Preview: We Ride With Rohan’s Developers

Rohan, one of the kingdoms of man and a region that is extremely important in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Since Lord of the Rings Online was first launched way back in 2007 gamers have been eagerly awaiting the eventual expansion into Rohan. People have speculated about what Turbine would do with Rohan, would there be mounted combat? How big would Rohan actually be? Would it take so long for Turbine to create Rohan that the game would be irrelevant by then? Well thanks to a recent tour of the new expansion, guided by Hannah Foell (Associate Producer of Riders of Rohan), I can firmly answer all of the above questions and I think you are going to like the answer.

[singlepic id=9200 w=320 h=240 float=left] First and foremost Riders of Rohan is the 4th full expansion for Lord of the Rings Online and apart from the introduction of Legendary Items that came with Moria, I think mounted combat will be the most significant gameplay addition the game has seen. Mounted combat is alive and well in Riders of Rohan through the introduction of War-Steeds. The War-Steed is your own personal war horse that will level up and become more powerful as you progress. There are three basic types of War-Steeds, light, medium, and heavy, all with the familiar roles of tank, dps, or healer/buffer. This doesn’t mean that there will only be three basic War-Steeds running around though, as each War-Steed type has three separate skill branches that you can unlock, each skill branch represents a different base set of skills and it won’t be possible to max out all three branches, so I would expect some heavy customization to go into a player’s preferred play style.

Going into the tour I was extremely curious about the actual gameplay of the War-Steeds and I had concerns about how user friendly they would be. After all, the War-Steeds are designed to be constantly moving at high rates of speed, all while you battle enemies. So how could this possibly work in an MMO that was originally designed for close range, foot based combat? Luckily Turbine has done several things to make the mounted combat work. The first thing they did was make Rohan’s zones fairly large. If you add up all of the new zones  in Rohan it is twice as big as all of Moria. This room allows players to move around and attack enemies, without the fear of constantly running into an invisible wall.

[singlepic id=9229 w=320 h=240 float=right] The next thing Turbine did was create an autopilot button. Imagine trying to control your horse, running to and from your enemy, all while keeping the enemy in your sights and executing your attacks and healing maneuvers. It is possible, but it could also be very frustrating. So Turbine solved this problem by creating an autopilot feature. The autopilot essentially takes over all of your movement controls. Once you target an enemy and hit the autopilot button your mount will automatically move to and from the enemy, leaving you to only have to worry about the actual combat. Players who don’t want to use the autopilot don’t have to, but it sure makes mounted combat a heck of a lot easier.

Turbine is also going to introduce a couple of quality of life improvements with mounted combat. The biggest improvement in my mind is the fact that your character will auto loot everything after a mounted kill, this means you don’t have to constantly stop and dismount in order to grab your loot. The next big improvement is the open tapping system. This new system applies to enemies in the field, with open tapping as long as a player gets a hit on an enemy they will receive both XP and quest credit for it, regardless of who attacked the enemy first and if you are grouped up or not. Last but not least many of the mounted quests will automatically pop up in a UI window once you approach the quest area. So no more running back and forth to town in order to pick up quests.  If all of these changes seem familiar to you then it probably means that you have played Guild Wars 2. While the developers didn’t say where they got the ideas from, I think it’s a good sign that they are trying to make quality of life improvements that newer games have.

[singlepic id=9219 w=320 h=240 float=left] As always the research group at Turbine has gone out of their way to make sure the in game content accurately reflects the source material that Tolkien created. The developers carefully researched everything from Rohan’s Nordic influence with the heavy use of wooden art, leather, and faithfully recreated tapestries in the mead halls, even taking it as far as researching and deciding which side of the river Isildur’s statute at Argonath should be placed on. It’s the attention and recreation of all of the little details that makes the difference. The legendary story also adds to the lore and gets a big addition with Rohan. There will be 3 new books to play through, starting with the breaking of the fellowship at Amon Hen, where you will actually to get play as members of the fellowship and witness Boromir’s tragic death. Tolkien fans will find a lot to like with Rohan.

Finishing up the tour I got to explore another new gameplay element in the town of Hytbold. The developers wanted to create new end game content with the solo gamer in mind and they decided that a natural fit would be the rebuilding of a town that has been destroyed by orcs. Upon first entering Hytbold you will be greeted with burnt down buildings and ruined city defenses. It’s then up to the player to accept quests all designed around rebuilding the town. This doesn’t mean that you will be going from spot A to spot B to pick up nails and wood the whole time. The developers assured me that the quests are varied and will take you all over Rohan. The more quests you complete the better the town will start to look and you will also be able to earn Raid level gear. I personally took a look at the Hunter gear and it was impressive, I will take +170 agility as a stat buff all day long.  Hytbold will allow players who don’t like to group up or go on long Raid sessions to finally be able to get really good gear.

There is a lot more to talk about and see in Rohan, but the rest of it will have to wait for my full review of the game after it goes live on October 15th. Rest assured from what I’ve seen long time LotRO players will be happy with Riders of Rohan.

Mike's first experience with a console was in the early 80’s when his dad brought home an Atari 400. It wasn’t the greatest gaming machine at the time but it did play a crude version of Pac-Man and it had a keyboard. But, Mike's love for videogames really got started when his friend invited him over to his house to show off his newly acquired NES with Super Mario Bros. Mike had never experienced a game like that before and his friend actually convinced him that jumping into one of the pits would give him a powerup. It was a cruel joke and Mario lept to his death. But from that moment on Mike was hooked.

Mike was originally brought onto the Gaming Trend staff as a PSP editor starting with the god awful Major League Baseball 2K8. Thankfully, these days he reviews much better titles. He also spends an obscene amount of time playing The Lord of the Rings Online with his Dwarf Rune Keeper named McLush and his Warden named Hanton on the Elendilmir server.

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