The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan preview
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It would be impossible to talk about Riders of Rohan without discussing how horses play a role. Mounted combat and horse customization were key aspects in my E3 demo, but this was my first hands-on. Immediately, I realized these horses weren't typical MMO mounts. Instead of being a percentage speed increase, horses in Riders of Rohan have multiple speeds and maintain momentum. There will be times you want to ride full gallop, and other times where a brisk trot is superior. You can't ride hard all the time or you risk your momentum taking you past your objective. The horse riding feels great and the speed makes exploring far away parts of Rohan much more tempting.
Mounted combat has lead to design changes in The Lord of the Rings Online's action, as well. The two most noticeable differences are open tapping and remote looting. Tapping is an MMO concept that determines who gets loot and experience for a mob kill; generally this is the person who initiates combat. Open tapping means everyone who contributes to killing a mob is rewarded for their efforts. Contributors get the loot, the quest reward, the full experience, everything they would get if they downed the mob solo. This is a welcome change to MMO combat that all other developers should take note of.
Remote looting is Turbine's solution to maintaining fluidity in mounted combat. When you down a mob in Rohan, you are awarded personalized loot automatically. When galloping across the planes of Rohan, stopping at a corpse to pick up a trinket is simply not an option. Loot is also determined by player now, instead of by kill. While a mob used to have a chance of dropping an item for the whole party, each individual player now has a chance to earn an item from the kill. This alleviates fighting over loot, and promotes a friendlier atmosphere for spontaneous grouping. Between open tapping and remote looting, Riders of Rohan strides to make questing and combat more social.
Despite the focus on perfecting the mounted experience, there's plenty of on-foot content in Riders of Rohan. As my tour wrapped up, I was taken to Fangorn Forest to explore nature and take arms against angry ents -- tree-like creatures of the forest. While traversing the woods I was struck by how dense it felt. Foliage covered the landscape like a rug, paths were discernible but overgrown, and the trees dwarfed all objects around them. For as impressive as King Théoden's throne room was, the atmosphere of the forest matched its detail and craft.
I've seen Riders of Rohan from two sides, now. At E3, I was the new guy. I couldn't tell Gondor from Isengard or Boromir from Faramir. Despite that, the expansion impressed me with its focus on single player end game and mounted combat. Now, months later, I know Isengard is Saruman's tower of operations and Faramir is the ill-fated son of the Steward of Gondor. Upon a second tour of Rohan, it continued to impress me with its story content and atmosphere. Whether you're a Tolkien veteran or completely oblivious, Riders of Rohan has something for you. Take it from the guy who has seen both sides. The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan launches October 15th and you can pre-purchase the expansion on their website.