More of the same, but now on horseback
As of writing this review, I have taken one character (a guardian) through all of the "regular" content of this expansion and have hit the level cap of 85. By "regular," I mean essentially non-Hytbold quests. I did the introductory quests of Hytbold and one round of dailies, but do not plan on doing any more.
I'll start out with the positives.
1. First of all, the soundtrack is amazing, frankly. All too often in MMOs, the background music starts out good or acceptable and then begins to irritate me with the repetitiveness or just gets boring. I usually use MMO time to listen to podcasts or substitute in my own background music. Following a lot of the buzz around the Riders of Rohan (RoR) soundtrack, I decided to turn my sound back on in-game and give it a listen. I found myself pausing podcasts to listen to the game music instead. At worst, this soundtrack will take months to get on my nerves and at best, it never will. I highly recommend it.
2. Another positive is the epic (story) questline. People have been complaining about it starting in Lothlorien, a place quite far from Rohan, but this is for consistency. The last part of the epic line before RoR ended in Lothlorien, so it is only logical to pick it up from there. It does however take some time to build momentum. You will spend time running around Lothlorien, listening to your traveling companions, and doing session plays (instanced quests that have you controlling an NPC instead of your character) revolving around the breaking of the fellowship. After that, however, it swiftly moves across Rohan and I found it to be enjoyable.
3. Turbine has taken some cues from other games and have added nice functionality to the game. Sadly, all of this is specific to Rohan and won't appear in previous zones. Quests pop up as you kill mobs, discover an item, or approach an area. Many of these you can turn in while in the field, but the rest you turn in at the NPC that originally sent you to that area, so there's at least no extra running around involved. If you have auto-loot on, then you no longer need to click on corpses to loot. It all automatically enters your inventory. They also incorporated a new overflow bag that holds dozens of items for up to an hour of game time. You can loot specific items from it and destroy others. If nothing else, it functions as more inventory space. These and others are a great convenience while in Rohan, but are very much missed when you go elsewhere in game.
1 (and only). For good or for ill, Turbine placed a lot of emphasis on mounted combat (MC) both in marketing and in the game itself. I do not like it, but I am in the minority. If you do like it, then I guess you could add a star to my review score and skip this section. MC is a new mechanic in which you fight on a new kind of horse with new skills. Lots of new. This horse, the "warsteed," does not act as previous mounts do. They take time to accelerate, you can set them at different speeds, and they turn like boats initially. MC is also quite different from regular combat. You queue up a skill and it will fire off when in range as opposed to the game simply telling you "not in range" or some such if you were on foot. A lot of MC basically boils down to either circle strafing or jousting.
There is a learning curve to the whole process, but I have seen many use that as a defense when people voice dislike of the system. Mentioning that you do not like MC guarantees a plethora of "l2p noob" responses or their more diplomatic brother "There is a steep learning curve..." I can kill a mob in one hit if I crit, I'm almost never in dire straits, and I can maneuver my warsteed just fine. I still do not like MC. I find it unnecessary and it is shoehorned into too many quests. I am speaking from a gameplay perspective here. Obviously, I approve of this for lore and story purposes. The Rohirrim fight on horseback, so MC makes sense there, but the implementation I do not like.
Most of MC is running around. You're either running in a circle waiting for cooldowns or you're running away, possibly aggroing a dozen more mobs, just so you can turn around and run toward your target. If the mobs were not on a steed and/or stood still, the fight would be over in seconds. MC feels more like a means to waste time and draw things out. A ranged dps class would be better off NOT on their warsteed and just fighting normally, even against mobs on horse/wargback. Fights would be over so much faster for them this way.
With MC, they added "warbands" which are essentially named mounted mobs. With the right traits and gear, one can even solo the warband that was designed for 12 people, so they are not there for challenge. The mounted ones usually have huge damage multipliers against unmounted opponents (i.e. you) so taking them on on foot is not wise, but you don't get much of anything for killing them anyway. All but the raid-level warband mostly drop cosmetics, house decorations, or useless items.
A big problem with MC is the huge imbalance between classes. A minstrel or captain can aggro many mobs and destroy them in short order due to long range AoE skills with insane radii. A guardian on the other hand has no ranged or AoE skills, so they must always be striving to be in melee range to hit one mob. Granted, they can hit practically as hard as any other class, but it's no fun having to deal with a dozen mobs one at a time. In truth, starting with a guardian might have colored my view a bit toward the negative.
1. With other MMOs providing different questing styles, RoR feels stale. In The Secret World, you have quests that require you to do research (or be really bloody smart) and won't point you at the place to go next all the time. In Guild Wars 2, there are group quests with multiple ways to contribute to an overall goal, meaning you don't necessarily have to be doing the same thing as everyone else, but you get credit for helping. What does RoR do? The same old Kill 10 Rats over and over and over. You generally get one quest to kill 10 rats, then upon reaching the area, you will discover 2-3 more quests like collect 10 rat tails, kill the elite rat boss, or burn rat homes. Repeat for the whole of Rohan. Granted these at least appear while you are there as opposed to the constant back and forth, but this is not the degree of improvement we need from Turbine.
2. Every launch has technical issues, but Turbine apparently forgot that 32-bit operating systems (or 64-bit with low RAM) exist. The game puts so much into memory that simply riding through Rohan on high settings can crash your game within half an hour. During the beta, it happened to me literally every other minute, so they improved at least. There are ways to sidestep the issue, like the 3 GB switch for 32-bit and turning your settings down to ass. Still, this is fairly major.
3. Lastly, there is no new endgame multiplayer content...IN AN MMO. LotRO's last expansion, Rise of Isengard, launched with one, albeit buggy, raid at least, but RoR has nothing. Instead, Turbine has left players to rely upon the same skirmishes (scalable instances) that we've had for years. Turbine's idea of endgame content is rebuilding the town of Hytbold. How does one do this? Very slowly. When you reach level 84, you receive the introductory quest and from then on can start the reconstruction. Once past the introduction, you are given a daily quest to go finish 5 other daily quests around Rohan. The catch is that there are 16 daily quests available each day, four in each major city. Completing one of the 16 quests rewards you with new barter tokens that you can spend on rebuilding parts of the town or on your armour sets. Why the 5-per-day limit? To draw things out until Turbine can launch the instances later (most likely) this year. It takes a minimum of 44 days of you logging in to do 5 dailies to rebuild the entire town. These dailies are also the only way to build reputation with the different factions once you run out of "regular" quests. Many parts of the town and your new gear are restricted based on which parts you have already rebuilt and on reputation with the different factions.
This bothers me greatly. I really like the idea of rebuilding the town, but starting it one level from cap with artificial daily limits as a substitute for endgame content is not cool. It's a nice way for non- or casual raiders to get raid-like gear, but as someone who is already in raid gear, most of the sets are not worth the effort. If this started even at 80, I might have been more inclined to do it and enjoy it, but as the end to the meal, as it were, I am greatly disappointed.
Conclusion / tldr
A lot of the expansion hinges on MC. If you like it, you'll like large portions of Rohan. If you don't like MC, well then Rohan is just a few- to several-hour adventure in killing 10 rats over and over again so you can hit level cap and do nothing. It does sound awesome while you're doing it and the epic quest is fun to do, but it lacks anything worthwhile to do after you're done questing. The additional quality of life improvements are great for the most part, but need to trickle down to the rest of LotRO.