Following some of Dunland and most of The Great River, I finally embarked on the first two regions in the expansion pack Riders of Rohan which originally released in fall 2012. This brought along a few interesting new features I was quite curious about.
First, The Wold – the northern region of East Rohan just below The Great River.
The first thing I noticed right away as I rode into this region was the new music. It was wonderful. Just the right spirit and style of composition that brought me right back to when the game was launched in 2007. There was especially a repeating theme among the hills of The Wold that I was really fond of. I never grew tired of it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have quite the same praise for the music in The East Wall.
It just used a symphonic version of the Tom Bombadil theme.
The Wold was mostly wide open hills with a few swamps and big human settlements (much like Stangard in The Great River). I quickly learned about two new features here.
The first was the pop-up quests (or “auto-bestow” as the developers liked to call them) which were quests that either popped up for the taking upon entering a small area, after killing the first type of mob there, or picking up the first interactive item. A good idea that other MMORPG had also taken to heart.
The other was how an area could completely change after a significant milestone in the story had been reached. For example, the settlement of Langhold was assaulted, the thane was killed after a big battle by the entrance, and his family and friends had to flee to the outskirts of the bigger settlement Harwick a bit further south. Langhold was burning as we left it, and when I was later sent back to find a few leftover earnings, most of the houses were burned to carcasses.
World of Warcraft have had this for years but it was nice to see it in LOTRO too.
I must say that the developers hid this assault on Langhold well. When I first entered the town, the sight of all those children made me believe this town certainly wouldn’t be attacked. In fact, the children had me participate in a cute game where they pretended to be brigands running around in circles and I had to sort of “bash” them. But I sure was wrong about my initial assumption. I stand corrected.
One thing I had sworn not to do this time around in LOTRO was crafting. I only wanted to be adventuring. But as I entered The Wold, new types of skarn deposits were scattered around the landscape, and I no longer had the skill to mine them. Riding around among all those skarns yet not being able to mine them felt too much like a lost opportunity, so I actually went into a crafting hall and smelted a billion ingots to reach the skill required. I didn’t do the same thing with cooking, though.
As Langhold burned down and I was sent to Harwick, I was introduced to the big feature of the expansion pack. Mounted combat. I was given a horse and a quest for riding through checkpoints in a closed loop.
I was really overwhelmed by the complexity of this feature. Like the legendary items back in Moria, it was too much of a good thing. The new horse had its own panel with several tabs. It could get a legendary item bridle, it could level up, had its own trait trees, and it was even possible to customize its appearance.
The action bar was replaced too when I mounted up and had its own set of skills. Riding around this new type of horse was completely different from the old type of mount. It could ride more than twice as fast, but unfortunately it also had inertia in every move. Turning, speeding up or down, even stopping. It was like drifting a car on ice. I got used to it but I was never a fan of this kind of mobility.
I tried as few warband quests in The Wold – luckily they were few – and I quickly learned that it just took longer with the weaker mounted combat skills. One of the later warband encounters against Urush and his two minions ended up with my very first death since I started this month. I then found him on foot and killed them all with my standard rune-keeper spells. Dismounted combat for the win.
They did do a lot of damage and I had to pop all of my survival skills too, but it was doable.
But as said, they were few in the Wold, and there were even none in The East Wall. For the most part, I solely used the new mount when I had to ride far from one end of the map to the other.
Most of the quests were standard count quests. Mobs in The Wold were horses (of which I killed none), salamanders, brigands, wargs, and few draugs.
Much like Stangard in The Great River, I never got to see the end of quest line in the biggest settlement of Harwick. The thane was suspicious of me and had me expelled from the town. Later I got quests for talking to certain NPC’s while keeping away from guards with fire icons on top of their heads.
But where I left Stangard because of a stealth quest, I was cut short in Harwick because of a bug.
The widow of Langhold’s thane asked me to check out an empty mansion in Harwick. I got the keys from a guy and entered it. It was swarming with hostile rats so I had to kill them, after which the widow entered the mansion before the dedicated count quest for the rats popped up. Naturally this prevented me from completing the quest. I tried restarting the quest but it was just the same crap all over again.
I then wrote at ticket in the help panel which, now three days later, is still left completely ignored.
Instead I rode down to the region of The East Wall. I actually liked this region a lot. It was following the river that the fellowship sailed along in the book and movies. The one that passed through two enormous statues and into a lake, and where Boromir met his demise after a short battle against orcs. I even found the place with lots of dead orcs and Boromir’s blood still visible on a tree.
There was also a unique cave system that didn’t just use a prefab (it had three mob chambers) and I also climbed on top of Amon Hen to admire the beautiful vista into the next region. Apart from a few hounds, mobs were almost solely salt-and-pepper orcs everywhere. I even had to help a few humans free a feisty dwarf from an orc camp close to Amon Hen.
I was now getting close to level 78 and it was time for the next region, Norcrofts. Bet I’m going to find some more of those awkward warband quests there. It looks like it has the space for it.