The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood

Key events

New Lord of the Rings Online expansion Helm's Deep raises level cap again

Meanwhile, in Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings Online plods on through J. R. R. Tolkien's great fiction one hairy overgrown foot at a time.

A fifth expansion pack, Helm's Deep, has just been announced for the autumn, and will bring the game's story up to that eponymous battle as well as raise the level cap a further 10 levels to 95.

If you're level 10 or above you can fight for Helm's Deep, but don't forget to look to the East at dawn on the fifth day etc.

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More detail on LOTRO Riders of Rohan expansion

More detail on LOTRO Riders of Rohan expansion

On mounted combat, and when the game ends.

Lord of the Rings Online's autumn expansion Riders of Rohan was announced yesterday, and Eurogamer galloped after developer Turbine to find out more.

The headline feature of LOTRO's biggest ever expansion is mounted combat. Kate Paiz, the game's executive producer, told us more.

These War Steeds will only be available to buy and use in Rohan, and from character level 75. The price of a War Steed is TBD.

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LOTRO: Confront Saruman next year

"Important revisions" to Monster Play, too.

The Lord of the Rings Online may never get another proper expansion pack, producer Aaron Campbell has told Eurogamer - the free-to-play relaunch has taught Turbine "a lot" about "pacing" of updates. But don't worry - next year's trip to Isengard will be just as good.

Euro LOTRO free-to-play relaunch dated

Euro LOTRO free-to-play relaunch dated

Next week Samwise to you?

The European free-to-play relaunch of The Lord of the Rings Online will happen on Tuesday, 2nd November, Eurogamer can exclusively reveal.

Mandatory monthly subscriptions will be dropped and replaced by three tiers of membership - VIP (has a monthly fee), Premium and Free - and a LOTRO Store. There you can buy expansion packs, premium add-ons, thousands of convenience items, additional character slots, potions and character customisation options. The LOTRO Store works within the game.

The free-to-play overhaul introduces other new features, too: a new Wardrobe storage system for cosmetic items, an updated character creation system, a revamped new player experience and redesign for the vintage dungeons of the world, which will become not only repeatable, but feature scalable content to keep the challenge fresh.

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LotR Online F2P delay explained

Codemasters: "Launch is imminent."

The delay of the free-to-play Lord of the Rings Online update is down to "contractual issues", publisher Codemasters has confirmed.

LOTRO free-to-play relaunch delayed

The European free-to-play relaunch of The Lord of the Rings Online has been delayed so that Codemasters can better prepare for the anticipated "massive increase" in players.

Book 2: Ride of the Grey Company and the Free to Play Store will now be available "later than expected".

"We are really pleased with the performance of the game and excited about the response to Free to Play from our players," said Rowland. "Given the complexities and challenges faced in the preparation and implementation of the new store to work within our infrastructure, we feel more time is needed to deliver the high level of service our players have quite rightly come to expect.

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LOTRO to relaunch as free-to-play

LOTRO to relaunch as free-to-play

Worldwide this autumn, DDO-style.

Warner Bros. has announced that Turbine's The Lord of the Rings Online MMO will relaunch worldwide this autumn as a free-to-play game.

The move will follow the model established by Turbine's successful relaunch of Dungeons & Dragons Online in the US last year, with a large chunk of the game available for free and extra content, items, features and services on sale via an in-game store.

Alternatively, you'll be able to pay a VIP subscription for unlimited access to premium content.

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Codemasters retains LOTRO Europe

Turbine's new owner Warner co-operating.

Eurogamer has learnt that The Lord of the Rings Online will continue to be distributed and run by Codemasters in Europe, despite Warner's recent purchase of developer Turbine.

LOTRO starts Vol. III with next update

LOTRO starts Vol. III with next update

Book 1 has new skirmishes.

Turbine has detailed the next Book update to The Lord of the Rings Online. This takes the MMO version of the Tolkien saga into Volume III: Allies of the King with Book 1: Oath of the Rangers.

Four Skirmishes will be added at Dol Guldur, the fortress from last year's Siege of Mirkwood mini-expansion. They'll be playable in a new 12-person mode. There'll be an additional Skirmish called the Depths of Nûrz Ghâshu as well.

The level cap for crafted items will be increased to 65, and a new epic quest line involves marshalling Rangers scattered across the Northlands to meet the shadow spreading over Middle-Earth.

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The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood

The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood

One more ring to rule them all.

If "the long dark of Moria" was all about the black depths, and "the Golden Wood" of Lothlórien was a vibrant blaze, then Mirkwood plunges you back into the gloom. Main colour in the palette: brown. Offset by grey. It's not a cheery place. Lord of the Rings Online executive producer Jeffrey Steefel says, "It's grim, but some sunlight does get into there. There are encampments that are controlled by elves and there are definitely places where it's not going to be all dingy and dark." That's true, but there are also some areas where, even in the game's daytime, it's like wading through pea soup. You may well find yourself tweaking your gamma.

Despite the gloom, though, Mirkwood - the sole setting of this downloadable mini-expansion to Turbine's Tolkien MMO - is a compelling place. Why? Because Turbine has done an excellent job of making it feel like you're playing your part in a significant military campaign. Sure, the War of the Ring has been the backdrop to much of your adventuring in Middle-earth through the original game and the Mines of Moria expansion pack, but this is tangibly the front line. After crossing the Anduin, the first encampment you reach, Echad Sirion in the Mirk-eaves, is very much a bridgehead. It's a supply point for the war effort that's pushing deeper into the wood, with Dol Guldur, stronghold of Sauron's forces in the region, the goal. The first key NPC you meet says, ''You are about to enter the first true battle of what will likely be our last war in Middle-earth.'' He's not kidding.

Mirkwood is one of those places that's steeped in Tolkien's detailed history. It's the forest formerly known as Greenwood the Great, a place where the elves, in ages past, created the Woodland Realm. It became Mirkwood when it fell under the influence of Morgoth - Sauron's boss when he was just a trainee in evil. In the Third Age, Sauron took over Dol Guldur, and the Woodland Realm was further diminished, pushed north. Bilbo guided the company of Dwarves through the woods in The Hobbit. In Turbine's interpretation of the lore, although Sauron is now resident in Mordor, he has left lieutenants at Dol Guldur, and many of their orc forces patrol Mirkwood, alongside sundry bats, wolves, spiders and all the sort of things you'd expect to find in gloomy, nasty places - also, naturally, the sort of things you'll have to cull to complete quests.

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Turbine details LOTRO: Siege of Mirkwood

Turbine details LOTRO: Siege of Mirkwood

MMO's patch notes are Sauron the eyes.

Turbine has explained, in excruciating detail, every upcoming change arriving in Lord of the Rings expansion Siege of Mirkwood, which is released in Europe on 3rd December.

The release notes cover everything, from the new Skirmish System and Fortress of the Nazgul content to the revamped mounts, combat system and menu/interface.

Mirkwood also overhauls the Lone-lands area and alters the workings of Dread/Gloom, reputation, Legendary items, and racial abilities - the dwarf Headbutt now dazes opponents for a short time, for instance.

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Entering the beta of an MMO expansion pack on a borrowed, pre-levelled character can be a bewildering experience. Who are you, rune-keeper Kronkite of Lórien, with your spiky grey hair and strangely low rep with the Galadrim? And what about you, minstrel Zzordon of the Blue Mountains, with your burgundy floppy hat and braided beard? What's your story? And more importantly, what the heck does this button do?

The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood

Exploring the mini-expansion with producer Jeffrey Steefel.

As executive producer Jeffrey Steefel points out, it's been about 11 months since The Lord of the Rings Online MMO had a proper expansion, which is why Turbine is about to release mini-expansion Siege of Mirkwood. This raises the level cap, adds a new adventuring zone (Mirkwood) and introduces the Skirmish system. With Skirmish, players can set up and join dungeon instances from anywhere on the map; take an AI-controlled and fully customisable Soldier with them; and re-run the dungeons with randomised objectives on tougher difficulties to earn Skirmish points for special prizes.

LOTRO: Mirkwood priced for Europe

Plus, Codemasters pre-order plans inside.

Codemasters has revealed its European pricing and pre-order deals for The Lord of the Rings Online's digital mini-expansion, Siege of Mirkwood.

LOTRO: Mirkwood in December

Free with renewals or account upgrades.

Turbine has announced that it will release the Siege of Mirkwood digital mini-expansion for The Lord of the Rings Online on 1st December.

LOTRO's new Skirmishes mode detailed

Plus: Mirkwood expansion to cost $20.

Turbine has explained how Lord of the Rings Online's new Skirmishes mode will work when it's introduced as part of the Siege of Mirkwood digital expansion later this year.

LOTRO to get DLC expansion this year

LOTRO to get DLC expansion this year

Level cap raised in Siege of Mirkwood.

Turbine has announced that Lord of the Rings Online will expand by one zone and five levels with a paid "digital expansion", Siege of Mirkwood, this autumn.

More than a free Book update, less than a full expansion pack, Siege of Mirkwood is billed as the "epic conclusion" to Volume II: Mines of Moria, which was kicked off with last year's boxed expansion of the same name. The price of the update has yet to be revealed.

Siege of Mirkwood increases the level cap to 65 - with the associated new traits, skills, class quests and so on - and opens up the spooky forest of Mirkwood, culminating in the fortress of Dol Goldur, home of the Ringwraiths. Dol Guldur will contain dungeons for three and six players, and a 12-man raid.

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