"Isn't it glorious, friend? The grass and the rolling hills like swells in an ocean of deepest green? And if this is an ocean, then we are the pirates that plunder it! Ride, wolves, and hear the war-cry of the gods in the thunder of our hoof-beats!" - Bhangi Khan
With its ever-expanding horizons and seemingly never-ending plains, the Northern Grasslands region of Khitai offers breathtaking views and life-threatening locals. The Grasslands will be there to greet players who make their way through the Great Wall surrounding Khitai. This is the second area of Khitai the player will explore after passing through the Great Wall in the Gateway to Khitai area.
The Northern Grasslands are dominated by low plateaus of predominantly humid grasslands, becoming more steppe-like the further north you go - before actually turning into a dry and desolate desert on the northern border. The Great Wall dominates the north-western edge of the playfield, before it swings west into the Gateway to Khitai. To the south-east the Forest of August Gloom broods in the twilight of its secrets and to the east the playfield ends abruptly at the Khitan Escarpment.
The Imperial forces occupy a large area around the Great Wall. The forces and their administration have become a fixture in the region, though of course local tolerance is dictated by the personality of the leader. In any case it has been fairly common among the common troops of the wall to marry the local farmer’s daughters, sometimes settling down locally, sometimes bringing their wives with them back to the heartland. The people of the grasslands maintain many old customs and traditions - like paying homage to the many gods in shrines scattered throughout the land and getting drunk, going out, and tipping over sleeping cows.
Grass not always greener
In recent years, the Grasslands have become a haven for marauding bandits who seek easy prey among the gently rolling steppes. The Last Legion, those who protect the wall and the empire, are ruled by a corrupt wall administrator who channels their funding into his own corpulent amusements. As a result, many former soldiers have deserted their post on the wall – returning to their families in the east or, even worse, joining the ranks of the very bandits who plague the Grasslands. Bad blood is being spilled as old neighbours and relatives rob and kill each other. With the Great Wall weakened, all kinds of strange, western people are showing up in the lands.
“By introducing violence and conflict into such a peaceful region, we let the players see the true impact corruption of power has on the landscape and the inhabitants,” says Joel Bylos, Lead Designer on the Rise of the Godslayer expansion. “There is a mixture of serenity and war in the Northern Grasslands that, combined with the steppe-like environment, creates some unique experiences for the players. Faction gameplay is as important as ever in this region, the opposing groups will divide players as different quests become available.”
Players are sure to find the vastness of the Northern Grasslands impressive. Utilizing Age of Conan’s state-of-the-art graphics engine, the developers have been able to create one of the most open areas in the game yet. The land goes on into the horizon, and travel without a proper mount will prove to be a challenging experience for any player. The player will encounter several different quest-lines and side quests in the Northern Grasslands.
Factions of Northern Grasslands
The factions that roam the grasslands are driven by greed and without imperial interference their reach has grown long. Roaming the countryside, the Wolves of the Steppes, a troupe of bandit raiders led by Bhangi Khan, raid the settlements that still eke out an existence along the imperial highway. The Wolves are willing to accept any into their ranks – even those of low moral fibre – and their decadence has become a badge of honor to be flaunted.
The Hyrkanians have come to the region in search of an exile – the infamous Bhangi Khan. Exiled to Khitai for murdering the pregnant wife of a Clan chief, the Hyrkanians have sought him out to take vengeance for his crimes. Players who join the Hyrkanians will quickly find that gaining their trust is difficult, but that the skills these master horsemen have to teach are invaluable.
The Yellow Priests of Yun are researching the properties of a new type of Lotus that they discovered in the Forest of August Gloom. But the effect of the lotus may be beyond what their ritualistic magic can control and so they have resorted to testing their concoctions on the people of Chow. The Children of Yag-kosha watch the people of Chow get sicker by the day; their white sorcery seems to have no effect.
The Scarlet Circle are focused on building a gift for the Emperor. A great stone golem made in the image of the God-Emperor, and blessed in his name. However, their work is constantly thwarted by the Wolves and the Hyrkanians who constantly battle for control of the quarry. The Last Legion struggles to keep the region from exploding into chaos. They must repair the wall, maintain the imperial highway and keep their watch against the Hyrkanians to the west. But they are thwarted at every turn by Po-sha, the Wall Administrator, who pours the wealth of the empire into his own pursuit of decadent desire.
Players will be able to join these factions, perform different quests and reap the rewards. Getting tangled up in the politics of the region can be very exciting, and often you will find yourself on a quest for one faction and suddenly you run into players who are doing a quest for the rivalling faction. This is sure to create some interesting PvP situations.
Pillars of Heaven
Bhangi Khan has made camp in the dry, north-eastern part of the region. His stronghold is in an old, abandoned temple called the Pillars of Heaven – one of the major new dungeons featured in the expansion. The Pillars of Heaven were carved from the rock of the Khitan Escarpment in the dim mists of prehistory. There are no records as to who, or what, was responsible for their construction but the carvings of Cyclopean landscapes are enough to chill the most seasoned of adventurers.For centuries it stood abandoned, the bridges connecting it to the escarpment rotten and gone. But Bhangi Khan’s men have built new bridges and started using the temple as their headquarters. Of course, living in the Pillars themselves is a privilege reserved for only the most elite of Bhangi Khan’s men. Because of the natural defensibility of the structure, Bhangi Khan has made no attempt to fortify the Pillars – no army could ever hope to take them by force. But where an army would fail, a small group of players could succeed. Bhangi Khan has gathered his strongest lieutenants at the Pillars, perhaps planning a great raid against the frontier city of Pin Pin.
Ming the Knife, a young beautiful Khitan woman with long black hair and brown eyes, serves as his chief assassin. She learned the trade from her father who was one of the best assassins in Khitai before he was killed in an attempt to assassinate Po-sha 15 years ago. Now she watches over the Wolves Den, and players will have to use all of their cunning to find a way past the pack of wolves which serve her.
Before meeting Bhangi Khan, players will also have to take on the necromancer I-Po, the master of bats. Summoning his bats to do his fighting, I-Po is free to cast charm spells on players, which will send them leaping to their deaths from the edge of the high cliffs.
Bhangi Khan’s stronghold in the Northern Grasslands is one of the most exciting dungeons in the new expansion. While the entrance is located in the north-eastern corner of the Grasslands, its physical location is a rocky outcrop on the border with Chosain. The group will also have to split up to solve puzzles, and multiple bosses must be defeated before the players can stand up to Bhangi Khan himself.