Howard was very disdainful of society, and so Funcom doesn't want any one faction to be the outright good guys or bad guys. Instead, the new content straddles many moral gray areas and when you think you're making the "good" choice you may find out that, actually, the people you've sided with have their own dark sides and evils. This ties directly into their focus on creating challenging storylines where players have to consider the consequences of their own actions.
Equipment can of course be earned from these new factions, and boy is it pretty. We're very happy to report that faction armor maintains a visual theme as you progress in the game. As a player levels, the new armors become increasingly ornate and decidedly more complex, helping to better visualize a player's level and faction allegiance by appearance alone.
What's even better is how people will be earning these new armors. As you move up through loyalty levels in each faction, you unlock new armor sets. Yes, we wrote that correctly: Each new tier gained within a faction unlocks a whole set, not simply a piece of armor. With 12 factions in the game, and four tiers each, that's a whole lot of new armor to unlock and it ranges from light, medium to heavy so there's something for every class.
Tiger and wolf mounts are making their way into the game with RotG, but not without an aspect of choice. First you have to earn some loyalty with a faction that knows how to tame tigers. Once you've garnered enough trust, you'll be able to take an initiation test. This involves taking off your armor, leaving your weapons behind and venturing into the wild naked in order to find a wild tiger and beat it with your bare hands -- and then stealing a cub from the den. After taking the cub you go through a quest chain to raise it and teach it how to stalk, hunt, kill and eventually how to carry a man's weight. The end of that quest chain results in a choice: do you keep it as a combat pet or a mount? The decision is irreversible.
As for new levels, Funcom made a conscious choice not to raise the level cap. Instead they're implementing an alternate advancement system. While leveling as you normally would, you'll be gaining alternate advancement points for three new trees containing spells, abilities and combos. The goal here is to avoid creating a situation where only the max level players get to earn shiny new abilities. It's also allowed the design team to give a little bit of the eastern theme to every class through these new ubiquitous advancement trees.
The idea of training will also be introduced. Once a new skill is earned, players can decide where to focus their training. As time progresses both in-game and out, this 'trained' skill will increase in level. It's a system very much like the one in EVE Online, except instead of using it to learn new skills players will be using it to level up existing skills they've earned in the expansion.
AoC players both present, former and future have a lot to look forward to in RotG. A lot of the game deals with choices, and it's obvious that the choice Funcom made was to create an expansion that would appeal to quite literally everyone. So much of the new content isn't restricted by your level that we can't help but give the developer major props. They're in good company too, when you consider the only other expansion similar to theirs in basic philosophy is Cataclysm.