A wounded land: The sights of LotRO's West Rohan

A wounded land The regions of LotRO Helm's Deep
In past developer walkthroughs of Lord of the Rings Online: Helm's Deep, Turbine gave us a broad overview of the expansion as well as a look at the next portion of the epic story. For our third tour, we got to check out the vistas and landscapes of West Rohan.

One of our concerns was that after the expansiveness of East Rohan, the wast would be, well, more of the same. Lots of fields, horses galore, and so on. While the horses are still ever-present (this is Rohan, after all), West Rohan establishes a unique identity as a land that's more developed, more diverse, and more wounded. The theme of the region is simple: War is coming -- and is in fact already here.

In our tour through the five ridings of West Rohan, the developers stopped to point out how they crafted the region to do the country and its many fans justice. If you think you know it all from the movies or from base assumptions, you might want to open your mind to a richer experience that's coming soon to LotRO.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
Beauty will be juxtaposed with the ravages of war as players begin by making their way through Kingstead. Everyone in the region is preparing or reacting to the news that war is coming, and you'll see a lot of the smaller settlements packing up and heading for protection. The danger here is two-fold: Saruman's forces and the emboldened Orcs of the White Mountain.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
This is the town of Aldburg ("Old Fortress"), the former capital of Rohan. As such, it's got a combination of old architecture and overgrowth. In fact, the team has done a lot to put grass and bushes hedging in on roads, giving them a more organic look as if these paths had been made by foot and horses.

While you may not notice if you're running everywhere without stopping, there is an insane amount of detail that the team puts into each location. Not only are there ties to the books, such as a meticulously recreated tiny ford that the Fellowship crossed, but unique touches given to places you'll explore. Each mead hall is hand-designed to be different from each other in terms of layouts and tapestries, and even the door handles flap up when you open one.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
Again the devs teased us with the approach to the Paths of the Dead without letting us go inside (the Paths won't be available when Helm's Deep launches). Here are some uber-creepy Púkel-men statues on the approach. These were carved by the Men of the Second Age.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
And here's an oh-so-cheery monolith with skulls and inscriptions that probably are not welcoming us to the area.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
Nearby, Eowyn has set up camp with troops that are fleeing the Orcish advance. Such a pretty sky for a strategic retreat, don't you agree?

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
In the region of Stonedeans you'll encounter a rockier, greener landscape than elsewhere in Rohan. It's an area where the Rohirrim have, on occasion, intermarried with the Dunlandings, so expect to see a mixture of races and styles while you're here.

Refugees are often clogging the roads and entrances to the towns, as seen above.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
Turbine wanted to include a lot of ambient storytelling with the expansion, so players will stumble upon burned down villages and other visual cues that won't be part of a specific questline. The team said that the story and setting of Helm's Deep will be one of the darkest that the game's seen to date.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
Here, a Rohirrim caravan is ambushed and the people slaughtered. Some of the Rohirrim underestimated the threat and speed of the invasion, unfortunately.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
Outside of Edoras are the tombs of the kings. Each tomb will be unique and offer the sight-seer a historical rundown of the rulers of Rohan.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
Turbine scoured the books for every detail it could get on the region, its people, and landmarks. This "horsesplosion" fountain in Edoras comes straight from the books. The developers said that when beta testing began, they saw many players seek this fountain out right away to see if it was there.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
Here we are once again at Helm's Deep. To keep your terminology straight, Helm's Deep is the valley and Hornburg is the castle that was built to protect the Glittering Caves. The valley was designed to follow glacial action: an ancient glacier that was fed by the mountains you see above eventually retreated, leaving this hollowed-out valley and plenty of rocks to use in construction.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
Hornburg was originally built by Gondor, so the architecture is reflected in that, although the interior decoration is definitely Rohirrim. The dev team actually mapped out the entire castle in the design phase -- including kitchens, dorm rooms, and even bathrooms -- but not every room will be accessible by players since it would have taken way too long to build. However, there's a lot of interior space to explore.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
We were treated to our first-ever look at the Glittering Caves. This area won't be accessible on landscape, but will only be seen during the portion of the epic battle that takes place in here. Making this cave visually striking and unique took a lot of manipulation of the game's tech, but the end result is pretty impressive.

A wounded land The sights of LotRO Helm's Deep
The women and children are sent to the caves for protection as the battle rages above. There's a lot of crying going on, although at least one kid has fallen asleep through it all.

When West Rohan is added to the game, it will form a complete nation that has a wide array of sights and character. It's a land that we've come to know, and now it's time to take up arms to defend it. The question is, what can one man, woman, or Hobbit do in the face of the Enemy's might?

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This article was originally published on Massively.