When looking over the feature list for Lord of the Rings Online's upcoming Rohan expansion, one thing in particular caught my eye. Mounted combat. An image jumped into my head. I saw a warrior riding charging towards a band of Orcs on a gleaming war steed, dismounting with mighty blows as he passed. Later, I spoke to executive producer Kate Paiz about the upcoming expansion, and discovered that this vision of jousting warriors wasn't too far from the truth.
"My sense of it is, you'll be riding across the plains, and you'll look off into the distance and you see this column of smoke and you're like "huh, I wonder what that is" and you realise that the smoke is coming closer to you, and is in fact a mounted band of Orcs sent out by Saruman to harry the villagers of Rohan," she said, "You have decide whether you're going to ride in the opposite direction, call a few friends or heedlessly charge into battle."
As you ride towards the enemy, you'll be able to activate a new set of mounted combat skills for your horse and your warrior that will connect as you race past them. If your foe is still alive, you can circle back and take another charge. If you or your opponent takes a hard enough hit, you can be set flying off your mount, and the fight will continue. "At that point you can choose to keep your advantage of being mounted, or whether you dismount to take care of your foes with your very hands," Kate explained.
The warhorses will be a different breed entirely to the mounts you can currently use to get around Middle Earth quicker. The new steeds will be bigger, beefier and tougher, and will come with their own trait system. "you'll be able to customise their physical appearance and also the abilities that they lend you so they're a good match for your character and the abilities you have already."
Customise their appearance? Does this mean we'll be able to buy horse armour?
"Yeah, absolutely. There will be a variety of customisable options both in the store, and earnable in-game," said Kate.
Lord of the Rings: Riders of Rohan will be out later this year. It'll boost the level cap to 85 and let players ride across the vast plains of Eastern Rohan. LoTRO is free to play. You can sign up and download the client from the Lord of the Rings Online site .