So with that unpleasantness put aside, I am going to look at the brighter side of Rohan this week to share 15 pretty dang cool things that I've recently learned about Lord of the Rings Online's upcoming expansion. Why 15? Because I slammed my hand down on the keypad and that's what came up.
Both RoI and SoM were decent, but they were also lacking when compared to the epic scope of Mines of Moria. Riders of Rohan, however, gives the impression that Turbine is upping its game across the board. It's introducing a new system (mounted combat), it's adding the first new pieces of score to the game since Moria, it's radically growing the size of the game world, and it's delivering Tolkien fanservice (the Fellowship, Rohirrim) like crazy.
2. It's being promoted more heavily.
Like it or laugh at it, the live-action trailer for the expansion is definitely something new for the studio, and it sends a strong message that it is at least trying to give this expansion a push like we've never seen before -- and that story is king. Compared to Rise of Isengard, Riders of Rohan is being treated like a serious project instead of a slightly bigger content release.
Personally, I like the trailer as well as the Bringing Rohan to Life documentary. You may think the teaser is silly, but the dev team seems to genuinely embrace the theme, setting, and characters here. That cannot be a bad thing when it comes to our game.
3. We'll be seeing more of the Fellowship.
As much as Turbine might want to forge exciting new paths in Tolkien's world, the truth is that many players have been craving more of a connection with the books' heroes. Mirkwood and Isengard were detours that only tangentially touched on the larger story, but Rohan is right in the thick of things. It's here that the Fellowship is broken, that the Ents start moving against Saruman, that Aragorn and Gandalf start making allies with the Rohirrim, and that Sauron's aggression is being seen much more clearly.
4. Our mount will be a kin of Shadowfax.
Lore nerds will either squee or rage about the news that we'll be getting to ride one of the Mearas -- the same premium brand of horse as Gandalf's sweet ride, Shadowfax. Lore defenders say that this breaks the book's specific statement that only the rulers of Rohan were allowed to ride these, but I have a hard time getting worked up about where a horse comes from. It's a cool shout-out to the only horse that most of us remember from these books, and it's a way to signify that players have done epic deeds worthy of an epic mount.
Mounts will come in both horse and pony variety (sorry, no goats that we know of!) and will boast light, medium, and heavy versions.
5. Our mounts will be customizable 10 ways from Sunday.
Right now there's a huge movement in the LotRO community regarding cosmetic outfits (seriously, it's like every LotRO blog out there talks about it), and I have to imagine that this game's playerbase is primed and ready for the option to trick out our horses. RoR will allow us to do this in two ways: statistically through talent trees and cosmetically through colors and visuals. The trait trees will be split into offensive, defensive, and support categories.
Finally, our mounts are good for something more than just getting us to work on the weekdays; these new war-steeds will be able to bite, kick, and trample the enemy (although this only applies to the mounted combat areas). Mr. Ed's back, and he's looking for some justice.
7. Our mounts have a limited version of autopilot.
In order to help players engage in mounted combat without feeling overwhelmed by it, war-steeds will be able to move toward and charge at a targeted enemy without your having to constantly adjust for it. Instead, the horse "autopilot" will free up players to concentrate on combat skills.
8. There's a new engine upgrade.
Don't overlook the fact that Lord of the Rings Online will be delivering a lot more eyecandy come this fall! Turbine's said that the team's putting in an engine upgrade that will deliver all sorts of nifty visuals, especially in Fangorn forest. Plants will react to players' passing, new types of light sources will come into play, and we'll be able to see more clearly into the distance.
9. We'll be traveling faster than ever before.
The war-steeds will boast the fastest travel speeds in the game. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to flying (figuratively) over the plains.
10. The lands and epic story continue to be free.
Don't feel like shelling out for Rohan? Turbine's still going to allow you to check out the new zones and partake in the epic storyline. I know -- the studio's been doing that for a while now, but free is free, and it's good to recognize that.
LotRO loves to put us in the shoes of other people and animals, from Wormtongue to chickens, but it's in the legendary edition that you'll get the opportunity to play as a horse. From what I've read of this edition's "exclusive" content, it's an interesting way to get into the... hooves of one of Rohan's famous mounts. It's a shame that this doesn't come with all the editions, but it doesn't seem absolutely necessary to have, either.
12. You'll be able to rebuild a town.
Riders of Rohan's themes of war and the toll it takes on civilization will be illustrated with a battle-ruined town. Phasing will come into play as players take on tasks to help rebuild this town from a ruined husk to a place of life.
13. We'll get a separate skill bar for mounted skills.
This is good if you're looking at your insanely crowded hotbar and wondering where space could be made for all of the new and adjusted mounted combat skills in the expansion. Turns out we don't have to worry: Mount up, and the hotbar will switch over.
14. Not all of the new skills are mount-related.
Whether you're totally on board with the mounted combat or couldn't care less, you'll still have a few new or upgraded abilities while on foot. Considering that we're jumping up 10 whole levels, I would be surprised if this were not the case.
15. "Eastemnet" just rolls off the tongue.
And there's no need to obsessively check to see whether you've mistyped it, either!
When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.