Helmets will be shattered! Blood will be spilled! And that’s only in the first quarter of this weekend’s NFL action!

Last week, we got a sneak peek at the next expansion for The Lord of the Rings Online, Battle of Helm’s Deep. As you might expect, the pivotal battle of The Two Towers is the centerpiece of the expansion, and Turbine is using a new gameplay mode to present it in all its gory glory.

The expansion will feature five new zones in Rohan, including the capital city of Edoras, the Glittering Caves, and, of course, Helm’s Deep itself. As Producer Hannah Foell told us, the dev team is “pleased how much of the game is finally able to intertwine with the story of the books and the story of the Fellowship.” The first part of the epic book will give players a front-row seat as Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas first meet and confront Theoden in the Golden Hall of Meduseld, where it’ll take more than a few /slap commands to rouse Rohan’s king from his spell-induced slumber.

Large and in charge

Some time later, players will find themselves inside the big battle itself, which uses a new system called… well, Big Battles. They’re the “big, bad cousin of skirmishes,” Foell said, using the same group sizes and becoming available to players starting at level 10. Characters will be upscaled to level 95 in Big Battles, so you can team up with your friends no matter what their level.

While we didn’t get to see a Big Battle in action, we did tour the keep, and it was suitably huge. You’ll be moving around Helm’s Deep putting out fires (maybe literally) and doing your best to hold the minions of evil at bay. Since the outcome of the battle has been pre-ordained – it’s not like they can have the Rohirrim lose or anything – players will instead be scored based on how well they perform.

Players can adopt one of three roles, which determine what kind of actions they’ll take and how they’ll be scored for their contribution. Vanguards fight at the front lines, confronting the minions of evil directly. Officers direct troops to the action as needed. And Engineers man siege engines and direct the fire of the keep’s weapons of mass destruction.

You can find out a lot more about Big Battles in this post on the LOTRO forums.

Class action

Even if Big Battles aren’t your thing, LOTRO will be changed in a big way when Helm’s Deep launches. The skill system is getting a total revamp, adopting a system more similar to how mounted skills and skill progression are done in the game.

Each class will have three different “trees” it can assign points for to gain its skills and can save different builds, swapping between them at any time out of combat. You advance through your tree by spending trait points, which are gained through leveling and completing deeds.

The system’s not that dissimilar to the skill system seen in other MMOs, like Rift or Star Wars: The Old Republic, but why the change from LOTRO’s rather simplistic system, which has been in place for six years? “We felt it was difficult to see what you were working towards,” said Foell. “Especially early on, it was hard to understand what you were doing, and there weren’t a lot of interesting choices. We wanted to give people deep and meaningful choices from the beginning.”

It will definitely be a tough adjustment for players, having to adapt to only having about 15-20 combat skills at their disposal, rather than the 30+ they have now. On the other hand, when you’re traited for tanking or healing, do you really use your primary DPS skills? And most DPS classes are built around a certain spec, using a particular stance that makes some skills more effective while eschewing the use of others. So maybe it won’t be that big of a loss.

We also got a quick look at the (unfinalized) lore-master skill tree, which included a fun new elite skill called Sic ‘Em, which summoned a horde of woodland creatures to peck, claw, and bite a hapless orc. Toss in some bird poop and it’ll never leave my bar.

Legendary items will receive some necessary tweaking, because of some skills being added or disappearing altogether, but a full revamp of LIs, while being discussed, won’t happen this year.

We’ve only scratched the surface of what Helm’s Deep has to offer, and we should have lots more to report on the next time Turbine extends the invitation! Look for The Battle of Helm’s Deep this fall.

By Jason Winter

6 Readers Commented

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  1. Bic Boi on September 6, 2013

    ” Since the outcome of the battle has been pre-ordained”

    Stopped reading right there. Seriously? Yes I realize it’s an iconic moment but let’s get one thing straight–the character you’re playing? They never existed. You are a figment of someone’s imagination. Why, then, can you not fail and let helm’s deep be lost to darkness? It’s always about lore over gameplay with that mmo. I swear monster play sucks because of that very reason. You always hear the zealots cite lore as a reason that Freeps should always be more powerful than creeps, even when creeps need a buff to be competitive. You should not have to play Freep-side to wrack up enough commendations so you can THEN go creep-side. Yes, you need to farm coms to stand a chance as a creep “because lore”. Nevermind that PVP generally strives to be balanced in mmorpgs., But no–they gotta stick to their story and never deviate. Sometimes you have to, Turbine! When the story makes the game less fun, there is something wrong, I feel.

  2. Deeperpenetration on September 4, 2013

    This game is getting deeper eh?
    watch?v=euXQbZDwV0w

  3. ExHuman on September 4, 2013

    seems like LotRo deserves another try

    • Anon on September 4, 2013

      Lotro was never a bad game. It’s pretty much one of the few mmo’s which are worth playing now in my eyes.

  4. Shiunsai on September 3, 2013

    Still not feeling like giving my money to this game, but sounds like a good update, or expansion whatever.

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