The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Hands On
Developer: Turbine, Inc. / Publisher: Turbine, Inc. / Release Date: October 15, 2012 / Platforms: PC / ESRB: Teen [Blood and Gore, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence]
“Through Rohan over fen and field where the long grass grows; The West Wind goes walking, and about the walls it goes.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, Lament for Boromir
Mounted combat comes to Middle-Earth! With the imminent release of the eagerly-anticipated Riders of Rohan expansion, The Lord of the Rings Online continues the epic story of the War of the Ring by taking its fellowship of players into new yet familiar territory. Rohan boats a variety of new features – the entire Rohan region for discovery and exploration, a brand new dynamic mounted combat system, roving warbands, new mounts, a level-cap increase and more. Fortunately, the dev wizards from Turbine offered me an early hands-on – and I’m pleased to say the epic conflict of Middle-Earth has never played better.
First thing’s first: let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the mounted combat. What makes the mounted combat in LOTRO‘s Riders of Rohan so exceptional? In a word, momentum. The proprietary mechanics derived for mounted combat in LOTRO basically feature a four-speed acceleration with fast/full stop and a slow, realistic reverse. In-game, the physics of this experience feel natural – you cannot perform a hair-pin turn or stop on a dime atop a one-ton galloping beast. Thus, it avoids the pitfalls of other mounted combat systems (those – who will go unnamed – that feel more akin to driving a motorcycle than riding a horse). It’s fun, it’s fresh, and there are plenty of evil-minded warbands out there ready and waiting to be trampled under foot.
From the Eaves of Fangorn to the East Wall, Riders of Rohan delivers some of the most iconic (and, to-date, sorely missed) environments from the Kingdom of Men to the LOTRO experience. The famed Mead Halls of Rohan, for instance, play a significant role in both questing and player community. Here’s where you’ll meet up with important NPCs and mount raid parties with like-minded slayers. Meduseld, the Golden Hall of the King of Rohan, is particularly lavish and well-realized, evoking the very spirit of Tolkien’s original work. But as detailed and populated as the Mead Halls can be, the real environmental accomplishments of the Riders of Rohan expansion are its exteriors.
As you can imagine, the increased locomotion of the mounted combat demands certain attention when it comes to environments and level design. This was considered heavily by the dev team, who took great pains to create a larger, more realistic topography for the expansion’s new regions. As a result, the grassy plains of Rohan are some of the most sweeping vistas in LOTRO to date. A few areas and encounters, such as mist-shrouded Fangorn Forest, aren’t optimized for mounted combat due to appropriate story constraints. Other areas and encounters are merely relegated to the solo play experience, such as Frodo’s journey to the “Hill of the Eye”, Amon Hen. But I found Huorn-haunted Fangorn and the Orc-laden Entwash Vale to be among my favorite locations, not only in the Rohan expansion but since the launch of LOTRO itself.
With a larger roster of unique NPCs, improved quest looting and shared XP, and a level cap increase to 85, Riders of Rohan is the expansion LOTRO and Tolkien fans have been waiting for. Check it out October 15th.