Are you ready to join the fabled Riders of the Rohirrim?
With Riders of Rohan, Turbines epic, Lord of the Rings Online has now seen four expansion packs. I have been playing the game on and off since the first expansion, Mines of Moria and let me say Riders of Rohan brings the biggest changes to the later levels from any expansion. Personally, I have really enjoyed all three previous expansions, that may be my love for all things Tolkien talking though. However, there was no doubt that Rise of Isengard was the weakest by far and I thought RoR may end my love for Lord of the Rings online but I’m pleased to say it has not let me down. I’m pleased to say it is the best edition since Mines of Moria.
There are a number of things that make an expansion to an MMO a success. Firstly you need to give players new regions to explore, secondly you should give players a reason to actually want to explore those areas, thirdly you should try to retain the core of the game while at the same time creating and integrating new elements that will keep gamers intrigued and busy for hours on end. Riders of Rohan does all of that and more by giving us a continuation of the outstanding storyline, an all new game mechanic with mounted combat, an entirely new orchestral sound track, five new zones to explore, a new level cap, a new crafting tier, a city that is customizable by the players, an atmosphere that surpasses most other MMOs, and more Tolkien lore than you can shake a stick at.
Right, first things first, let’s start with the new additions to the game. Since this is Riders of Rohan, Turbine has integrated mounted combat into the game. I have to say, I was sceptical at first when I heard mounted combat was in the game. However, after playing it I can say, it really works. It works in a much different way from standard foot based combat but it’s truly fantastic and adds a new edge too the game. The bases of mounted combat are that you are constantly moving when fighting, either chasing an enemy down or riding up to them and dishing out blows. Naturally this means that your mount is too a weapon, and the faster it goes the more damage it deals. This can create some frantically fast paced and exciting gameplay. Just sitting there and hitting buttons doesn’t work here!
In order to simplify all of the moving, attacking, targeting, and camera work, Turbine has given us the option to utilize an auto pilot feature for our mounts. Activate the autopilot and your mount will automatically peregrinate to and from attacking range when an attack is queued up and ready. There is also an auto camera function that will keep the camera fixated on your target. Liberating the player up to worry about their attacks. With those two things amalgamated players can quickly learn how to utilize their mount in battle and makes it much easier to get to grip[s with the new combat style. You don’t always have to use autopilot; it’s a function that is there in case you need it. I would recommend taking it off and giving mounted combat a good go without the stabilisers.
Mounts themselves do have a bit of a learning curve; since they aren’t just a replica of the regular travel mounts utilized in the game. The War-Steeds have a much more realistic gate to them and they aren’t as nimble as the traditional travel mount. The developers went with a much more realistic approach to War-Steeds and as a result it takes about an hour of play time before you can expect to be comfortable on your War-Steed.
The payoff is that your War-Steed is a powerful tool. There are three variants of War-Steeds, Heavy, Medium, and Light. As you would imagine each type has a different function in the game. They also each have three different skill branches to choose from as you level. In total the War-Steeds can reach level 50 and by the time they get there they are a genuinely powerful tool. They can run much faster than your travel mounts and the damage they deal can be significant. War-Steeds also come with their own legendary item you can level up and hundreds of different cosmetic options that you can unlock, so no two War-Steeds should look the same.
The Town of Hytbold
My favourite addition and arguably the most exciting is the town of Hytbold. During the time of Riders of Rohan, we are midway through the two towers book, when Rohan is about to be attacked by Saruman’s elite forces. As a result, most of the towns in the Mark have been besieged and destroyed. Hytbold is one of these cities that have been devastated by the orc forces. Your job is one of cleaning up and rebuilding the settlement to its former glory. You do this by travelling around the land, completing quests that give you Hytbold tokens. These tokens allow you to build, repair and improve a dazzling array of 162 buildings. If you want a mead hall, you can have one, if you think the city should be producing lumber, you can do that too. Hytbold is what you make of it! Turbine have done an excellent job with this one as Hytbold is a public questing area that everyone can visit but the improvements you make to the city are your own and yourself can only see and use the services you have built. Pretty cool right?
Another major benefit with Hytbold is that you can also use the tokens acquired to purchase Raid level armour sets. Each class has three different armour sets which they can unlock. However, unlocking the armour pieces require specific parts of the town to be rebuilt and each have different building requirements., Essentially what Turbine has done is created end game content with the solo player in mind. Now players whom do not enjoy raiding can obtain great gear through soloing! Although it will take much time and planning to obtain this gear!
Lord of the Rings Online was originally released way back in 2007 and many MMO’s have popped up since then. It has had to shift to Free to play to keep with the times and this has done wonders for the game. Tripling its income and doubling its base players. This means more money can be spent on expansion backs and new quests/areas. The game’s longevity and committed player base shows that Turbine is doing something right, but still there is always room for improvements to the old system. With that in mind Turbine has introduced several quality of life type things that make playing the game more enjoyable. The first and probably most significant is that all of the enemies in the expansion are subject to the “open tapping” system. This means that anyone who gets a hit in on an enemy will get credit for that kill and their own loot, regardless of who hit the enemy first and if you are in a group or not. This type of system actually encourages players travelling in the open field to work together and it effectively eliminates the much dreaded ganking and camping affects.
Another favourite change they have made is that the game will now auto loot after every kill. You don’t have to run up to a dead enemy and click on them to retrieve your goods. Instead everything automatically gets put into a temporary loot window that you can go into from time to time to grab the stuff that you want to keep. This helps out tremendously in groups and while you’re mounted.
The last big change I want to talk about is the quest system. Many quests will now become available simply by walking near the area where the quest takes place. Once completed you can finish the quest and obtain the rewards by clicking on the quest window. This cuts down the need to constantly run to and from a specific quest giver. Of course there are still quest givers in each town, but they are primarily used to further the storyline and to send you to new areas on the map where quests will pop up.
Lord of the Rings Online has always excellent in its excellent storytelling compared to other MMO’s. Yes, this is partly down to Tolkien’s genius but Turbine had to weave the genius into the game. Rohan continues the sublime storytelling and I personally think Turbine have nailed it here. . In Lord of the Rings Online there is an ongoing Epic Storyline that usually follows the path of the Fellowship of the Ring, but shows you what was happening in the background. Rohan adds three new books to the Epic storyline, starting with Volume 3 Book 7. This time around though players actually get to play as both Frodo and Boromir in order to experience the breaking of the fellowship at Amon Hen. From there the players get sent by Lady Galadriel to try and find out where Aragorn went, and are naturally sent on a course towards Rohan. The Epic storyline in Rohan is epic in story and size and definitely sets the stage for the next book to be a big one.
It’s not all about the epic storyline here though. With the expansion, the side quests have had a good going over and improved. Each major town you visit in Rohan has its own fully fleshed out storyline, most dealing with the orc threat but each are unique in their own way. All settlements are headed by a ‘Thane’ and each one has their own personality and goals. Completing all quests in the area city is the only real way to see all of the stories play out and it creates a system where you will want to complete just one more quest to see what happens next. This is a story telling system that so many MMOs just can’t seem to get right and it ultimately helps mask or even eliminate the kill X and gather X syndrome.
Sound scores in games are normally overlooked and not paid attention too. Personally, I think sound can make or break a game. In RoR the soundtrack is beautiful and deserves listening too. There are 22 new songs that will play in the back ground; all of them are performed by a full orchestra conducted by Chance Thomas. The music is similar to the sound track in the movies, but it has its own personality that sets it apart. What’s even more impressive is that the sound track will be playing in the background while you play, but as soon as a battle starts up the music will switch seamlessly into a much more intense and up tempo sound that lets you know you are in a fight. There is chanting that will kick in and more than once I caught myself chanting along to the battle. I normally play with headphones and the sound really makes you get immersed into the game. It has a very rough but beautiful Anglo-Saxon edge and makes you believe you could actually be in Rohan!
What is actually wrong with the game?
As you must be able to tell by now, I loved Rohan, but that doesn’t mean that it is not without flaws. Firstly, this game is only for higher levels. Lovely levels will get the use of open tapping, the new looting system and automatic questing but that’s about it. Oh and you will see some war steeds around Bree. It adds almost nothing for players below level 74. So people who haven’t played the game in a couple of years will need to do some catch up work. The other major knock I have against Rohan is that almost 95% of the content is designed with the solo player in mind. There are no new group instances or Raids. However, these are being rolling out in the near future. But for now, don’t expect to have any new dungeons to explore. Also, Rider of Rohan does look beautiful and Turbine have done a fine job with adapting the engine with new game mechanic but in areas it is starting to show its age. Yer, the graphics are lovely but they certainly cannot keep up with newer games and the overall engine performance isn’t as solid as a couple of years ago, but that’s to be expected.
One final complaint I have is with mounted instances. Most mounted instances take place in the regular game world, but for some reason Turbine uses invisible walls to limit the size of the instance. This wouldn’t be so bad if the walls were set far enough away from all of the action. But in many cases the walls create an instance that is too small for mounted combat. On top of that the enemies and friendly NPCs can actually run around outside of the walls. This means that you can get stuck inside the instance area while the enemies and NPCs are fighting outside of the walls where you can’t go. This is a real problem when you are supposed to keep certain NPCs alive. This could easily be fixed by increasing the size of the instance or coding the enemies and NPCs so they can’t go through the walls. Let’s hope Turbine addresses this issue with a future patch.
Charge of the Rohirrim
These defects are small and don’t let you be put off by them. Lord of the Rings online is a solid MMO with a beautiful storyline that has been enhanced by Riders of Rohan. If you have never played LotRO then I would encourage you to give it a try, all of the stuff leading up to Rohan is still compelling and you will know that you have a good expansion waiting for you at the end. Riders of Rohan does everything a great expansion needs to do. It adds a massive amount of land and areas to explore, mounted combat that works seamlessly and an epic storyline that both people that haven’t read Tolkien and have will enjoy and be able to engage with. As a long time player of Lord of the Rings Online I will freely admit that there was a period after the release of Rise of Isengard where I contemplated quitting the game. I’m glad I didn’t because Rohan has changed all of that and sucked me right back into Middle Earth.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.