A horse of my own
The most notable new feature introduced with Riders of Rohan is undoubtedly mounted combat. Players will have the opportunity to acquire a steed, customize it, and take it into battle. Turbine has put in a lot of effort into making the mechanic of riding a horse into combat more than just a gimmick. Campbell told us, "We've treated the introduction of mounted combat much like the introduction of a new class. Horses are fully customizable with talent trees that correspond with combat roles and feature a whole new resource mechanic."
Turbine deliberately chose the hard way with this one in an attempt to set the game apart from the rest. It's a bold move, but one that really fits the expansion. It has vast, wide open spaces and broad horizons that are very suitable for this kind of gameplay. Therefore, mounted combat will (for the moment) be exclusive to Riders of Rohan content, so don't expect to prance around on your combat pony through the Shire just yet. "Making mounted combat available throughout the game would mean we'd have to go back and redo all the content. That was something we didn't find feasible or appropriate for that matter."
Campbell also showed off some of the customization options for horses. You can select from a wide variety of customizable parts, such as saddles, tails, and armor. With the vast amount of unlockable content, it is entirely possible to give your horse a unique look. "We wanted to cater to all kinds of players. Roleplayers will have the possibility to give their horse a distinct elven look, for instance, or anything else that would suit their characters' backstories. And yes, stats are separate from appearance."
Quests were designed with mounted combat in mind as well. About fifty percent of RoR's quests will revolve around your horse and horse combat. Rewards will include customization options and armor. To ease questing with your horse, RoR introduces looting at a distance. You don't have to stand still next to corpses in order to loot them, nor do you have to loot them individually. Clicking on a corpse will open up loot possibilities for surrounding corpses as well. AoE-looting isn't unique to RoR in the MMO space, but it certainly features the most appropriate setting in which to do it.
One thing mounted combat has impacted greatly is the size of the expansion. Nearly three times as big as Mines of Moria, Riders of Rohan features wide open spaces to prance around in. It also opens up new landmarks that will be familiar to fans of the books and/or films. Prominently featured are the Argonath, the symbolic gateway to the second chapter in the saga. Other places of interest include Amon Hen, Boromir's Glade, and Fangorn Forest. These places and their inhabitants form the backbone of the narrative side of RoR, enabling players to advance their journey. Rohan itself is dotted with towns with stuff for players to do. And one of the key sources for questing in RoR is the thane who rules each of these towns.
Theoden King, obviously influenced by Grima Wormtounge, has outlawed attacking Orcs in Rohan and has therefore put frowns on the faces of the thanes. The thanes look to you to quell the Orc invasion and protect their towns while performing a variety of other tasks that townsfolk lay upon you. More than half of the quests you encounter involve mounted combat, so be ready to defend towns and territories while riding your steed.
In contrast to the wide open plains stands Fangorn Forest. It's a dark and gloomy place but very much alive. "We've learned a lot from creating forests in the past. Gone are the times of walls and endless identical trees. In Fangorn, NPCs make up part of the scenery," says Campbell. Just don't make the mistake in thinking that all trees are friendly: They are not!
Aaron Campbell's excitement revealed a certain level of confidence in the final product, and that certainly showed. The graphical changes look stunning, and the new additions looked and felt completely new. Just when we were about to leave, Campbell couldn't resist once again: "Would you look at that sky. Oh, it's so pretty!"
Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan will launch on September 5th of this year.
Every summer, the gaming industry descends on Cologne, Germany, for Gamescom, the world's largest trade fair for interactive games and entertainment. Massively's on the scene in 2012, bringing you all the best scoops, impressions, and interviews from the MMOs at the show!