The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Review for PC

The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Review for PC

Rohan Awaits

The Lord of the Rings Online was in a precarious position for a bit there. You see, several big-name MMOs have come out in the five-plus years that LotRO’s been around, and the MMO landscape is changing, growing ever further from that Everquest/WoW formula of old.

So how does an aging MMO retain player interest in the current PC gaming climate? Well, LotRO’s newest expansion, Riders of Rohan, answers by changing everything.

The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Screenshot

We’ve come to an important part in the classic Lord of the Rings storyline: the Breaking of the Fellowship. As Tolkien fans know all too well, this is where the storyline takes a radical turn. In fact, those who’ve read The Two Towers and Return of the King will remember that the entire format of the books makes a radical shift at this point, splitting into two simultaneous storylines instead of focusing on just one. It’s perfectly fitting, then, that LotRO follows suit by drastically changing the feel of the game.

Now, when I say “drastically changing,” I don’t necessarily mean a Cataclysm-type rebuilding of the existing world. The old haunts you love—like Bree-land, the Shire, and Moria—remain relatively unchanged. But as soon as you cross over into Rohan, you’ll feel like you’ve all of a sudden started playing a completely brand new MMO.

The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Screenshot

The central thrust of the new changes is mounted combat. Yes, now you will be able to ride your glorious war-steed around the plains of Rohan, whacking orcs and goblins without ever having to dismount. The thing about this, though, is that the core mechanics of the game had to completely change in order for this to work. But Turbine was up to the challenge, rewriting the formula completely in order to get this just right. As soon as you mount your first war-steed, it becomes obvious just how much thought and care the developers must have put into this aspect of the game.

Some of these changes will be noticeable as soon as you install the expansion. For example, any mob you are currently targeting will show up as an icon on your minimap. This doesn’t affect low-level gameplay all that much (though it’s certainly nice to be able to keep track of that troublesome goblin that keeps running off), but its impact on mounted combat won’t go unnoticed. When you’re riding by mobs at high speed, it would have been quite difficult to keep track of them otherwise.

Also, the damage numbers that float over the enemies’ heads as you whittle their health bars down now show up on the enemies’ character portraits. So even if a mob is not onscreen, you can still see those lovely yellow numbers.

The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Screenshot

There are other changes, though, that you won’t notice until you enter the new areas. For example, in mounted combat areas (yes, you can only ride your war-steed in specially designated areas), there’s a new system in place that allows you to auto-loot your enemies, which means you won’t have to ever step off your horse between battles.

Another interesting change is that several quests will just pop up on your screen, where you can accept or decline them as you draw near to the area in which the objectives lie. This keeps your quest chains moving and your XP bar growing at a remarkable pace. Sure, you’ll be given a lot of the standard “Kill X amount of Y” quests, but killing things while mounted is so much fun that you probably won’t complain.

Even the fundamental controls of the horse itself had to change. Not only do you have an entirely separate UI that comes up when you’re on your war-steed (with its own toolbar filled with mounted-combat-only skills), but the way your horse handles is completely different than how a standard mount does. Instead of using W to move forward and S to move backward, W here causes your horse to accelerate and S causes it to decelerate. As you gain speed, you have a Fury bar that fills, and the fuller this bar the more damage your attacks will do. This is great when you are out battling monsters and brigands out in the open fields, but it does make riding in town more difficult. Then again, it should make riding in town more difficult. These are gallant beasts of war, not some standard everyday equines; their purpose is battle, not meandering around villages and chatting with the locals. Because of this, your war-steeds feel powerful and majestic, just as they should. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Turbine absolutely nailed the mounted combat controls.

Additionally, your war-steed will level up as you use it in combat and complete quests. It’s also got its own skill tree that you’ll invest points into as it levels up. To make things even better, there’s an absurd amount of customization options to play around with, with new manes, tails, hooves, and more to be unlocked as quest rewards.

But what of the landscape itself? Well, Rohan provides some breathtaking vistas and a truly epic landscape that manages to feel completely different than anything that’s come before it. While the Shire is instantly recognizable for its round doors and hobbit holes, and Moria is known for its dark, gloomy interiors, Rohan features log buildings decorated with carvings and those iconic horse head banners. It’s got its own personality, which makes it stand out from the other areas in the game. And that’s refreshing, especially after the previous expansion, Rise of Isengard, didn’t offer a lot of scenery that felt all that different than what came before it.

The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan Screenshot

And it should be noted that there are several new songs composed for the new content. Many of them sound like riffs on the score from the Peter Jackson films, borrowing some of the same instrumentation while crafting some genuinely new tunes. In fact, I would argue that the soundtrack stands proudly next to some of the best film scores we’ve heard recently. These songs are fantastic, capturing that distinctive aura that’s unmistakably “Riddermarkian” in flavor.

Riders of Rohan simply feels like the most lovingly crafted LotRO expansion to date. It offers so much more than just an expanded landscape and some new quests; it improves on several fundamental aspects of the game while adding new systems and features that make the game as a whole feel fresh once again. And that’s no small feat for an MMO that’s over five years old.

If you’ve been looking for a reason to return to Turbine’s version of Middle-earth, Riders of Rohan gives you not one, but several. I found myself constantly surprised and impressed with each new area I explored during my journey; may your own be filled with that special sort of wonderment that only Middle-earth can provide.

There have been some updates, but the graphics still look a bit dated. Despite this, Rohan manages to look stunning. 5.0 Control
Turbine nailed the mounted combat controls. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Expect to hear a lot of hoof sounds. Thankfully, these are set to a breathtaking score that truly brings Rohan to life. 4.9 Play Value
Leveling up to 85 will take you a considerable amount of time on its own, then you’ve got your new war-steed to level and customize. You’ll easily spend hundreds of hours with the new content. 4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Introducing Mounted Combat – Ride into Combat atop your loyal War-steed as you defend the people of Rohan from the forces of Isengard and Mordor. Customize your War-steed’s armor and level its skills over time to aid you in mounted defense of King Théoden’s lands. Mount your steed and gather your fellows to fight against Warbands, contingents of roving wargs and orcs that have been scouted all over the Plains of Rohan! It falls to you to head off and defeat this new threat before they over take the land.
  • Explore Largest Landscape Yet! – Nearly three times as large as Moria! Join with the Rohirrim and ride across the sprawling Eastern Plains of Rohan. Raise high your sword to fight for honor and glory in the name of Théoden King! Experience hundreds of new quests, earn new favor, gear, deeds, and more!
  • The Epic Story Continues – The Fellowship is on the move once again and must achieve their task at all cost. It falls to you to clear the path and turn the Eye of the Enemy away from their progress as you aid the Rohirrim in their own struggle close by. Witness the breaking of the Fellowship at Amon Hen; forge alliances with the Ents of Fangorn; and aid Éomer, nephew of Théoden, as he seeks to protect his homeland from the growing Shadow.
  • Advance to Level 85 – Learn what it means to be Rohirrim as you face new challenges throughout the Riddermark on your journey to level 85. Continue your legend as you grow in power with new skills and deeds and earn new armor and gear to aid you in the battles to come.

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