Expansions always rile up the Lord of the Rings Online faithful, and I'm pretty jazzed to see whether Turbine can pull off what's probably the most epic addition to the game since Mines of Moria. I'm going to save analysis of the expansion as a whole until next week because today I want to dive into the slightly confusing morass of pre-purchase options and pricing to see what's worth pursuing -- and what might be worth ignoring.
Probably the first reaction that players had to the news of the pre-purchase was a healthy dose of sticker shock. LotRO's Riders of Rohan is definitely on the pricey end of the spectrum, especially if you are looking at the legendary edition. Seventy dollars for an expansion? Holy cow. That's more than the box cost for most retail MMOs.
For comparison purposes, I looked up the prices from Rise of Isengard's three editions as well as this summer's Dungeons and Dragons Online expansion (which is also being published by Turbine):
- DDO: Menace of the Underdark: Base edition ($30), standard edition ($50), collector's edition ($80)
- LotRO: Rise of Isengard: Base edition ($30), standard edition ($40), legendary edition ($50)
- LotRO: Riders of Rohan: Base edition ($40), heroic edition ($50), legendary edition ($70)
A few things to note here. First, out of the three, Rohan has the highest basic edition cost, a full $10 more than the other two expansions released by Turbine. Turbine's justified this by saying that RoR has more content than previous expansions (see the interview below). Second, while the CE for DDO is the most expensive, a look over its extras and bonuses definitely put this in the collector's edition category, while RoR's "legendary edition" is definitely not as fully decked out.
Third -- and a huge sticking point with some players -- is that Rise of Isengard's standard and legendary edition came with 1000 Turbine Points (~$10) which helped to offset the higher price point. Now we have an expansion that's $10 to $20 more expensive than last year's (depending on the edition) while offering no bonus TP? It's not an easy deal to swallow, to put it lightly.
My opinion is that this is just a continuation of a very aggressive pricing policy that Turbine's been pursuing for some time now. Rise of Isengard was, according to the studio, its "best-selling expansion ever," and dollar signs have to be first and foremost when it comes to this expansion. The question is whether players will choke down the price increase, especially for an expansion that's yet to be fully explained or shown.
Option two: Pay with Turbine Points
Of course, patient players who are willing to forgo the pre-purchase bonuses may snag the expansion through an in-game purchase using TP on September 5th. This will cost you 4295 TP for the quests and deeds (no word yet whether this will include the instances as well). If you can get a good deal on TP that will allow you to pick up the expansion for less than $40 paid, it might be worth pursuing.
Keep in mind that buying Riders of Rohan this way will not include all of the extras, such as an inventory bag, XP token, or Rohirrim skirmish soldier. All of those will be sold separately.
There are two categories to consider with these editions: the bonuses that Turbine's handing out to those who pre-purchase the game before September 5th, and what will now and forevermore be included in the editions. Let's tackle the pre-purchase bonuses first.
All three editions include a cosmetic variant that turns your skirmish soldier into a male or female Rohirrim. Nifty to be sure, but it's probably more important to those who do skirmish more often. The first two editions contain a level 20 statted cloak that could probably be just considered a cosmetic item, while the legendary edition contains a level 75 statted cloak (with nice stats for your class). Finally, the heroic and legendary editions contain a +25% monster kill XP token, much in the same vein as the one seen with the RoI pre-purchase, except that this one works to level 75.
To be honest, none of these pre-purchase bonuses screams or even whispers "must-have." Leveling XP isn't hard to come by in LotRO, the cloaks are nice, but there are loads more of them in the game, and who spends gobs of time looking at a skirmish soldier anyway? Mine's an archer, so she's always behind me. As such, I don't see a compelling reason to pre-purchase unless you can't stand not having all of these bonuses right here and now.
The base edition is just that: basic. You're getting the full expansion for $40 but little else past that: just a title (whee?) and a mid-tier mount. Still, this might be the edition that I'd recommend, but I'll save that for my final thoughts.
The heroic edition is an odd duck because it's obviously designed to appeal to free-to-play folks over VIPs. I say this because it's the only edition to include the Evendim, Moria, and Lothlorien quest packs as part of its package. The edition also comes with a Rohirrim hauberk that's nice, but there are so many nice Rohan-themed armor pieces in the game at this point that it's nothing special. This edition should be considered only by F2P players who don't have those three quest zones but do need them and feel that $10 is a good deal to get them.
The legendary edition has a lot of folks up in arms because this is obviously the edition Turbine wants you to buy (if you couldn't tell by its LARGE GRAPHIC and AWESOME HORSE SYMBOLS), and it has many features that players wish would've been in all three. Case in point: The sixth inventory bag comes with only this edition; all other players will have to pay 995 TP to unlock it account-wide. The edition also comes with a full set of cosmetic armor and a one-time-only Crystal of Remembrance that adds a legacy to one LI.
Aside from the inventory bag, the vague mention of "exclusive Rohan content" is worrying. What I've deduced from the description and some reports elsewhere is that this unlocks at least one "horse play" session that ends up giving you an exclusive war-steed skill that you can't obtain elsewhere. I think speculation that this content goes beyond that is unfounded, and my general experience with this type of bonus feature is that it ends up being way less exciting than players imagine it to be. Turbine really should've been very, very clear on what this "exclusive content" included, since for some, it's the difference between buying this edition and another.
Like many of you, I had several questions about the pricing structure and bonus features of the expansion, and so I relayed them to Turbine through one of our on-the-scene reporters at E3. I'm going to re-post these here just in case you missed them:
Massively: So why is there a significant price increase over last years Rise of Isengard?
Turbine: This expansion pack is much larger in terms of volume and scope than Isengard. We feel like it's appropriate for the level at which we're bringing it to. There's a significant free portion as always.
Do the heroic edition quest packs come with the legendary edition?
No, the heroic and legendary are definitely different offers.
Why wasn't the sixth inventory bag included with the base and heroic editions?
We just wanted to include it in the legendary edition.
Why not include bonus Turbine Points with these editions?
We feel that with the Turbine Points, well, we were exploring with a new mechanism with these expansion packs, and this is our second expansion after going free-to-play. We'll continue to try new offers and new opportunities, but this is just the way we wanted to do things.
Is the Crystal of Remembrance reusable or is it a one-shot item that only applies to a single LI (Legendary Item)?
Yes, it is a one-shot item.
I am excited about Riders of Rohan as a whole but underwhelmed by the bonuses and features in these different editions. It's a very pricy expansion, even in its cheapest edition, and I think that Turbine's yet to really sell us on the bump of quality and content in Rohan to justify this increase. We really need to see mounted combat in action and get solid details on what's in the expansion.
This is what frustrates me about Turbine: The studio is perfectly OK delivering broad strokes of information, such as the bullet points of the expansion, while asking us to drop $70 on this vague picture. I really can't believe that players had to wheedle confirmation of an instance cluster (which won't be in the expansion at launch) on the forums in addition to Sapience's mention of an additional gameplay system or feature that Turbine's not ready to talk about. This is stuff we should know in advance before being asked to pay for it.
Pre-ordering is one thing, but the MMO industry is marching down a non-consumer friendly path of asking us to fully pay for expansions and games months in advance of seeing them or having the full details on them (and LotRO is not the only game guilty of this).
I also agree with players who think that all of the editions should've come with the sixth inventory bag (something Turbine talked up big in the previous update) and that the more expensive editions should've come with TP to offset the cost.
This is why my final recommendation is that players exercise patience and not leap to immediately buy this game. The bonuses and extra features are definitely not strong enough to justify it, and if you can get a good deal on TP or save it up from VIP allowances, then the basic quest pack will most likely suit all your needs and then some.
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.