War Changes Everything
I was recently given a brief tour of The Lord of the Rings Online’s newest expansion, Riders of Rohan, by some of the wonderful people of Turbine, Inc. The people who conducted this virtual tour were none other than Anthony DiMento, Systems Designer; Hannah Foell, Producer on the project, and Leo Tan, PR Manager for Turbine.
Now, LotRO is certainly not the freshest MMO on the market at this point, and, since the game’s transition to the free-to-play model several years back, a lot of people may have left the game for the greener pastures promised by more recent MMOs and a panda-themed expansion to the biggest MMO ever. But Turbine’s been pushing onward nonetheless, and what I was shown was rather impressive. In fact, what I played felt a lot more like a brand new MMO than like LotRO. And considering LotRO’s current age, that’s definitely a good thing.
Sure, the Tolkien-esque atmosphere and meticulous attention to detail that LotRO has always been know for is still present (more on that later), but several changes were made to accommodate the addition of mounted combat. Oh yes, for those who weren’t already aware, the Riders of Rohan expansion brings mounted combat to everyone’s favorite Middle-earth-inspired MMO.
You can now fight while on horseback, provided you have a special combat-ready mount, which is different than the mounts you currently have. In fact, the controls here are a bit different than what you remember from those lesser horses you’ve ridden around on in the past. Instead of using W to simply move ahead and S to move backward, W causes your horse to accelerate while S causes it to decelerate. This frees you up to keep moving while you’re plunking away at your combat hotkeys. One drawback, though, is that your turn radius has been increased, so you might find yourself having to slow down to take tighter corners.
While mounted, you will have a completely fresh set of skills, all of which are specially tuned for mounted combat. Additionally, there is a red bar that fills as your speed increases, and when the bar is full you’ll do more damage to your foes.
One new feature that came out of mounted combat is that targeted foes will now show up as a golden dot on your minimap. Since you’re moving so fast while on horseback, this is a great way to not lose track of whichever stationary mob you’ve started attacking. Yes, this affects the entire game, not just the mounted combat portion. And I must say, this is a feature that I absolutely love. Ever target a mob and have it run off through some foliage to try to get away? Now you’ll be able to keep tabs on it from your minimap. Awesome!
For those of you who are bonkers for customization, I was shown a preview of the cosmetic choices players will have while hand-crafting their perfect mount. I must say the sheer amount of options was practically overwhelming. (There’s a whole section just for tails, for example, and another for hooves.) Of course, many of these options will need to be unlocked through quests or deeds or other means (I’m assuming the latter refers to LotRO’s microtransaction shop, though the folks at Turbine didn’t confirm this.)
But cosmetics aren’t the only thing you’ll be allowed to tweak. Your horse comes with its own trait tree, which you’ll be able to advance as you earn points leveling up your mount.
After checking out the combat, I was given a tour of some of Middle-earth’s more famous regions. For example, I got to run around in Fangorn Forest, which looks exactly as dark and menacing as it should. For those familiar with the game, no, this does not look like a cut-and-paste version of Mirkwood; this has its own vibe, and that vibe is deliciously Fangorn-y. I even saw an Ent!
Next up, I got to see the Argonath (the Pillars of Kings). For those less familiar with Tolkien lore, those are the two gigantic statues with their hands outstretched, guarding the River Anduin. We even had a discussion about which one the developers decided was Isildur and which one was Anárion, since that detail was never specifically mentioned in Tolkien’s work. (Hint: in LotRO lore, Isildur is on the left.)
Finally, I was shown some of Rohan’s mead halls, which will serve as special player hubs where much drinking and role-playing can be had. And one of these mead halls was the famous Meduseld, which Tolkien fans will remember playing quite a large role in The Two Towers . However, Meduseld is actually outside of the landscape area covered in this expansion, but the interior is completely built (and completely awesome), and there will be parts of the game where you’ll be allowed to hang out there. This prompted me to ask if the landscape would eventually be expanded upon so we could see the exterior, and while I wasn’t given a straight-up answer, it sounded like it should be reasonably fair to assume that this would eventually be the case.
The hour or so I got to spend inside LotRO’s Riders of Rohan expansion definitely got me excited. Once again, Turbine nailed the Middle-earth atmosphere, and the new features add a whole new dimension to the gameplay. Whether or not the quest system will manage to break away from the traditional kill and fetch quests is yet to be seen, but even if it doesn’t, there’s plenty here to make this expansion worth your while when it lands on October 15.
Oh, and if you haven’t tried The Lord of the Rings Online yet, what are you waiting for? It’s free, after all.