But what I wanted to go into today were the impressions from beta testers now that the NDA has dropped. I think it's a really good sign that Turbine felt confident enough to kill the NDA on the day of the delay announcement because it nullifies suspicion that the studio is trying to hide a major clusterfudge from us. Mmm... major fudge.
So let's go to the street, where emboldened testers are going door to door and letting everyone know everything about the expansion, warts and all. Is there more good than bad? Is mounted combat really all that and a bag of horse apples? Does this expansion represent Turbine's finest hour or just a speedbump on the way to Mordor?
Right out of the gate on the official NDA drop forum thread is a thumbs-up from several players, including Gambald, who gushed, "Folks, you won't be disappointed. Even if you need to wait 40 more days for it, it will be worth every penny and every hour." Norwei prefaced a long post with glowing praise: "Riders of Rohan is going to be a turning point for Lord of the Rings Online. It shall take you out of the gaming environment into a virtual journey through the pages of Tolkien."
Fredelas praised both the excellent beta testing process and the addition to the epic storyline: "MadeOfLions and his team have done a great job of really bringing the story to life. It is probably the most immersive experience I've encountered so far in LotRO." Another player said she was "literally moved to tears" during these quests.
"They have captured Rohan perfectly. The art and the music is incredible," Thurinor testified. "It's absolutely gorgeous," Ayrolen said. Harolwin agrees with these sentiments, saying, "From the Falls of Rauros to Fangorn, Rohan is by far the most stunning landscape in LotRO."
Best LotRO expansion of all time? Possibly, according to Belnavar. "If it weren't for the lack of launch instances and classes, this could easily surpass Moria," he said. "The different Mead Halls are particularly impressive, but a lot has gone into creating a very immersive world."
Lots of people are cheering the return of Chance Thomas' score. "For the first time in a very long time, we hear the music of LotRO come back," Dalk0 said.
The PvMP upgrades seem to be worthwhile too. "The new moors dynamics lend a much better feel to the battles and avoid some of the irritating tactics that have been utilised in the past," TheAC wrote.
Some players are pretty psyched about the mounted combat and new horse options. I got a big laugh from a player who said that war-steeds are "not horse pants." Others caution patience while learning this system: "As you advance and fine-tune your mount's traits, it becomes much, much better. Don't judge the book by its cover."
"The cosmetic system for horses is everything I have wanted and more," Esteiel said. Sirwillow reassured fellow players that mounted combat isn't just for the young: "Mounted combat does not require a gamer's twitchy fingers because if it did, I'd be hopelessly done for."
Testers seem to concur that the delay was necessary because of bugs, lag, and issues with mounted combat. Another excuse is that the town that you will rebuild (Hytbold) hasn't been tested much yet. I didn't see anyone say that delaying the expansion for more work was a bad thing -- quite the opposite.
"Releasing in 13 days would have been, frankly, a disaster," LagunaD said. "I have been in Moria and Mirkwood betas, and the current readiness of RoR is far below either of those."
"There are a few very annoying bugs around (I'm looking at you mounted combat instances!) that I would rather not see going live," Deorwyn chipped in.
Kaynith went into detail about the expansion's key feature, admitting that it has its good moments but plenty of bad as well: "The steeds turn like a battleship under full power. Seriously." Lwk1138 agreed and went even further, saying, "Personally, I think it's the most clunky, poorly implemented game system since LIs, and I really don't like LIs."
MoonwalkintoMordor said mounted combat wasn't even worth doing most of the time: "I found it actually easier to fight mounted enemies while I was unmounted. That was a serious disappointment for me."
Don't like the XP chase? You may not find this expansion to your tastes. "One needs to get to level 85, level new LIs, grind new relics, and level your horse," Mmogaming said. "If you do not like leveling, this will be painful. "
Moneydie says that some elements of the expansion are "really unfun" but did not elaborate.
Finally, the new emote sounds that Turbine's given player characters has proved a point of contention with many. "Unfortunately, these sounds don't fit the mood of the game very well, instead making your toon sound rather deranged and even embarrassingly orgasmic," Bufo1944 wrote.
If perusing long forum threads isn't for you, here's a quick-and-dirty list of what several players are reporting from the expansion:
- The devs have been very responsive during the testing process and have made significant improvements over three builds.
- It feels a lot more like Lord of the Rings than recent expansions.
- Mounted combat takes some getting used to, but it's a lot of fun once you do. "Large leveling curve" was mentioned more than once.
- The town of Hytbold needs more testing.
- Remote looting and quest assignments rock. You get a limited-time overflow bag for loot if your normal bags fill up.
- One-half to two-thirds of the expansion content revolves around mounted combat.
- You can fight mounted foes on foot; it's just harder and more frustrating.
- The new music is getting a lot of good reviews.
- There are three new books for the epic storyline.
- Once you switch to war-steeds, you won't want to go back to normal mounts ever again.
- The Great River will probably be retuned as a level 70-75 zone.
- There are four new reputation factions.
- PvMP changes seem to be well-received.
- The virtue cap has been bumped up to 16.
When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.