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LOTRO: Before the Shadow Press Preview

Lord of the Rings Before the Shadow Key Art

Lord of the Rings fans will have the opportunity to experience a new storyline in the hit MMORPG, Lord of the Rings Online. Launching today, the Before the Shadow expansion offers players of all levels an alternate new starting storyline. In addition, it features dozens of new missions and a brand new delving system. Recently, we attended a press preview with Standing Stone Games – present during the meeting were Matt Elliot, Senior World Designer; Allan Maki, Systems Designer; Robert Ciccolini, Executive Producer; and Jerry Snook, Community Manager – to get a closer look at what players can expect from Before the Shadow.

Swanfleet & Cardolan: The New Storyline 

One of the two key highlights of the Before the Shadow expansion for LOTRO is a brand new starting experience available for all races and classes of Middle Earth. This is not a redesigned new player experience, although it can serve as one for players willing to start after purchasing the expansion. Instead, this is an alternative leveling experience designed with two key purposes: to give players an easier way to start their characters together, and to offer an alternative storyline to the original game (known as Shadows of Angmar).

Typically in The Lord of the Rings Online, players begin their story in different areas based on their character’s race, and then migrate from this initial zone into the rest of the game world. However, players with the Before the Shadow expansion enabled will be able to select the new tutorial instance – Mossward – for any character they create. When they are done, they will be able to meet up with others who have chosen the same – meaning no more long travel from one region to another just to play together.

LOTRO Mossward

After completing the tutorial instance, players will find themselves in the new starting zone of Swanfleet. Home to the now ruined Eregion, one of the former seats of power of the Elves where the Rings were created, here players will meet with a collection of Dunlendings, Elves, and Stoors who are doing their best to survive in these darkening times. The storyline will introduce players to Boromir, who is currently on his way – albeit delayed – to the Council of Elrond.

Once players leave Swanfleet, they will journey into the second new zone of Before the Shadow – Cardolan. Here players will come across the ruins of Tharbad, make new allies in the settlement of Herne, and explore such regions as Andrath, Caranost, and Sedgemead. Here the orcs have moved in to establish their own base of operations and to search for items of power, while the Ringwraiths ride through in their search of the One Ring, stirring up the spirits of Cardolan. When this area is complete, players will rejoin the main storyline at the Council of Elrond, with an approximate end level of 30.

The team wants to emphasize that these two new zones are a major accomplishment. Both Swanfleet and Cardolan are larger than any zones ever made before. Matt Elliot notes that this was “only feasible for us to do because of some new additions, changes, and systems that we can use to build the landscape.” Rob Ciccolini also explains that these new areas allow the team to “flesh out areas of the world” where a high level zone wouldn’t make sense due to the level of dangers involved, and allows Standing Stone games to “target players who aren’t at end game.”

A’ Delving We Will Go

The other major star of LOTRO: Before the Shadow is a new system called Delving (no relation to Michel, Little, or Great). Currently, this system is for max level players, regardless of server type, and is available in the dozens of new missions available through the expansion. Expect this to add both a new layer of challenge and a great way to get geared for end game.

Players will initially get mail with a Delving Zircon attached, which can then be taken to one of the Before the Shadow mission NPCs. They will in turn exchange it for a genuine delving item, which can be used inside any of the new missions. Players can apply this to a Delving Stone inside the mission, choosing a level of difficulty to face. When all is settled, the stone will crack and unleash its malice, adding skills, effects, and abilities to all the monsters inside the mission. By defeating this challenge, players can earn extra gear along with Writs of Delving. These Writs, in turn, can be exchanged for a variety of items, including items that can augment your best in slot gear.

This isn’t just a side challenge for fun (though it will certainly offer that, too): these delvings can end up rewarding loot that is equivalent to tier 3 raid gear! This is designed to help players return to the game and ease back into high level content, or for new high level players to catch up with their friends. The team also plans on expanding the delving system “forward and backward” in the future, with their first sights on some of the original three-man instances in the game.

There are other additions in Before the Shadow too, including a new 6-person instance and a new skirmish, plus a new themed missions wrapper.

LOTRO Swanfleet

Update 34: Changes For All

Alongside the new expansion now available, The Lord of the Rings Online is also releasing a free update. This update features its own set of major changes for all players, most notably, a change to class trait points.

Class trait points – LOTRO’s ‘talent’ system – have traditionally been granted on every odd level from 7 to 105, and every three levels thereafter. Players could otherwise gain more trait points through quests and deeds. However, this leads to inconsistent trait points being granted and often results in more points than the player can use.

Now, players will get class trait points starting at level 2, and continuing through to level 140 with a complete 98 trait points – the maximum a player can utilize. Every character’s trait points will be refunded with this update. There are a number of benefits to this system: the ability to start gaining class powers at an earlier level, the removal of the push to ‘grind’ additional points, and a consistent leveling experience. The development team also notes that this helps set a baseline for future changes to the game.

There are a host of other changes with the update, including some significant changes for Brawler, Burglar, Lore-master, and Minstrel. Check out the full release notes to see what’s changed.

Get Before The Shadow Now

LOTRO: Before the Shadow can be purchased in the LOTRO Store, and is available in three different bundles. The Standard Edition is $19.99 USD and includes the expansion along with an Elf Dance emote, while the Collector’s Edition and Ultimate Edition are available for $59.99 and $99.99 respectively. The special editions include a bundle of extra goodies including cosmetic armor, pets, mounts, expedition supplies, and more. VIP players get a 10% discount on purchasing expansions, too.

Before the Shadow is available now! Visit the Expansion Store page to begin your new journey.

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