It might not be anything as shocking (and, erm, incredibly slow) as hypothetical Ent play, but the epic story of Lord of the Rings Online: Helm's Deep
promises to be a grand experience to match or exceed what we've experienced before. Three new books with about 12 chapters apiece await those who dive into the expansion and charge into western Rohan.
While the epic story has always been a mixture of Turbine's
storytelling creations and Tolkien's canonical events, Helm's Deep
will hew a lot more closely to the books than ever before. This is the penultimate part of The Two Towers, and the dev team wants to do it right.
That's not to say you won't get to see your favorite secondary characters, so fret not if you're looking for more inspiration for that Nona/Horn romance novel you've been writing. It's just that they'll be taking a backseat to the major players -- and a few surprises -- as events lead us to the titular fortress and the most important battle in the game to date.
Things didn't look so hot for our heroes and our own characters at the end of Riders of Rohan
. Éomer had been imprisoned, Théoden King had fallen under the sway of Gríma Wormtongue, and we had been banished from the region. It's amazing how quickly all that can change, as Gandalf and his reduced fellowship barge into Edoras to make a little trouble for Saruman.
Gandalf reveals himself as Gandalf the White and helps Théoden throw off the shackles of Wormtongue. Players are able to slip back in and witness this scene courtesy of Hama the door ward, who's a good guy at heart. If you got a little irked at Wormtongue previously, you'll enjoy seeing him writhe on the ground for a good long while.
The first book of expansion's epic story will revolve around Edoras, the second book will take place all over western Rohan, and the third book will be all about Helm's Deep. While there won't be any major decisions players will make during the epic story (we asked), Turbine did promise a few regular quests that will feature decision points as well as a new mystery to solve.
Théoden's corruption by Wormtongue has turned him into a weaker old man, which is why it's a pivotal moment when Éomer returns his sword to his hand. Théoden has the chance to be a warrior once again, and it's here that you can finally see some hope come to this besieged country.
We will be spending some good time with Hama in Helm's Deep, Éomer in his house, and Éowyn around the region. Éowyn is the niece of Théoden; she aspires to be a shieldmaiden in combat, and the team was quite excited to talk about her role in the epic book. In Lord of the Rings, Éowyn is important but gets relatively little page space, which is why the team wanted to give her some time to shine as she stays behind to help with the evacuation of Rohan.
In fact, the team created a completely new character to be Éowyn's role-model. Fríthild is a battle-hardened shieldmaiden who is a hero to
Éowyn, a vision of what Éowyn wants to be but -- at least for the time being -- cannot.
We still didn't get to see the epic battle system in action, but Helm's Deep was a little more populated this time around as we poked about in the third book. The book starts with the calm before the storm as you help Aragorn shore up the morale of the soldiers on the wall. From then on, the devs promise to "bring chaos to life" as thousands of Orcs charge into the fray.
Helm's Deep is absolutely enormous, especially when you start touring the inside and out. You won't spend the entire book behind its walls, either, as you'll help defend the "indefensible" Helm's Dike and fight alongside Gimli in the Glittering Caves.
The devs said that there are five points of the battle that will be available through the epic battle system, although each point won't necessarily scale to all of the potential group sizes. There's been a lot of work done to keep the battles fresh and different upon replays, at least if you take the devs' word for it. We also asked about epic story rewards, but the team said that those had yet to be finalized.
There were a few questions answered that weren't related to the epic story. The team is looking into creating an official GLFF channel, since so many players use it but it doesn't receive official support. There will be new music done in-house for the expansion, although it won't be from Chance Thomas this time around. And while there won't be any additional changes to mounted combat for the time being, there will be plenty of room for it in Helm's Deep, as 75% or so of the new regions will support the feature.
Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?