Turbine is sticking with the theme of allowing solo players to go their own way while group players go another, by following a middle path between the two. Rohan - and Rohan only - features some excellent new ideas that will allow players to experience the game however they want.
First up, Rohan features Open Tapping on every mob in the region. This allows anyone to take part in monster fights and receive credit, regardless of whether or not they are in the same group. Roaming warbands can't be "ninja'ed" by sneaky players - anyone who hits it during the battle, or who heals another character actively fighting the mob, receives full credit for the kill, provided they are within range.
This goes for loot as well. Everyone who took part in the battle rolls for their own loot when the body drops. For example, if a creature has a chance to drop a hide, an item experience token and a trophy, each player who took part in killing it rolls for their own copy of those items. In other words, if three players kill a boar, that boar could theoretically generate three hides, three item XP tokens and three trophies (one for each of the players).
There's another excellent loot innovation in Rohan: remote looting. You don't need to run up and click on the enemies to receive their loot. If the player has the "Always Loot All" option checked, all the loot is automatically placed in the character's inventory. If the player doesn't have this option checked, the loot goes into a "storage window," where the player can pick through it and select only the items he wants. The items stack together in the "storage window," and they stay there for an hour. Picking up another item refreshes the timer on that stack.
Like Rise of Isengard, Riders of Rohan doesn't ship with an instance cluster or a raid. These are slated to arrive sometime before the end of the year, but in the meantime, players can earn their endgame armor by doing the Hytbold dailies.
The Ettenmoors has seen some major feng shui with this expansion. Key locations have been moved and PvMP mechanics have been changed significantly.
Next on This Old Fortification, Gurk offers tips for packing for a big move to TR rez! A hint: get an axe and a torch...
Keep mechanics have changed to reflect the way players have been using and abusing them. For example, the bridges at Tol Ascarnen are now linked to the keep. Creeps can't go flip the bridge for a quick Marshall An pull - they have to control TA now. Also, they would have to first head to the former location of the Lugazug rez circle, where the Elf Camp is now situated. And even as aggressive as Marshall An is, he's not likely to chase players from Lug rez all the way to WTAB.
Freeps will get access to new level 85 armor sets with this expansion, and Creeps will find that skill and trait costs are reduced. And most Creep classes will see a boost to their DPS and healing output to keep them in-line with their Freep counterparts. Corruptions will be more potent and skills have been outright boosted. Turbine dev Joe "JBarry" Barry calls this process "swinging the pendulum" - they will have to see just how far it swings so they can make adjustments to get it swinging back the other way.
Determining the value of Riders of Rohan is kind of tricky.
The pre-order came in three editions: Basic for $39.99 USD, Heroic for $49.99, and Legendary for $69.99. These are fairly pricey for an expansion, but you do get a lot of goodies with the pre-order. Even the Basic edition comes bundled with a load of Turbine points, a level 75 cloak with very good stats, a standard mount, an in-game title and a package of skirmish soldier appearance traits to make your pet look like a Rohirrim.
Post-launch, the expansion is available through the web store for the same price as the pre-order bundles, or players can buy it through the LotRO Store with Turbine Points. The full expansion will cost around 4,300 TP through the in-game store, and the pre-order goodies will be sold individually as well. That's 9 months' worth of VIP Turbine Points.
It should be explicitly pointed out that buying the Rohan quest packs through the LotRO Store with TP does not automatically entitle the player to the instance cluster when it launches in a later update. The instance cluster must be purchased separately. Players who bought the expansion (i.e. paid for the product key through the web store, or bought the expansion through the LotRO Store with TP) will automatically get the instance cluster, but purchasers of the Rohan quest pack bundle will not.
The epic storyline, which consists of Books 7, 8 and 9 of Volume III, will remain free-to-play, and F2P players will be able to pick up a war-steed via the epic quests. Free players will be limited to Medium mounts until they unlock the Light and Heavy trait lines by buying them from the LotRO Store.
This is an enormous expansion. In terms of physical area, Eastemnet is around twice the size of Mines of Moria. It is chopped into a handful of regions, but each of these regions is quite large, and packed with detail and story. However, Moria came bundled with two new classes and twice as many epic books.
So, taking all these factors into account:
Riders of Rohan will likely have a similar long-term impact to Rise of Isengard. A number of players are going to criticize its lack of an instance cluster at launch, but overall it sets up a strong framework for later development.
Mounted combat, like the Legendary Item system, is a game mechanic that will certainly be subject to numerous tweaks and enhancements as the game continues to progress. Now that the system is in place, it has the potential to be used in different creative ways - competitive jousting festival events, mounted PvMP, mounted skirmishes, etc. Not that any of these ideas is particularly likely to make it into the game, but the potential is there. It's a system that can be built-upon.
The same can be said for pretty much all of Rohan. There are so many possibilities within its rolling hills and craggy borders. And Westemnet is only a stone's throw away. The framework for Edoras and Helm's Deep is in place. And if the current expansion is any indication, those updates are going to be incredible.
Despite its relatively advanced age, the Lord of the Rings Online is still in fighting form, and Riders of Rohan is its hard-hitting right cross. With twice the size of its first expansion, double the level cap increase of the second expansion, and orders of magnitude more endgame content and innovation than the third (at launch), Riders of Rohan delivers on all fronts. And as a platform for further development, it holds a lot of promise for future updates and content. Fans and long-time players are going to love it. Spears will be shaken, shields broken.
Fell deeds await! Now for wrath, now for ruin and the red dawn! Forth Eorlingas!