I am at least halfway through The Wold in Lord of the Rings Online (“LOTRO”). The Wold is one of the subzones for Eastern Rohan, and it is intended for characters between levels 75-77. So it is still early in the expansion for me. I do however have my warhorse.
Mounts are a pretty key feature in LOTRO. Before the Riders of Rohan expansions there were two types. A personal mount, horse or goat, could be called nearly anywhere. Its movement controls were basically the same to a dismounted character. The only differences were a significant speed boost and a small health pool for the mount before characters would get knocked off by attackers. The other type was a fast travel mount which followed a set path between towns like a railway car. The only control available was dismounting along the way.
Warhorses are the new type of mount, and they are very different from their predecessors. Warhorses have acceleration and velocity, which makes handling them wholly different. They can strafe at very low speeds (like to get in front of a quest giver), but when going full bore it’s more akin to driving a car. The player goes forward and steers to adjust course. I use the mouse camera to steer, which also makes circling enemies much easier. A sharp turn requires a lower speed. For the most part it is very intuitive, but it does get some taking used to for combat.
My only experience with mounted combat relates to my captain. He has three melee range skills and two ranged skills. I am not sure how or if the light-armored classes fare differently. I would assume, for instance, that a hunter would have mostly ranged skills.
Anyway, combat has a resource called Fury. The more a player runs forward the more Fury builds, which adds significant damage to the next attack. As it is capped by velocity, a sudden turn on a corner will drop Fury back to zero. This nudges players toward fighting in passes, or at least trying to constantly move. For regular enemies, I rarely worry about Fury. The opening hit is usually at full Fury, and after that the Fury is about 25-50% full.
Mounted combat feels much quicker than standing combat. I can drop enemies fairly quickly, and it also feels a little more organic because we are visually trading blows in passes. Overall I feel it is really well done. It feels like powerful, mounted combat. Mounted combat in LOTRO feels like it is close to real without decreasing the fun, game-y-ness of the system. The warhorse leveling system and new legendary item are also added in a simple way that feels like it clicks without being a new overbearing piece of the puzzle.
However, one old system really seems to get in the way. In Turbine’s own Dungeons and Dragons Online, Guild Wars 2, and a few other MMOs, if I fire off a skill without a target it will go off and try to hit something. In LOTRO, I get some blaring red text telling me I don’t have a valid target. This reduces that nice organic feeling quite a bit. With one or two enemies, the old system works okay, but when I am fighting warbands of 4-5 people, it gets chaotic. I start having trouble finding my target or making sure that a pass at the enemies is not wasted. To be fair, I haven’t fiddled with any options to see if mashing some button will de-target the enemy behind me and auto-target the one I am set to run down. Yet for the default, I am finding that tab-targeting to make sure a pass doesn’t get wasted lowers the smooth feeling of mounted combat.
Overall I am really impressed with this new, very substantial system that LOTRO added. It feels fresh, which is quite a feat for an aging MMO. Right now most mobs are on foot, but I am starting to find a few mounted enemies. I am sure that as I run westward to higher level content, the mobs will start to get trickier than trampling a few lizards in a shallow marsh. I am definitely looking forward to more.