LOTRO – Mines of Moria Preview

Posted on 31/10/2008
Tags: LotRO, MoM, Preview, Codemasters, 3D Fantasy
Mines of Moria Preview
by Gabriele Giorgi, Onrpg Writer

Eighteen months after the release of Lord of the Rings Online (the MMORPG set in the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien), Codemasters is about to hit the shelves with an expansion set, Mines of Moria. We have taken a sneak-peek at the new features it will add to the game.

The journey continues
One thing that sets aside LotRO from most other MMORPGs is the main storyline: everyone knows the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (by reading the books or through the movies directed by Peter Jackson) and it’s nice to see how the events unfold in a sort of parallel way. During your journey through the ancient dwarven kingdom of Moria, your path intertwines frequently with the Fellowship of the Ring and you will be able to visit all the places they passed through. The “session play,” a game mode introduced in LotRO some months ago, has also been used at its best to let you experience past events and give you the full scope of what happened inside Moria.
From Durin’s Door to the Twenty-First Hall, crossing the bridge of Khazad-dûm to finally reach the beautiful elven forest of Lothlórien, the journey in the tracks of the Fellowship will be a memorable experience, especially since all the places have been designed keeping in mind the original descriptions in Tolkien’s works… and when you get to Balin’s tomb you can’t help kneeling before it!

The halls of Moria
As soon as you enter Moria, you will be struck by the vastness of the place: high-ceilinged halls, huge statues (mostly ruined, remnants of a glory long past), deep ravines, roaring waterfalls: you will be easily dwarfed by such a scenery (pun intended)! And there are also narrow tunnels and hidden passageways, at times connecting different areas. Try jumping down a well in one of the chambers and see where you end up!
Speaking about jumping, the levels themselves are developed vertically, as much as horizontally: going up and down flight of stairs and rocky slopes, you can find different places, layer upon layer; you can even take advantage of it, shooting enemies from far above or fleeing from them, if you are not afraid to leap off a ledge… it may be even used to save you a walk!
Your primary goal will be to aid the dwarves into regaining their long-lost kingdom: the caves are teeming with orcs, goblins and other creatures, and the dwarves have set outposts throughout the caves, in all the different areas of the mines. No personal mounts are allowed inside, but you can rent yak-like animals to travel quickly from place to place (and instant travel will be available as well, once you’ve garnered enough reputation).

Skills and levels
With Mines of Moria, the characters can gain 10 additional levels, up to 60. Anyway, leveling in LotRO has never been a problem, and in MoM there are plenty of quests to keep you occupied: you will level without even noticing it… and of course you will be able to acquire new skills as well.
This expansion introduces also three different paths for each class: selecting certain traits will unlock additional bonuses, and you can even combine those paths to create your own build, since they require five traits at most, and at level 60 you will have seven slots available.
A stand-alone window is now available for traits, more user-friendly and better organized than before: you will no longer have to scroll down a long menu to find what you are looking for.

Items of legend
Legendary items (melee and ranged weapons, and class items) probably represent the biggest new feature in this expansion. You will receive your first one during the main quest, and there will be plenty of tutorial windows popping up to explain you how they work. Suffice to say that, when equipped, they will gain experience just like your character, and they will allow a good degree of customization: powers, bonuses, type of damage and, of course, a name… you can even change it (along with the rest) when you “reforge” the item: just think about Aragorn with Andúril (formerly known as Narsil)… and where would Frodo be without his faithful Sting?
The downside of this system is that ordinary weapons dropped or obtained as a quest reward will be quite useless, since you will tend to stick to your legendary item to level it up and unlock its powers. But weaponsmiths should not be afraid: legendary items can also be crafted, although this will require rare ingredients and recipes.

Two new classes
Mines of Moria introduces two new playable classes. The Runekeeper is a sort of a jack-of-all trades: he can work as a nuker or be an effective healer, while having some crowd control powers as well; problem is, if he concentrates on healing his offensive skills will be greatly reduced (or unavailable) and vice versa. Still, it would be a nice addition to a party, since his versatility allows him to take different roles in the group as required.
The Warden is an unusual sort of tank that relies on parrying, evading and heals rather than armour (in fact, he can only wear medium armour). He can be quite effective in ranged combat, but his distinctive feature are gambits, skills triggered by a certain combination of attacks, each one with diverse effects; so, in combat, you have to keep in mind what you need the most and time your attacks to enable the corresponding gambit.
As of now, though, there are no other ways to level these new classes fast, other than power-leveling, so it might take a while before we can see them in high-level areas and instances.

Other features
Visually this expansion is surely appealing, not only for the level design (as commented before) but also for nice graphical effects like blurred vision when you fight poisonous toads or the slight tremble in the air in hot areas. Music and sound effects help to emphasize the atmosphere, and some of the tunes are particularly inspired and suited to the settings.
About PvP (or, as it is called in LotRO, PvMP: Player versus Monster Player) many issues have been addressed from the freep side (the good guys), while the creeps (the monsters) have been given new powers and skills, not to mention starting from level 60 right away. The whole PvMP area of the Ettenmoors has been revamped as well. On the other hand, we cannot help but wonder what will happen to players without this expansion: a level 60 creep will be no match for a level 50 character. Why not create a new PvMP zone inside Moria with different kind of rewards, and put a level cap on the Ettenmoors? It is possible that this issue will need to be addressed in the near future.

LotRO has never been innovative as a MMORPG, but everything it does, it does it well. Plus, it’s supported by a solid setting and storyline.
If you have played (or are playing) it, you should get hold of this expansion as soon as it’s released: just venturing through the new areas makes it worth buying it, not to mention loads of new things to do that will keep you occupied for quite a long while.
Codemasters has constantly released free updates in the past, so if something (instance difficulty, PvMP, etc.) does not work properly from the start, we can expect it to be fixed soon enough.

1. Solid storyline and plenty of quests will help you level without noticing
2. Two brand new classes with their peculiar skills and style
3. Vast new areas, immersive and beautifully designed

1. No new area for PvMP inside Moria
2. Legendary items will make other weapons pretty useless
3. Completing all the deeds for virtue traits might be a worthless effort, since they are capped to rank 10

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