Launching an MMO expansion pack in the same month as Blizzard may seem like madness, but Lord of the Rings Online has a huge user base, well-defined and even innovative MMO mechanics, and the world’s best known fantasy world. There are vast swathes of people living in the Shire and loving it.
Mines of Moria picks up at the end of Volume One of LotRO. We’ve just said goodbye to the Fellowship in Rivendell, and that hastily assembled group of Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits was setting out on their fateful journey to Mordor. For the last few months, players have been sweeping up those unfinished deeds, crafting skill tiers and quests in a bid to be truly ready for the next leg of the adventure. That time has come.
This expansion has a lot to live up to: trying to remain true to the core game that’s worked so well so far, expanding the universe and with it the level cap from 50 to 60, and endeavoring not to unbalance it all in the process. But don’t even think that you’ll see the inside of Moria until level 50. That’s a long road to journey on, especially if you want to savor the sights and sounds of Middle-Earth along the way – and trust us, you’ll want to. For those Middle-Earth old timers who’ve been 50 for some months now, earning XP once more is thrilling, especially as this expansion also includes a vast new external region that leads up to the walls of Moria.
This region, called Eregion, has plenty of quests and foes to keep you occupied before you venture into the dark caverns. As you kick off Volume Two of the epic storyline proper, the final leg of your journey into Moria itself, you’ll encounter the Watcher in the Water, the foul tentacled beast in the lake near the Hollin’s Gate entrance to Moria. It’s this fateful encounter that introduces you to the new ‘Legendary Items’ system. Thanks to the implementation of Legendary Items, Frodo’s got ‘Sting’, Gandalf has ‘Glamdring’, and we’ve got ‘Stabatha’ the legendary dagger.
These are exactly what they sound like: unique and potentially powerful items, starting out fairly ordinary, but which gain experience and level up just as you do. It seems complicated at first, but looking at the Legendary Items panel we were soon able to customize our dagger into a weapon we were proud of. Each item is class-specific and can be upgraded to specific roles; a dagger that does vicious damage to orcs, for instance. You can carry up to six on your character at any one time.
With so many combinations available, you might decide that your new item isn’t what you had hoped for. No problem: you can get them ‘deconstructed’ into their component parts via a Relic Master NPC, or trade them at the Auction House. Even if you’ve spent some time leveling an old item you no longer want, deconstructing it will result in ‘Heritage ‘Runes’: a way to transfer some of its experience to a more favored item.