, you likely already know my assessment. It’s not good. There’s a lot of new content, but it just feels like a continuation of Central Gondor. That’s to be expected, of course. The architecture is the same because it’s all part of Gondor. There are more roving threats, warbands and treasure caches; no real innovation there. The flora and fauna are rather realistic and mob density and placement is under control. Remember how many mobs you’d aggro just riding across Lower Lebennin? Not fun.
But as the title says, this is just a first impression. I’m holding out on a final judgement until the update is wrapped up and waiting under my tree. While we’re literally knocking at the gates of Mordor, the story isn’t drawing me in as it once was. We’re still doing fetch and bounty quests. Based on my Lord of the Rings knowledge, I feel like I know what’s going to happen already and I’d rather be surprised. I miss that feeling of exploration and amazement. Let’s get some innovation going. Surprise me, Turbine.