The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Warner Bros.
Developer:Turbine
Release Date:2012-10-15
Genre:
  • Massively Multiplayer,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
With the addition of 400 new quests, 10 more character levels, a new crafting tier, expanded weather effects, dynamic layered instancing and town building, warbands and mounted combat, and iconic landscapes that include the likes of Amon Hen, Fangorn Forest, and the Gates of Argonath, the new Riders of Rohan expansion pack for Turbine's The Lord of the Rings Online is going to be packing a serious punch when it launches tomorrow. And since I recently had a chance to sit down and take a guided tour of the expansion with the help of Turbine's Leo Tan and Aaron Campbell, I thought I'd share a few more details about some of these additions.

The Epic Quest line will get a significant boost in Riders of Rohan. We will get to travel with the Fellowship down into Rohan and all the way to the Gates of Argonath, where we will get to experience the actual breaking of the fellowship and the sacrifice of Boromir. We will also be visiting the '˜pyre' of Merry and Pippen where we will get to meet the Rohirrim Marshal Eomer, standing on the still-smoking pyre.

To give us plenty of other things to do after we all rush to level 85 and wait for the instance cluster to launch later this year (crossing fingers!), Turbine has come up with an extra pasttime to sink our time into - the rebuilding of an entire town by the name of Hytbold. This endgame area will work as a dynamically layered instance as you work alone or with a group to help rebuild the burned and destroyed Hytbold located on the western edge of the East Wall. This instance will give players a chance to rebuild more than two dozen buildings through over 100 different daily quests.

These new daily quests will be doled out from a large collection and will be randomized. If you worked through the "Horse" quests where you train up a Warsteed in Hengstacer, you will know what I am talking about, just on a large town-sized scale. All of this hard work will not go unrewarded, either. This new endgame content will give us a chance to earn tokens which can be bartered for new gear that's rumored to be a suitable substitute for solo and small group players compared to the raid gear that some of the more hardcore players enjoy. This should be a pretty good upgrade over the standard landscape and crafted loot, and give the more casual players something to work toward.

Before getting into the real meat of the expansion pack, mounted combat, I was given the opportunity to visit several of the Thane Halls that are coming with Riders of Rohan. The art created for these definitely lives up to what I have come to expect from Turbine - from colorful banners to open fire pits, each one had a personality all to its own. You'll definitely want to take a look at some of the screenshots we've uploaded to spur your travel plans towards these great halls.

The advent of mounted combat is definitely the biggest change we'll be seeing in the long-running MMORPG. This system began its initial conception way back in 2009 according to Aaron, but because of the resources and technology available to them at the time, it wasn't something they were able to realize until now. As a system that's been requested by the playerbase for years, it only seems fitting that the Riders of Rohan expansion pack is the add-on that will be introducing it. The system we will get will revolve around three different types of steeds, each with their own version of three separate trait lines. The combination of steed type and trait line should give us plenty of options and allow for plenty of forum debates over which is best for what class. You will be able to have multiple specs available for hot swapping, and we will gain access to two such specsout of the gate and up to five others that can be purchased through the store.
While mounted, each class will have its own set of unique "Mounted Skills" that will replace your normal selection of available skills. These skills will use up a combination of power from you and your mount, as well as a new source called Fury. Fury will build up over time as you move around on your mount and will build relative to how fast you are moving. The amount of Fury you have will give you a passive bonus to certain skills, like increased damage or more healing.

When first jumping on my mount, I found it somewhat difficult to maneuver. The new warsteeds use momentum-based movement that keeps you moving in the direction you are traveling and makes turning much more difficult. There are mitigations for this to make turning easier, like putting a bridle on your horse or using one with a higher agility, but expect to have a learning curve for this new mode of movement. To help with this learning curve, we will get a new toggle skill to use while mounted called "Spur On". This skill will help auto-steer our mount towards our selected target at the cost of extra power when activating our skills.

Even after using it for an hour, I still found it frustrating at times to position myself to best attack the swift-footed warbands we were attacking. For me, it was similar to a jet-on-jet dogfight as my opponent and I raced over the hills trying to get at a good angle to make an attack run. Again, just be aware that a learning curve is coming.

While mounted combat can be used against lone enemies or groups of targets, the main opponent for this new style of combat will be the deadly warbands. This new classification of mob will be varied across a broad range of player skill and group size, from the solo-friendly to ones that will require multiple fellowships working in unison to bring down, and each will have its own daily quest that will automatically be picked up when you ride near them. To see these new nasties coming, you will also get an indicator on your mini-map letting you now there is one nearby, allowing you to prep yourself for the impending encounter.

Mounted combat will certainly be an interesting addition to the game, and it will provide a whole new way of playing the game. Some may dislike it, others may learn to love it, but we will all likely need to gain proficiency in it as one of the developers added in that "mounted combat could be used for instance play in the future". For those that find the movement disorientating or not to their play style, I can only hope that there will be no combat quests in our future that require it.

Riders of Rohan launches tomorrow after a month-long delay, and with all of the new content and features packed within, it certainly looks to be worth the wait. Many thanks to the fine folks at Turbine for taking the time to show me some of the sights I will get to visit in the near future, even if they did make me play a Hunter during my tour :).