The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan preview
When I saw The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan at E3 this year, I was admittedly ignorant to The Lord of the Rings universe. Since then, I became a respectable person and watched the film adaptations in anticipation of my tour through the Riders of Rohan beta. Though the MMO is based on the book lore and not the movie license, the extra bit of knowledge helped me appreciate more of what Turbine is doing with their new expansion. I enjoyed my time with Riders of Rohan at E3 but after my crash course in Tolkien mythology, the full Middle Earth experience was opened up to me.
My tour through Rohan began with a look at the expansion's story content. Throughout the storyline, players may assume the role of characters from the fellowship. I was treated to the scene where Frodo wanders the landscape wondering if they should break up the fellowship. The temptation of the ring is too strong to have a large traveling party, or so it seems. There was no combat in this sequence as the flashback was purely meant to let the player live out this portion of The Lord of the Rings tale. Despite MMO limitations, the severity of the situation came across and the sequence felt genuine. If all the fellowship flashbacks are as well designed as this one, they may be one of the best aspects of the expansion.
Following along the storyline thread, my tour took me to the throne room of Théoden, King of Rohan. At the time of this expansion, the King is still under the influence of Wormtongue, his chief advisor. I wasn't tipped off to what story they have planned for the throne room, but I was allowed to explore the interior and marvel at its structure and decor. The east and west halls of the chamber are decked out with tapestries which detail the history of Rohan. Since only one tapestry is described in the books, Turbine used their knowledge of Rohan history to fill out what the rest of the chamber may have looked like. The final product is impressive, and adds a sense of reality to the fiction. Though I may not know what lies in store for the player in King Théoden's throne room, I know that simply standing in the hall is impressive.
The last piece of story content I witnessed was the town of Hytbold. At E3, the most impressive part of the Riders of Rohan puzzle was the burned down settlement that, through a series of quests, the player could rebuild into a burgeoning township. They only had the initial destroyed settlement on display during my tour, but it was enough to reinvigorate my interest in the feature. The settlement is large and with 150 stages of reconstruction, it sounds like it will hold players' attentions for a long time. Even with the town demolished, the area felt lived in. Most of the settlement had waist high stone fences that border roads for horse travel. Rohan is a horse-centric region, and the town structure depicts this.