LotRO’s Riders of Rohan Review: Mounted Combat Done Right
There are MMO expansions that just add more. More levels, more quests, more loot, more craftable items, more carrots to chase. We like those things. They are a big part of the MMOs we play. But expansions have to do more than add more of the same. They also have to innovate without destroying the parts of the game people keeping logging on for day in and out. Free-to-play Lord of the Rings Online’s fourth expansion, Riders of Rohan, manages to mostly succeed in doing just that with the long-awaited mounted combat feature.
To be clear, there are other great new features that come with the expansion including remote looting, rolled back restrictions to encourage helping others, and expert touches that bring Rohan and its people to life. But Riders of Rohan stands out for creating a new way to play your character using a mechanic that makes sense in light of the new lands being explored. Though not all players are in love with it, it has brought new life to the game.
Mounted Combat Rides Into Middle-earth
Horses have long been in the game, but they were only used for faster travel. With Rohan, Turbine introduced a new kind of horse dubbed the warsteed. With it, the player could engage in mounted combat, but with a catch: all of the player’s skills and abilities are replaced with new ones.
This has led to some exciting new gameplay opportunities on the open fields of Rohan. Players can now take down mounted opponents either solo or in group as well as hunting down larger roving warbands for a bigger challenge. Turbine also tweaked its tapping system to encourage players to help each other out. Now attacking a monster that another player has already engaged (aka tapped) will not create a penalty for that player. In fact, by helping you can get kill credit.
And the warsteed is whole a new progression mechanic in itself. It has a bridle that you must level up and assign stats to as well as its own set of skills and traits you must choose from. And as your warsteed levels, it becomes faster, stronger, and easier to maneuver given the right skill allocation.
Though getting started on the warsteed has a bit of a learning curve (there is an in-game tutorial for training and practice), once you get some levels under your belt you quickly realize how powerful you are on these mounts. Before long I was taking on multiple mounted opponents, leaving a trail of defeated foes in my wake, and enjoying every minute of it. And nothing fulfills the promise of an expansion focused on the lands of Rohan more than that.
On the flip side, however, battling on warsteeds replaces 80 levels of abilities that you spent years learning and honing with an all new set. The mounted combat abilities are similar to what you would use normally for your class, but greatly simplified. On top of that, you have to be moving constantly on your steed to build power. So if you are used to standing your ground and carefully weaving your abilities to their desired effect, you now must kite mobs across the landscape with just a handfull of actions. This has left many players upset who don’t like changing their playstyle so drastically.
Fortunately for them, not all of the Rohan content is requires mounted combat, but a very large chunk of it does and given the overall success of it, expect to see more. Remember, this expansion only covers half of Rohan. The other half awaits, as well as Gondor content after that. The evolution of mounted combat has only begun. I, for one, am looking forward to it.