The MMORPG genre trundles on as developers continue to look for the next big thing, well that’s how it seems these days with newly launched products underperforming post launch. There are however MMOs that are an exception to this rule and Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online is one of these exceptions.
The Mines of Moria is the first expansion to be released in the LotRO series following the epic storyline created by the now legendary Tolkien. When the expansion was announced at the Connect ‘08 event in Birmingham last year you couldn’t help but be impressed with what Turbine had planned, new classes and a massive new zone to explore, and let’s not forget the new Legendary weapon system.
The expansion opens up the region of Eregion to LotRO adventurers and ultimately the Mines of Moria themselves. However it was never going to be a walk in the park getting into Moria and those who have read the books, or even seen the first film, will remember the Watcher in the Water sequence of events before entering the mines. This part of the original story is the introduction to entering the mines themselves, and is also a way for Turbine to ease the player into the new Legendary weapons system.
Before even entering the Mines players are tasked with numerous introductory quests which include battling the Watcher in the Water and protecting Hollins Gate, the entrance to the mines. A feeble weapon was never going to be enough to take down the Watcher so it’s out with the bog-standard weapons and in with the Legendary. The initial battle against the Watcher doesn’t go exactly to plan so a quest line takes the player on a mission to learn the ways of the new Legendary weapons which level up as the player utilises them in combat.
The Eregion region is littered with quests to help players level their new weapon but some straight-forward combat against MOBs also does the trick. It doesn’t take long to get that Legendary weapon up to the required level 10 before re-forging the weapon and taking on the Watcher for the second time.
With these new Legendary weapons Turbine wants players to forge a relationship with their weapon by tweaking and re-forging it to fit the player’s requirements as it levels up. It’s a really great system and a fantastic addition to LotRO, and this is just another aspect of the gameplay that will keep you hooked as your character progresses and the adventure continues.
There’s quite a bit of running back and forth at the start of the expansion but the quests do set the scene and tie the expansion nicely into Tolkien’s vision, even if they can be a little on the tedious side. After all, you want to get into the main sauce of the expansion, the mines, as quickly as possible.
Two new class additions in MoM are the Rune Keeper and Warden. The Rune Keeper can be viewed as a caster but with an interesting twist. The class has the ability to cast either healing or DPS in real-time allowing the player to shift between the two. However, the class can never be both at the same time but it does give the class the flexibility of switching to either so you can be heavy DPS in one instance then wait for the cool-down before switching to healer.
The class we have been playing for review purposes has been the Warden, which can best be described as a medium armour tank. The class specialises in a javelin weapon for ranged attacks but is also decent in melee thanks to the Gambit combat skill system. Turbine has created this new skill combo system where skills are combined in a certain cast order to create a new special attack. It’s up to the player to figure these combos out, but that is half the fun of playing the Warden and it’s not long before you’re linking the skills together in the correct combinations. The system certainly makes the combat a bit more exciting than clicking a bunch of individual skills in combat.
Careful Where You Tread
The thought of running around dark mines may not fill every MMORPG gamer with excitement, but remember, this is Moria. Turbine has done an exceptional job at creating the vast expanse of the mines which, to all intent and purposes, fits the description outlined by Tolkien in the first book.
The Dwarven architecture is over the top and on a grand scale with huge ceilings, statues and stairways. Moria is vast, this is no small expansion, there’s a huge amount of content and sub-zones within the mines to explore. Choosing your travel routes within the mines is essential and consist of huge drops and pathways littered with MOBs. It’s never straightforward getting from A to B and is, more often than not, challenging, even if one of the Dwarven Guides points you in the general direction of a point of interest.
The levels of difficulty increase the deeper you go within the mines, and while you can solo a lot of the early content, partying in a small group makes MoM so much more enjoyable. Actually, if you think about it, it makes perfect sense as that’s how Frodo and the Fellowship traversed the mines in the first place.
Half the fun of running around Moria is discovering the different enemies who lurk around each corner, Moria is a dream for fans who love a good dungeon crawl. The new Moria zones are very well designed and they do make you feel like you’re following in the Fellowship’s footsteps. A job well done by Turbine.
An Epic Adventure
LotRO is one MMORPG we think gets constantly overlooked, but maybe gamers are waking up to the fact that this is solid MMO. This is not only one of the best looking MMOs on the market, but one of the most playable and enjoyable thanks to its Tolkien tie-in. LotRO may not have the PvP appeal of others, despite new tweaks in Moria, but it delivers on so many other levels.
Recent figures show that LotRO is slowly growing its subscription base, and I can see why. Mines of Moria is not only a great addition to LoTRO but a fantastic expansion that will keep current players hooked, and with any luck, entice new gamers to finally enter Tolkien’s universe.