Riders of Rohan - Riding to 85, Part 2
I'm not the fastest leveler in the world. When Rise of Isengard launched, I had a relatively healthy spine and 12-hour gaming sessions were par for the course, and I was the first one in my kinship to hit 75. With Riders of Rohan, my play-time is a bit more limited (my back is a year older now, and is as twisted and treacherous as the path to the summit of Weathertop), so I'm not getting the epic play time that I used to. I wanted to get to 85 in a week, so, as mentioned at the end of Riding to 85, Part 1, I decided that I would use the store-bought XP-boosters as much as possible to wring the most out of my play-time.
Days 3 - 7: Regional Quests
In order to maximize the effectiveness of the store-bought XP-boosters and get the most out of that 60-minute turbo-charged window, I used them upon arriving at the destination of the latest regional quests I had just picked up. A lot of the time, arriving at the destination, or killing the first mob or two, will trigger a batch of automatic quests, and these can all be completed rapid-fire. The XP-booster gives me 60 minutes of warp speed XP gain, so I buff up with scrolls, food, token and fire-oil and get as much done as I can within that window.
Keep in mind that the booster also affects quest experience gains - turning in a task at the local task bulletin board benefits from this also. Loading up on Punctured Shields and then doing a chain of task turn-ins while under the influence of the XP buff provided a big happy dollop of creamy whipped level advancement. It's fairly easy to see how my friend blasted through 10 levels on the very first day of launch using these things.
I ran into the same issue with this expansion that I ran into with Rise of Isengard: storage space. Even with the sixth inventory bag that came with the Legendary Edition pre-order, I kept running out of bag space. As my character gets more and more powerful, he requires more and more support items to maintain a hard pace, and these items take up a lot of room. My character is a Hunter, so bags 1 through 3 are generally packed with:
- Traveling rations
- Morale and Power potions of varying potencies
- Curative potions, half a stack of each
- At least 3 kinds of food (regen, buff, resist), and usually more than that
- Edhelharn tokens
- Crafted traps
- Fire oil
- Light oil
- Bow chants, 3 types
- Battle and Warding lore scrolls
- Store-bought XP enhancers and task limit resets
- Third Age LIs I'm leveling to grind into relics
- Item Experience runes
My Hunter is an Explorer, so bag 4 is generally stuffed with crafting materials. Usually, when I gather a full stack of anything, I deposit that in the vault, but there are still a lot of materials to be gathered. Two kinds of ore, two kinds of wood, hides, two kinds of Scholar items, soil for Farmers, herbs for Cooks - this stuff all takes up space. Then there are the recipe scrolls, two types (Eastemnet with the common, lower-level recipes and Riddermark with the single-use and uncommon recipes) for each craft. Scrolls and IXP runes consume a lot of inventory real estate, and often overflow into bag 5 after they are done filling the gaps in bags 3 and 4.
That leaves approximately 2 bags for all the stuff that gets crammed into my inventory while questing. Two bags doesn't take long to fill. The only solution was to pare down my necessities to the barest of minimums and leave behind any "raid gear" that I probably wouldn't need for landscape-questing. It felt like I was running around naked.
This, of course, brings up another discovery I made during this period. There's an awesome new Dwarf-only store cosmetic that I couldn't resist. At 995 TP and restricted to just one race, it's ludicrously over-priced, but the Bare Chested top was a must-have for my Dwarf Minstrel:
I had always envisioned my Minstrel as a hardcore metal singer. The Cookie Monster growls demoralize the enemy, but hitting the Bruce Dickinson highs makes your fellowship want to keep on rockin'. Give him some gnarly dreadlocks, black pants and high boots, he could be a member of any number of modern metal bands. If only we could add tattoos...
Day 8 and Beyond: Hytbold
As soon as I hit level 84, I got an in-game mail from Edgal in Hytbold requesting assistance. When you first arrive at Hytbold, it's a blackened, broken ruin of a former town. With a bit of hard work and some elbow grease, you can fix it up and restore it to its former glory, and be named a Thane of Rohan in the process.
The first task you receive when arriving at Hytbold is simple exploration - you run around the town looking at the broken buildings and figuring out how the restoration projects can proceed. Once you're finished that, return to Edgal in Hytbold and he will have a long list of tasks that need doing throughout the town. You can pick up every quest in the list if you have the room in your quest log, but you won't be finishing them all at once.
Each of the tasks bestowed by Edgal requires a number of Hytbold tokens, which are earned by completing repeatable quests in Eaworth, Cliving and Snowbourne, and some of the upgrades also require high standing with the various new Rohan regional factions. You can accept as many of these quests as you want, but you can only complete 5 of them per day. Once you turn in the 5th daily quest, the remainder are cancelled out and automatically fail.
Most of these dailies come in the form of public instances - instanced spaces that are open to several players at once, with rapid mob respawns and small-ish explorable areas. Like the rest of Rohan, you don't need to be in a fellowship with other people in the instance. If you contribute to a fight, you get full credit for the kill. This can come in handy in some areas where tough mobs respawn very fast. The troll cave quest picked up in Eaworth is a good example of this - my Hunter was fairly quickly overwhelmed by a pair of tough wood-trolls, but a Rune-keeper happened to wander into the fight partway through and kept me alive while I took the trolls down. When the same thing happened to him after I had finished my objectives, I helped him out as well, and we both got full credit. Good stuff.
It's not all sunshine and happiness, though. Some of the quests are terrible. A chronically-laggy connection makes it difficult for me to complete some kinds of jumping puzzles, but one of the daily quests I picked up involved climbing to the top of a broken watch-tower by jumping from one precariously-thin beam to another. I fell a number of times and almost rage-quit, but eventually reached the top. On the plus side, if you never want to do this quest, you never have to - there are lots of other quests you can do instead to complete your dailies, and you can just cancel or auto-fail the horrible jumping puzzle. If you want to complete the associated deed, you need to do the puzzle just once, and then you never have to do it again.
These quests can be run solo or with a group. Either way, the reward is the same - 5 tokens per quest, 25 tokens per day. It will take a minimum of 44 days to complete every upgrade, and another 8 - 13 days to purchase a complete armor set. That may seem like a lot, but remember that Hytbold is a very large town. Your character is essentially rebuilding a settlement roughly the size of Bree-town out of ashes and ruin.
Completing the 5 daily quests rewarded me with 25 Hytbold tokens, which I carried back to the ruined town and proceeded to spend on repairing the Mead Hall. The Mead Hall, the largest building in the center of the town, seemed like a natural place to start. Purchasing the upgrades from (guy) gives an immediate result - I watched as the Mead Hall turned from a black, burnt-out wreck to a glorious gold-and-red-wood community center. I spent all my tokens on Mead Hall upgrades, but it wasn't quite enough for a full restoration - the inside is still pretty nasty, and there are no people in it yet. This is all done with phasing - the more you complete, the more stuff gets phased in for you to use. Every time you enter Hytbold, you are entering "your" version of the town - if you are traveling with another player who has rebuilt more or different parts of the town, you won't have access to his facilities, nor he to yours.
The same tokens used to restore Hytbold to glory are used to buy the new teal endgame armor set, and the pieces of this armor set are unlocked by purchasing the town upgrades. For example, as a Hunter, I can unlock the Shoulderpads of the Hytbold Bowmaster by completing The Mead Hall: Interior Enhancements I. If I want the boots for that set, I need to complete The Palisade: Rebuild VII, which requires Ally standing with the Entwash faction. Each armor piece has a separate upgrade/rep requirement, and you will need to pretty much rebuild the whole town to get the full set. This gating is for purchase only - you don't need the rep or the rebuilds to equip the stuff, just to buy it.
Each class has access to 3 new armor sets, in keeping with the tradition started with the Tower of Orthanc armor sets. Each set compliments one trait line, so the red set will usually enhance DPS, the blue set will usually enhance support abilities and the yellow set will usually enhance CC or "combat flow" abilities. Complete sets range in price - the least expensive set is 205 tokens, and the most expensive is 310 (both sets are for Wardens; most other sets are typically between 250 - 300 or so). It will take a minimum of 8 - 13 days to collect enough tokens to buy a complete set, in addition to the 44 it takes to rebuild all of Hytbold.
Each upgrade unlocks something. There are 162 possible upgrades and 162 armor pieces in total (9 classes times 3 trait lines times six pieces per set). When Hytbold is completely rebuilt, you will be able to watch the conclusion of the Eastemnet's story arc, and barter merchants for all classes will phase in around the Mead Hall. Since the armor is bound to account rather than character, once you reach this stage you can buy armor for your alts.
I hit 85 during the Hytbold quests, but there was still a lot left to do. I had barely scratched the surface in some areas - for example, I had not yet done any quests in Sutcrofts, or explored much of Fangorn (or figured out why, exactly, Gandalf is standing there near Treebeard's hill - I thought that would be explained in the epics, but it was not).
I did follow the epic story to its conclusion after hitting 85. I won't spoil the story (except to say that it's excellent!), but the last reward for the end of Book 9 is a level 85 Second Age bridle for your war-steed. If you want a Second Age weapon or class item, you'll need to join in on warband fights - one player on Arkenstone reported finding a Tarnished Symbol of Celebrimbor in the reward box from Bugud, and others have reported finding them in other tough warbands in Sutcrofts.
This is Rohan's endgame content - for now, at least. Turbine announced early on that Riders of Rohan would not ship with an instance cluster, but that one would arrive sometime before the end of the year. Whether the delayed launch of the expansion will affect the timely launch of the instance cluster update is anyone's guess at this point.
How has your experience with Riders of Rohan been so far? Let us know in our comments!