Today I am going to give you a mostly spoiler free look at Riders of Rohan. I have played over 40 hours in the BETA and I think I have a good feel for Rohan as it stands. Keep in mind that anything is subject to change because this is a BETA after all.
Let me start by talking about Rohan itself. Like many other writers before me, I have to say Rohan is huge! Seriously this place is very expansive and if you go my speed it will likely fill up hours and hours of your time.
One of the things I noticed early on is that now NPCs actually treat us like the heroes we are. The side quests seem like the epic story and give your character new dimensions. One story line about half way through starts out normal but then a murder happens. You literally get to decide which of three NPCs committed the murder and you have to live with that decision and its consequences. That is just one example of how amazing these new quests are. Most of the quests seem to really tie in well with Rohan and help pull you in further to the zone.
The Feeling of Rohan
That brings me to my next topic: how Rohan feels. Rohan feels right. Feeling like the old zones of the Shire and Bree-land, Rohan pulls players into the world. I really can’t put into words why Rohan feels right…it just does.
One thing that definitely works in its favor is that the majority of Rohan is very similar, making it feel much more like a zone then several biomes put together. The player can believe that the zone could exist. Rohan still has plenty of variety though being one of the few zones that feels big, yet highly detailed. When I am playing through Rohan, I have no idea what will be over the next hill because Turbine has done a great job to make the zone diverse yet connected.
Settlements in Rohan finally feel alive. They feel very busy with soldiers, men, women and children (yes, there are kids!) moving around the cities. The attention to detail is much higher than previous zones in both objects and materials on screen.
Mounted combat is a big question on everyone’s mind with this expansion because Rohan relies so heavily on it. Starting out mounted combat is a little hard even after the tutorials they give the player.
It is currently really hard to die or fall of a war-steed while in combat. It is also really easy to run away from enemies if you pull too many because of how fast the mounts are. While in larger groups, medium and heavy war-steeds seem necessary but if you are just a solo player then picking the light mount is probably right for you. The light mount also does the highest DPS and so if you find you don’t like mounted combat then the light will get you through it quicker.
Once you get used to it, mounted combat actually feels more normal than a normal mount. It was very hard going back to a normal mount on the live server after getting used to mounted combat.
While mounted combat will take some time to learn, I highly recommend doing so because mounted combat is my favorite part of LOTRO now (except for maybe the epic story). It is fun to ride at an enemy, do a few passes and kill it, then ride on to the next one. You don’t even have to stop to loot enemies because of an auto-loot system.
Mounted combat actually makes normal combat more fun because you now have two kinds of combat and can take a break from one to do another. I have found that with the addition of mounted combat I can play LOTRO for much longer periods of time without getting bored or worn out. (This is also likely do to the way Rohan pulls you in as stated above.)
Another improvement with mounted combat is that now multiple players can get credit for a single kill. Every enemy while mounted has this credit system but they are not the only ones getting this update. Now all ground combat elites/bosses can be taken down with multiple players who are not grouped up which really helps speed things up and encourages players to work together.
Turbine has done a good job with the UI to help you understand what is going on while mounted. There are arrows now to show you where your enemy target is while mounted. Also now when you do damage to an enemy it will show up on their vitals so that you can see the damage you are doing to an enemy without having to look at the enemy all the time.
About 1/4th of the quests will just pop up when you are in an area with an enemy to help make questing faster and more effective. It is nice when you are in an area to just get quests instead of the old way where you do a quest and then accept a new one which sends you right back to where you were.
While I am not going to talk about the details of the epic story yet because I don’t want to spoil it, I will be giving you a quick opinion. The epic story takes you through the breaking of The Fellowship within the first book. I must say that it is likely the most epic moment so far in the epic (especially if you are fans of the books or movies). Turbine did a really good job taking players through this story and giving them a good experience. I have only heard immensely positive things about the epic story and I agree with those opinions after having played through it.
Beta Only Events
Lastly I would like to talk about something special that happened during the BETA. During the BETA I was watching a MMORPG live stream with “Rowan” Campbell. When he said that players could come and find him on the live server I did not waste a second and headed over to where they were.
Over the course of an hour I had a special tour from Rowan through Rohan. We went all over the zone and he helped me get used to mounted combat. This is likely my favorite moment in LOTRO because what is cooler then riding around Rohan with a developer.
Another cool thing that happened during the BETA was when we all got together for server testing. We were trying to see how many mounted players in one spot the servers could handle so that Turbine knows where it needs to work before launch. I have never seen so many horses in LOTRO let alone going into mounted combat with this many players. It was truly an unforgettable event that was a lot of fun. I am glad I was in the BETA to test the game and have cool experiences like these in the process.
Hopefully I have given my opinion of Rohan without spoiling too much of the game. It is really a great zone and in my opinion is one of the top five zones in LOTRO. Of course time could change that opinion but as it stands in the BETA, Rohan is shaping up to be a great addition to LOTRO.