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This is it. It’s time for the brigands to attack the town of Archet. No matter who wins, I have to say they’ve been very sporting to wait this long.

As I mentioned before, we’re still in the tutorial of the game. The Archet we’ve been in is a kind of playpen newbie zone that you can’t leave. It’s also set to perma-daylight, since these events are all supposed to take place in a single day.

During the attack we’ll be in a special instance version of the town, so there won’t be any other players around. (Not that there are all that many in the newbie zone anyway.)

Jon Brackenbrook decides that we should wait at the lodge until nightfall. I don’t know why. The lodge is not in town, and we’re supposed to defend the town. I suspect he wants to secure the lodge until the last of the stew is gone, but I don’t say that out loud.

Night arrives, and I find myself on a hill with Jon.

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He sends me into town on my own, promising to find “another way in” himself. Except there are only two ways into town: The south gate and the east gate. He’s sending me in on the eastern side.

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I run down the hill and start hacking down the invading brigands. I was never very crazy about killing people, but I guess I’m hardened to it now. Yesterday I killed a man for a pair of fur-lined pumps with a low heel. (In green.) Later I killed half a dozen people for a wide-brimmed cavalier hat with an ostrich plume and a satin band. Very stylish. Now I’m killing people with no promise of garments at all. It’s tragic that it’s come to this.

I’d kill to get my hands on something with cuffed sleeves.

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There’s something that’s been bothering me about Jon’s plan. Well, a lot of things, really. Now that I think of it, I guess it’s everything about his plan seems a little off. But the detail bugging me right now is the bit about the east road. Isn’t this the road with…

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Bloody hell.

The east road is the one infested with spiders the size of donkeys.

Have you seen enough screenshots of me fighting spiders by this point? Maybe a little, yes? Ok good. Let’s just skip the dozen or so images of my little Hobbit stabbing spiders and move on…

The last spider falls and I arrive at the gates of the city.

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This is it. The big showdown. I go over Jon’s battle plans one last time to make sure I’m not missing anything:

1) Stay at the lodge – far outside of the fortifications, where we will not be able to influence the battle in any way.
2) Wait until nightfall.
3) Wait some more, until long after the battle has begun.
4) Split into two groups. Of one person each.
5) Assault the town separately. I will fight directly through the spider nest (again) while Jon will hike all the way around the mountain and arrive sometime after bandits have destroyed the town, rebuilt it, moved in, and raised a new generation of bandit children.
6) That’s pretty much it. No plans for what we’re supposed to do once we get to town. Although I’m sure I can stab bandits without worrying that I might be going off-mission.

In town, it seems Calder Cob has escaped from jail and is now beating on the jailer.

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You remember Ned the jailer. Earlier he had me picking berries, because he wanted to “interrogate” Cob by feeding him. Nobody bothered to execute Cob after he finished (not) talking on account of the cake they fed him, and now his brigand buddies have set him loose.

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I guess he didn’t like the cake. Well, I’ve been waiting all day for the chance to do this…

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Taste justice you greasy pantaloon-wearing clodpole!

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/spit

Looks like Ned isn’t the picture of vibrancy and health. I’m not a physician, but I’m pretty sure he’s suffering from a bad case of Just About To Die.

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Aw. Poor Ned the Jailer. Did that mean old Cob stab your guts out? What a rascal.

MAYBE I SHOULD GET YOU SOME BILBERRIES SO YOU CAN BAKE HIM ANOTHER CAKE!

With his dying breath, Ned tells me to find Amdir. He also warns me the EOGAN is here.

Erm. Who?

Eogan seems to be the second-in-command of this branch of Team Bad Guy. He reports directly to the Nazgul. The brigands have been mentioning him now and again since the opening of the game.

Lulzy hasn’t been paying attention, but if you keep an eye on the dialog you should know who he is by this point in the game. This is his big reveal.

Eogan serves an important purpose. Since this is Lord of the Rings, and since the War of the Ring is going on in the background, the game needs to provide you with important villains and foes that you can actually fight and kill without conflicting with the existing story.

At the same time, Eogan really sticks out as an obvious add-on character. His dialog is overwrought villainous hyperbole, much more suited to City of Heroes than Lord of the Freaking Rings.

Amdir. I’d nearly forgotten about him. The one responsible for me getting stuck defending this nest of cake-baking goofs.

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“So… hello again Amdir. How’s it going, then? Dying hard or hardly dying?”

Amdir mumbles some stuff about Eogan. I look, and sure enough Eogan is on the other side of a wall of flames. Celandine Brandybuck and another Hobbit are over there as well.

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Eogan appears to be fighting the town oldie himself, Captain Brackenbrook. You remember him. He’s the guy who wouldn’t believe that Calder Cob was a traitor until he saw it written on a piece of paper. He’s fighting Eogan, which means at least Brackenbrook has figured out what side he’s on.

Still, that fight is probably not going to turn out very well for our side. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I need to get over there and help.

Amdir suggests I draw some water from the nearby well and put out the flames.

This is a little tutorial for the “delivery” mechanic, which becomes available later. Eventually I’ll be able to take on these quests where you have to carry an object for a few thousand years minutes to get it from A to B. They’re generally timed, and if you have to fight or enter water you’ll drop the object and have to go back and start over.

This just demonstrates how that works. I just have to click on the well and carry the water about ten paces to the fire.

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I douse the fire, and suddenly an unbelievable number of things all happen at once.

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Okay, try to keep up here:

The fire goes out. Brackenbrook goes down. Amdir gets up. I go in. Eogan gets smug. Amdir takes a knee. I get out my sword. Some brigands end up on the pointy end. Amdir runs off. Celandine goes into a conniption. Eogan gets chatty. I get pissed. We both get ready to rumble. Eogan gets cocky. Then he goes down. The Hobbits get rescued.

Got all that? Yeah. Me neither.

See, Amdir has been losing his mind since getting stabbed. It looks like he finally caved and fell fully under the control of the Nazgul. Once that happened he quit the battle and wandered off. He’s now a thrall of the bad guys.

Then Eogan and I had a showdown, which I won.

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See?

I turn my attention to the Hobbits. My friend Celandine Brandybuck (yes, we’re friends, we’re just very catty) is here with some simpering toadstool named Mundo Sackville-Baggins. As if I wanted to hear more exposition, Mundo brings me up to speed:

Eogan has been trying to kidnap the Hobbits for days. Apparently he was sent to the Shire with orders to capture someone named “Baggins” and to get his ring. Eogan, being a human, (and thus a magnificent dolt) didn’t think that perhaps there could be more than one person with “Baggins” in their name, so he’s been chasing Mundo around even though Mundo doesn’t have the ring he’s after.

I’m very upset. Look at all of these people gathered here, and not one of them commented on my outfit.

Upon hearing that Mundo isn’t the right Hobbit, Eogan jumps up, laughs at us, and dashes away through the wall of fire.

What? No I’m not kidding. Yes, that’s actually what happened. Eogan got up and ran off. Yes, I know he was dead. I stabbed him myself. No, I’m not just making crap up to make this seem more interesting.

You really don’t believe me? What’s your problem, here? Haven’t we been honest with each other so far?

Ok, fine. Look: You brought this on yourself:

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EOGAN GETS UP.

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TAUNTS US.

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AND RUNS AWAY.

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THROUGH A FIRE.

OKAY?

Sheesh. You have serious trust issues or something.

Really, this “bad guy faked his own death and then walked away during a cutscene” crap works in a Final Fantasy game, but this sort of cheesy plot hack feels completely out of place in Lord of the Rings. I think this whole scene is an overload of exposition and dialog set amidst what is supposedly a battle in a burning city.

Usually the writing in this game is quite good (my cruel lampooning aside) but this scene is a bit of an exposition traffic jam.

Hey look, Jon Brackenbrook is here.

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Not that he helped or anything. In fact, he let Eogan walk right by him. Suddenly I realize he’s probably grief-stricken because he just lost his dad. Moreover, I seem to be standing on his dad’s corpse.

Stepping deftly off the mustachioed cadaver, I go over to Jon and do my best to comfort him, “Jon, I’m really sorry your dad was such a terrible captain and inept soldier, although perhaps realizing this will make his rather timely death easier to bear.”

Well, this entire ordeal has been a complete debacle. The only silver lining on the entire affair is that Amdir left our side and joined up with the bad guys. Once the Nazgul realize just how useless he is, they are going to feel very stupid for wasting so much time trying to enslave him.

Sorry if this one is a bit of a downer. “A village burns down and everyone dies” is a pretty tough set-up for jokes, actually.

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Someone really should do something about these fires.

Next Time: Bong! Bring out your dead!

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Shamus Young is the guy behind Reset Button, Twenty Sided, DM of the Rings, and Stolen Pixels.

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