Name: Lord of the Rings Online: The Mines of Moria
Genre: Massive Multiplayer Online RPG
Turbine, developers of Dungeons and Dragons Online, Asheron’s Call, and Lord of the Rings Online, is known for large, free updates to their games. To date, all of their titles have received massive patches bringing new quests, items, and other enhancements that developers would usually charge premium prices for. Naturally, when it was announced that Lord of the Rings Online would receive a full-blown expansion the expectations were high that it would be above and beyond their average package.
Lord of the Rings Online has always focused more on story and plot than most massive multiplayer online RPGs. The option to skip dialogue and text, as always, is offered, but the story is usually quite entertaining, especially for fans of Tolkien’s works. By adhering to Lord of the Rings’s established lore, Turbine has created an experience so true to the books that fans would be hard pressed to get legitimately upset at any of the aspects of the title without resorting to nitpicking. The Mines of Moria expands on the game’s already impressive narrative by adding a linear string of quests, bringing players into the underground kingdom that was Khazad-Dum.
With the addition of The Warden and Runekeeper classes, players are give two reasons to begin the adventure anew. The Warden is a tank class, with different abilities that can be combined to unlock more powerful skills or “Gambits,” as the game calls them. Gambits work like small scale Fellowship Maneuvers, and different combinations are used to unlock powerful abilities. The Runekeeper is similar to Warhammer Online’s healing classes, relying on the duality of damage dealing and healing. As more healing magic is cast more is unlocked while certain damaging spells are locked out, and with each damaging ability used more can be accessed, but it becomes gradually harder to effectively heal. It spits in the face of Lord of the Rings Online’s early promises of staying as true as possible to the lore by keeping magic, in general, on the down-low, but the mechanics of the class definitely fill a gap left by the Minstrel and Loremaster. However, no matter how fun they might be, fans will want to skip these classes at first in favor of the true star of the expansion, and it lies underground.
There are several new areas to explore, but none as grand as Moria itself. In Lord of the Rings lore, Khazad-Dum was a thriving dwarven city built entirely underground. The dwarves lived there, and Turbine has done an amazing job of creating what must be the largest indoor area in any MMORPG. However, the time for Moria is over, by the time the game begins the Fellowship has passed through, Gandalf has battled the Balrog, and the mine’s new inhabitants are Sauron’s Orcs, Uruk-hai and goblins. Gigantic mirrors direct light from the entrance to a massive garden, allowing the plants and trees natural sunlight, and the relics of a seemingly dead civilization populate the underground territory. It’s a dark and dangerous place with treacherous cliffs and horrid foes, and it takes teamwork to successfully complete the later quests in the game. For fans of Lord of the Rings, experiencing Moria as it was crafted by Turbine is worth the price of the expansion.
Not all is perfect, though, and certain aspects of the expansion can be bothersome. While it makes sense at early levels to be tasked with completing menial jobs like delivering items between characters, it seems strange when a level 50, who likely recently just finished killing a Nazgûl, is told to collect wood for pick axes. In a story as epic as Lord of the Rings it’s a shame that Turbine had to resort to forcing players to complete what amounts to tutorial quests to level up their characters, and it feels like some of the quests were rushed in order to get the game out for the holidays.
As Frodo wields Sting and Aragorn carries Andúril, Legendary Items allow players to delve their characters into similar lore, creating and upgrading their own weapon (or armor) of fate. It differentiates characters in a way most MMORPGs don’t bother to by giving a sense of personality and individualism to each character’s items. It’s not much different than typical high-level loot, but its customization makes it more than a typical item, and helps blend together Lord of the Rings lore and interesting, rewarding game mechanics.
Aside from some changes to the game’s underappreciated Monster Play there are also enhancements to the crafting system and new abilities for player’s to unlock as they quest towards the raised level cap, but nothing out of the ordinary or special. If Turbine’s free enhancements to the game weren’t grand enough to justify continued play, it’s worth coming back for the expansion. Overall, while there’s nothing to draw in new players, fans of Lord of the Rings Online should find that the Mines of Moria are definitely worth exploring.