Lord of the Rings Online players got very, very excited when the Riders of Rohan expansion was announced. Update 6: The Great River Region is the stepping stone to that anticipated expansion and offers players a taste of the vastness soon to follow. I took a tour of The Great River Region with Producer Aaron “Rowan” Campbell and Director of Communications Adam Mersky. Through hills, forests, Trolls and Easterlings, we travelled across this vast region to see what it had to offer before its launch next Monday, March 12th.
Our tour began with the starting point for player's adventures in The Great River Region, Thinglad. A little bit of Mirkwood, and a little bit of Rohan, this area features one of the most impressive in-game sights that I've seen in LOTRO so far: a massive statue of two figures commemorating an important moment in Rohan's history. In the spirit of keeping this spoiler-free, I'll let players find out the significance of this statue during the course of their travels through this region, but I will say that the missing hand of one of the statues will be a key driver for the players' story.
As we scampered out of Limlight Gorge, barely holding ourselves together as we escaped that menaces of that region, Rowan took a minute to show off the new instance finder tool that's coming in the new update. The temporary group-finder solution introduced several patches ago has been rightly bemoaned by players and will be completely replaced by this more streamlined, elegant solution.
It will allow players to choose from the multitude of content available, including random content, specific instances, and skirmishes. The catch is that the less random their choice is, the less of a bonus they will receive. This seems to strike a good balance of letting players choose their content, but also provide incentives for helping fill holes in the groups waiting for a specific role. These bonuses will be a boost to player morale and power as well as currency gained (which will be variable). To me, the best part of this change is that hobbits and dwarves be no longer forced to leave their instancing and skirmishing adventures to the will of the random number generator. You can find an official Dev Diary on the new Instance Finder here .
Continuing on our tour, we travelled to Rushgore, where the rushes—tall, reed plants—swayed above us, hiding both enemy and friend in their shadows. In this marshy environment, we met our first Easterling: a member of the local tribes who've descended from the Easterlings who attacked Gondor 500 years ago. Their history is dark and filled with sordid actions--you may struggle to refrain yourself from punching them in the faces as you uncover their tale.
One of the interesting new pieces of technology in Riders of Rohan is a tool that allows Turbine to change the appearance (weapons/armor/facial features) of each of the Easterlings without having to create different multiple enemy “creatures." This new tech gives each of the Easterlings randomized features, which keeps the enemies looking different, and hopefully takes away the typical monotony that arises as you face your 50th identical enemy.
Another big highlight of the tour was our visit to the Ent Wives' Garden. This section of the Brown Lands once held the beautiful gardens tended by the Ent Wives while the Ents wandered near and far. As we know from the books and movies though, after returning from one such journey, the Ents found the garden empty, and the Ent Wives were lost.
The Brown lands have now been taken over by trolls, and players will be able to explore this region, and discover some clues as to the mystery of the Ent Wives.
We made a few more stops along the way, including Stangard, the new zone hub, which exudes the spirit of Rohan through its architecture and inhabitants. The Wailing Hills overlooked the zone, rolling under the hooves of our mounts as we travelled between the rocky outcroppings. The Gondorian ruins that doted the landscape as we explored Parth Celebrant reminded me of the landscapes of Eregion. Finally, as our tour came to a close, I basked in the light of the sun as it slowly set over the edge of Fangorn Forest, the promise of adventure and danger hanging heavy in the air. If you're looking for me Monday, you'll have to come in-game to find me—I'm ready to explore this vast new wilderness.