Thursday, 21 February 2013

LOTRO: Riders of Rohan

Since my character is level capped I think I have a good hold on whats going on in LOTRO’s latest expansion: Riders of Rohan.
 Let me be frank: I had left LOTRO after what I deemed one lousy and grindy addition to the game after the other. My qualms usually were not about expansions in general but the updates that followed. I have to say that Riders of Rohan has been an exception to that so far. Furthermore it has been my return to the game. So I will give LOTRO a positive review for a change. I know that till now there have been 2 reviews, one quite positive, the other a little negative but you should have reviewed the posts in my head for the expansions following Moria. They all added a new dimension to the meaning of negative but thankfully and hopefully that’s behind us now.
Let us begin with the new Mounted Combat feature. I think Rohan expansion would have been incomplete without an introduction into such a feature so I am glad that they came up with it. Regardless of your class you can go for three different kinds of Steeds: Light, Medium and Heavy. Unlike what I thought it would be, those types do not necessarily go together with the type of your armour. For example if you are a light armour wearing class this does not mean that you “have to” go for a light horse. The type of the horse and the skill trees they come with usually promote to endurance vs agility. The light horse is highly agile and fast but what it makes up for in speed (and through speed fury and momentum) it lacks in endurance. You can also always go for a medium horse neither favoring nor lacking either one of these qualities. The table system of skill and trait trees of the steeds, is very similar to that of Star Wars online class proficiencies. You are able to see the entire table of skills and traits to add or subtract points before you make a decision hence you can more easily decide what to go for.
There are issues to the warsteed system for sure, rubberband being one however it doesn’t bother me all that much. Lag can be a huge problem but it is manageable in my opinion. Besides it actually did make me laugh out loud when I saw my horse get stuck on the screen for almost a minute at the end of which I found myself defeated at the bottom of a precipice.
For me the biggest and severest problem would be how I do not get my melee class feel. Ranged classes are great on horseback. In fact they are the funnest thing Turbine has come up with ever. I only wish that I could get a better feel of my class from close range as well though. What I mean mainly concerns my guardian. In order to inflict more damage you need Fury which works like momentum in mounted combat. In order to build fury you have to run. This philosophy does not work perfectly well on my tank though because I am used to staying and fighting multiple foes without giving an inch. If I am honest this is the only thing that I did not go crazy about in mounted combat. Tank doesn’t feel like tank. Of course all this, is my personal opinion.

Moving on from the mounted combat lets see what other changes were brought to the game. Let us begin with a new feature which I found so extremely helpful and fun to do. Warbands!

 They are the haven of solo adventurers. They are fun, fast, rewarding for what they are. Mainly the idea must have come to Turbine from Guilwars 2 where you do not need to be in a group to do a group quest. Now that the mobs are common and lootable to everyone and there is no “you stole my mob” discussion anymore, warbands are an excellent addition to expand this new style of adventuring in the wilds. I just wish that they would change shard droppers in the rest of the world to warbands as well. So mainly this feature entails daily mobs which spawn around the same spot on the map (they respawn every 15-20 minutes the most but are doable only once a day per character) and drop different boxes with random gifts in them. Most of the times what they drop are common and repeated, filling your inventory with useless cosmetic banners but once every while they drop something to surprise you, a cosmetic for your war steed perhaps or Rohan rings and many other small things. As for me I find the marks and medallions they drop most useful. I am sick of skirmishes and I do not wish to visit the instance finder and go for a random skirmish in order to attain like for 4 medallions per run during my solo questing. I much rather go and kill Bugud in 5 minutes with other adventurers I do not know and on my beautiful steed. Besides it is much more exciting to have a silver box sitting in your inventory full of possibilities instead of doing a run which you have done like a 1000 times (and that is no hyperbole) and you know what will come out of it every single time you go for it(although they must have revamped skirmishes as well since the last time I went for a skirmish the boss dropped surprisingly good little gifts) . So yea! Thumbs up for the Warbands of Rohan.
Pending-loot was yet another positive addition to the game in my opinion. The fact that you do not have to go and click on the corpse every time you defeat something especially works perfectly well when mounted on your horse or while you are grinding for traits. It saves a lot of time and space and it goes easy on your eyes as well. I cannot tell how many times I felt dizzy trying to loot a mob during fellowships or raiding. Another thumbs up for this expansion with only one minor setback. Extremely rare items such as loot boxes should have been subjected to a die roll when in a fellowship. When not it is ok.

The end game solo content is the best I have ever seen in LOTRO. It is very refreshing to see Turbine admitting by deeds that solo-play is an aspect of preference in the game whether it fits their philosophy of an MMO or not. Finally there is something else to grind in the game other than Marks in Skirmishes (which was impossible to do solo if you like some sanity left in you. You had to group up at one point or another to get marks and beat the impossible drop numbers of solo-skirming). And they have fit that grind in a perfect little scenario of rebuilding Hytbold. I must admit the Hytbold dailies could have been a little more than 5 quests per day but I have got absolutely no major complaints concerning the end game solo content. All I can say is: Thank you Turbine for giving a set of armour to the solo players out there for a change.    

As for the designs of East Rohan. As usual Turbine has done its top notch job while designing the terrain and the locations. It actually feels like being in Rohan. The epic line and quests were more than satisfactory. Some of the armour sets were not as impressive as they could have been but hey, one cannot really ask any more than the great work and effort they have put into this expansion.
All in all Riders of Rohan did more than just surprising me. It impressed me greatly. I did not expect the content of one expansion to change the entirety of the game altogether and putting a fantastic spin to it. This has not happened since Moria and Legendary weapons (its randomness prevented it from being fantastic though and still does) and Mirkwood expansion when they introduced the Skirmishes. But this time they seemed to have gotten it right. As a returning player I am especially happy because LOTRO has always had a special place in my gaming life with its story, community, artistic graphics which sets the game apart from other MMOs out there. I am glad to be back home.