Northern Mirkwood at last! Unlike Southern Mirkwood — and ESPECIALLY unlike Mordor — the sun is shining and there’s beauty everywhere. I am so happy to be here you don’t even understand. When LOTRO wants to do pretty zones, it really, really can do them justice. And it’s these zones that made me fall in love with the game so long ago.
But instead of looking at the zone proper today, I took a shortcut and went straight to the Halls of the Elven-king.
Yes, I’m in the belly of the beast here, a whole underground complex populated by laughing, singing elves. These are the more jovial sort than you find elsewhere in the game, as befits their description in The Hobbit (this is where the Dwarves were taken when they got captured and Bilbo sneaked in while invisible).
The whole city — and yes, it is a city and suitably large for it — is another testament to the skill and artistry of the dev team. It doesn’t matter that this game has been out for 11 years, SSG did not skimp here. As I said, it’s huge, but it’s also creative and beautiful.
What’s interesting here is that this is a cave system, something that we’ve seen a lot of in LOTRO (especially Moria). But unlike the Dwarves’ conception of cave architecture, where it’s cold, angular, and the rock is carved into mighty buildings, the Elves here have more organically molded the cave and adapted to its flow.
There’s also a garden in the middle here. Don’t know how they got a garden inside a cave or why there are poor birds flitting about probably confused as heck about where the sky is. Also, I spent some time wondering how the Elves managed to hang up those lights from the 100-foot ceiling and how the lights just stay on. I’m guessing “magic.”
I spent over an hour traveling through the cave network here, taking pictures and generally losing myself in the atmosphere of it all. I like how warm and cozy it is, even though it’s, you know, a cave. In some places it’s hard to know where the wood stops and the rock begins because of the carvings and the vines that seem to run everywhere.
My favorite sight? This particular fireplace, which had giant spider heads mounted above it. I pity the poor taxidermist who got that order.
You can see how the cave and city intertwine without losing either. There’s a river that flows through most of this place, and I kind of want to take a boat ride down it. Wish LOTRO had rideable boats.
I stopped for a few to put together a new outfit because I realized I had a full mathom cosmetic set on me. It’s pretty passable, I think. Haven’t even dyed it yet.
Lots of little rooms tucked off to the sides here and there. I liked this one, even though it bordered on being too busy.
Closeup of one of the walls, with the Elves’ banner and the vine/tree branch design on the wall behind it. Plus, that border. Probably everyone runs past this stuff, too. Such a shame.
My kids were particularly interested in seeing some of the tourist spots from The Hobbit, since we finished reading that book last month. Here are some of the cells where the Dwarves were kept. I think that Thorin’s was the cell that was greatly isolated from the others.
And there’s Bilbo’s barrel! Or a monument to it. Even the cellars here are cozy.
My kids called this the Statue Room.
All in all, I’m so impressed that the devs aren’t phoning it in at this point in the game’s life cycle. Like so many places in LOTRO, these halls benefit from patient exploration and an adventurer who is into the atmosphere and details. Well done.