LOTRO: Battle at the Black Gate

All the roads we have trod, all of the sacrifices we have made, all of the struggles of our time… have led to this. A door. A king. A wizard. A futile battle. A slim hope.

And here I sit at the beginning of the end of Lord of the Rings — the main storyline, at least. Update 20 unloaded the next book of the epic, bringing the slowly progressing Army of the Host to the front door of Mordor. With no more ways to tarry, delay, and procrastinate after 10 years of playing out the events of six months (just like M*A*S*H and the Korean War!), the final battle must be joined.

There are a few observations that I’ve seen made about Update 20’s epic story. It’s short (which it is). It’s not as grand as the Battle of Pelennor Fields (which it isn’t and couldn’t be anyway). It ends on a cliffhanger (true). It’s quite good (indeed).

Dude, where’d you get that mount? Sauron rep? I could grind that!

The fun begins with a chilling showdown between the good guys and the Mouth of Sauron. Unlike the freaky-deaky movie version, the LOTRO Mouth is a guy with a hat that goes a little too low on his head. He’s still pretty effective and boastful, but so is our side. Boasting and threats are thrown around, but in the end there is only one outcome: open war.

Following a short cutscene, we’re thrown right into the battle. It’s much different than ones in the past for this game. It’s right on the enemy’s turf and is slightly skewed in favor of the bad guys at a ratio of 75 to 1. As I tried to explain to my kids, it’s not a battle that the Free People expect to win. It’s a delaying tactic that’s being employed at great cost.

The game tech obviously cannot show movement of large armies and a dynamic battle, only an illusion of it, but at least that illusion is well-done. Lots to see around you and the quests keep you moving like crazy all over the place.

With so many people killed or not present from the Battle of Pelennor Fields, I really only recognized the Fellowship. I think a couple of Grey Company got killed by flying Nazgul, which made me marvel that after a decade of wanton Grey Company slaughter that there are any of these guys left to murder. The Secret World’s Orochi and the Grey Company have an exchange program going on, or so I heard.

The whole affair did wrap up incredibly quickly, more so than I anticipated even with the warning. Part of it is that there just wasn’t that much to do with this fight; it’s not as long or involved in the books as Pelennor Fields was. The other part is that Standing Stone obviously wants to keep the full conclusion of the battle as a prelude to the Mordor expansion, so a cliffhanger we go. At least there is a teaser of sorts in a cutscene…

For me and mine, with the epic done for now, I think I’m going to take a break from this bleak land and head back to the Shire to do the full Bingo Boffin questline on my Lore-master. That should be a nice change of pace, and I’d love to get it done before the new anniversary quests start coming out at the end of this month. 52 quests in a week? Sure, I can do that. Right? Right.

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