Every successive announcement for Lord of the Rings Online, since it did away with its Uruk-Hai bouncers and opened its gates to all and sundry three years ago, has been a ringing endorsement for free-to-play done right. Its swelling playerbase has merited the release of two expansion packs since, and now another promises to push the boundaries of its rendering of Middle Earth beyond the western plains of Rohan, allowing players to take part in its titular battle and stride forth to level 95.
Helm’s Deep looks set to be a more inclusive affair than most MMO expansions prove to be. Rather than continuing to feed players hungry for more endgame at the expense of newcomers, Turbine plan to let players fight to defend Rohan’s vestigal fortress from level 10 onwards. The Battle of the Hornburg will be the largest conflict in LOTRO’s history, and the developers promise that even the squattest hobbit will be rewarded for their battlefield contributions.
Outside of Hornburg, players will be traversing the (presumably) warg-ridden hills of Rohan’s Westemnet, from the capital of Edoras to mysterious Dunharrow. They’ll be tasked with rallying the five Ridings of Rohan to take on Saruman’s lot, and will meet Aragorn, Éowyn, Éomer and King Théoden in the continuation of the game’s star-studded Epic Story.
Levels 85 to 95, meanwhile, will be enlivened by new skills and class specialisations.
“With Helm’s Deep, we’re bringing the War of the Ring to players on a monumental scale,” said Kate Paiz, Turbine’s exec producer for LOTRO. “Our team is thrilled to create another iconic moment in Middle-earth, and put players in the center of the action.”
My only experiment in living la vida LOTRO was rather less monumental, but lots of fun. I spent five or so gleeful hours hopping fences in the Shire, plotting routes through Hobbiton to carry parcels from one postmaster to another in an inspired, hairy-reskin of Crazy Taxi.
I really ought to play this again, oughtn't I?