Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Preview for PC

Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Preview for PC

Beasts Of Burden

I was a hardcore Lord of the Rings Online player back when the game first came out. Of course, as is the case with any MMO I play, I found myself logging in less and less as I got busy with other things. This year at E3, though, I got to sit down with Kate Paiz, executive producer on the game, and I’m pretty sure she convinced me to fire up my copy and start playing again. Especially with the Riders of Rohan expansion coming out this fall.

First and foremost, I was given the basic details of the expansion. Like the Isengard expansion before it, Riders of Rohan expands the game’s landmass, increases the level cap, and advances the Epic Story. That’s to be expected from any expansion that we’re going to drop money on. But it was some of Rohan’s less obvious features that had me antsy to return to Middle-Earth.

Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Screenshot

Most importantly, mounted combat comes to LotRO. This is something players have been requesting since the game first launched back in 2007. (I know firsthand, because I was one of the players who was quite vocal about this opinion.) Players will be able to earn a War-steed (as opposed to the standard horses and ponies we’ve been riding since the game’s launch), which levels up independently of the player and has its own combat skills. Also, these mounts come with cosmetic customization options, including cosmetic gear. Awesome.

I got to watch one member of the development team ride around on a War-steed and take out some orcs with a bow and arrow while on horseback. Since my main class in LotRO is a burglar, a melee class, I was curious as to how mounted melee attacks would be handled. Don’t fear, fellow burgs, this is something the team has considered. Your War-steed will be able to perform a charge that brings you into bashing range so you can make use of your close-range skills.

However, Kate told me that the burglar’s unique skill set was still being worked on, as they’re trying to figure out how to best implement skills like “Hide in Plain Sight” while mounted in ways that make sense. Additionally, things like agro distance, which will definitely need to be adjusted to accommodate mounted combat, are still being tweaked, and will continue to evolve during the expansion’s beta period.

Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Screenshot

Now, something like mounted combat changes the entire way the game is played. With this in mind, you’ll only be able to fight while mounted in certain areas of the game. Like Rohan.

Thankfully, Rohan is massive. It adds three times the landmass of Moria, especially huge considering that, land-wise, the Mines of Moria were, well, gigantic . And unlike other areas of the game that feel like they corral players into valleys, Rohan is wide open and vast, as Rohan should be. (LotRO vets, think Lonelands, only far larger.)

Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Screenshot

Now, to accommodate this wide open landmass style, Turbine had to make some tweaks to their game engine to improve draw distance. As long as they were tweaking things anyway, they added some other cool things, like improved lighting effects and grass that dynamically sways and moves as the player walks through it. (Trust me, it looks really cool.)

Another feature Rohan adds is new NPC types. Rohan will have several horse NPCs, which is a pretty obvious choice considering the subject matter. Less obvious, though, is the addition of children NPCs to make the game’s villages feel more realistic. I asked Kate if they expected to eventually go back and add children to the old villages like Breeland. She told me they’d like to, but only as time allows. Which is fair. I mean, players certainly wouldn’t be happy to hear that Turbine delayed a new instance cluster, say, because they were busy adding kids to Breeland.

And speaking of instance cluster, just like Isengard, the next major dungeons won’t be done in time for Rohan’s September 5th launch date. But there are new dungeons in the works, and those should be in the game before the end of the year. At least we’ll have time to hit level cap before we take on these new dungeons, right?

Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Screenshot

Eventually, we got to talking about Rohan’s story. One of my main storyline complaints about Isengard, the previous expansion, was that it felt far too complex. I mean, there were several different villages, each influenced in different ways by their proximity to Isengard. It was well-crafted, surely, but it could be hard to follow for more casual players. Rohan, though, is talking the opposite approach. The story’s premise is simple: Grima Wormtongue’s influence over King Théoden is clear, the villages of man are being razed by orcs, and players are asked to turn the tide.

One of the ways this is supported is through a new daily quest system where you are asked to do things that help rebuild a particular village. This village will dynamically change over time as players work toward its reconstruction. I didn’t get to actually see this in action, but from the way Kate described it, it sounds awesome.

Oh yes, and you’ll finally get to meet Gandalf the White. We met the iconic wizard during his Grey period several times during LotRO, but now that we’re getting deeper into the timeline of The Two Towers , we get to see him in all his glorious whiteness.

And ents. We get to meet more ents.

All things considered, Riders of Rohan seems like an incredibly worthy expansion to an already glorious MMO. Preorder now, and be one of the first to hop into the game when it arrives on September 5. Anyone who preorders is guaranteed a spot in closed beta when that launches later this summer. And if you’ve never played LotRO at all, what are you waiting for? It’s free to play now.

Game Features:

  • Introducing Mounted Combat – Ride into Combat atop your loyal War-steed as you defend the people of Rohan from the forces of Isengard and Mordor. Customize your War-steed’s armor and level its skills over time to aid you in mounted defense of King Théoden’s lands. Mount your steed and gather your fellows to fight against Warbands, contingents of roving wargs and orcs that have been scouted all over the Plains of Rohan! It falls to you to head off and defeat this new threat before they over take the land.
  • Explore Largest Landscape Yet! – Nearly three times as large as Moria! Join with the Rohirrim and ride across the sprawling Eastern Plains of Rohan. Raise high your sword to fight for honor and glory in the name of Théoden King! Experience hundreds of new quests, earn new favor, gear, deeds, and more!
  • The Epic Story Continues – The Fellowship is on the move once again and must achieve their task at all cost. It falls to you to clear the path and turn the Eye of the Enemy away from their progress as you aid the Rohirrim in their own struggle close by. Witness the breaking of the Fellowship at Amon Hen; forge alliances with the Ents of Fangorn; and aid Éomer, nephew of Théoden, as he seeks to protect his homeland from the growing Shadow.
  • Advance to Level 85 – Learn what it means to be Rohirrim as you face new challenges throughout the Riddermark on your journey to level 85. Continue your legend as you grow in power with new skills and deeds and earn new armor and gear to aid you in the battles to come.

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