I made it to Rohan! One of my favorite areas in both the LOTR books and movies was Rohan. I like the mythological Norse quality to the place as well as the simple stoicism of the rohirrim. I was eager to get my wee hobbit out there to see Turbine’s take on Rohan.

While Rohan launched earlier last week, I was tied up with work so I was a bit late to the party. This seems to have worked in my favor as the intro areas were relatively unpopulated. Also, as I understand it, there was a lot of instability during the early hours of the launch.  Other than the copious amounts of lag in the new areas, I didn’t crash and everything seemed to be OK with my inventory.

There were a fair number of kill-ten-x types of quests in the beginning. They also seem to have added some additional quest features. Much like WAR, you can end up getting some quests that will pop up just from being in a certain area. You’ll get a notice pop up in your sidebar which, when you click on it, will give you the new quest. I think there’s a way to turn off the notice so you automatically accept the quests and won’t get the notice. I heard about it in kinchat but haven’t looked into it too much.

After whomping some mobs and doing good deeds (including a pretty cool battle defending a town from the forces of evil) I ended up getting the much-talked-about mount for mounted combat. Overall, I like it. After running some of the tutorial stuff (run in circles, hit some targets, jump some stuff) I think I have a better handle on the horse system and am eager to try it out. The forward button, once pressed, will drive the horse forward until you hit back enough times to make it stop – it’s more of an accelerator than a simple forward command. You can hold forward until your horse is at max speed and then just let go. The horse will keep going. One caveat though: the faster it goes the harder it is to turn.

After the tutorial and some more goofing off I ended the quest line and got a bunch of class-specific mount abilities. I haven’t had the chance to go through them all yet but it looks pretty interesting. There’s a lot of jousting-type skills for a burglar, which makes sense as he’s not really a ranged character.

Overall, I’m liking the new areas and the new quest lines.

** Possible spoilers after the fold **

The Good

Landscape: Rohan is gorgeous. Much like in the movies, there are lots of open spaces and rocky formations. The towns are wonderfully rendered. It reminded me of some of the places among the Nords in Oblivion.

Questline: While Rohan hasn’t eliminated the appearent need for adventurers to perform menial labor, pest control and cleaning duties, those parts are brief and lead fairly quickly to battle with the bad guys.

Game mechanics: I like the additional, area-sensitive quests. I’m anticipating less time running around in a town getting every single quest and more time picking up a few quests and getting the rest along the way. I liked the new mob loot mechanic: it’s “stored” not in your bags (not right away) but in a separate, clickable icon. Click the icon to get your loot. I’m not sure why they did this but it’s a nice touch to unclutter some of the bag space.

There’s also a new epic quest line that begins with Galadriel in Lothlorien. I’ve only played through part of it but the beginning stages feature another chance to see the Fellowship. I’m always a sucker for getting back with them again and that section of the newest Book didn’t disappoint.

The new mounts are fun and will work in the old areas of the world even though you can only use them for combat in the new areas. I’ve been using mine a lot just to try to get used to it. Personally, I’m still trying to make up my mind about whether or not I like mounted combat. Thus far, I’ve been having fun with it though the burglar class seems to only have limited things it can do from a horse. (Though I do get an orc ‘stealth’ disguise which, if nothing else, is hilarious.)

The Bad

One thing I’m finding increasingly annoying / immersion-breaking is the difference between the NPC models and the player-character models. Horse / pony models are also slightly different. I suspect this may be due to the customization panels on the new mounts which are adding girth to the design.

Neither the character models or the horse models are a deal breaker for me but the difference is pretty pronounced. One thing WoW (among other games) got exactly right is that the character model is the same as the NPC model. If everything is the same it feels more like a world.

I also had to re-allocate my legendary item points.  I do not care for the legendary system in the game and having to spend all my points again just to have a usable weapon underscores one of my problems with it.

The Ugly

La-a-aa-ggg. I was rubber-banding quiet frequently, especially while I was in the first town after the intro quests for the area. The new area will be unplayable unless you wait about five minutes after you can start seeing landscape on your character. It may also become temporarily unplayable at random periods throughout game play. The old parts of the world do not seem to have the same issue so when it gets to be a bit much, I’ve been doing some of the older epic quests and otherwise goofing off.

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