Once you reach Expert level in your chosen profession, you can join a ‘Crafting Guild’, which will give you access to exclusive recipes. Your progress in this guild is measured according to your reputation within it, so keeping them happy will improve your standing, thereby unlocking access to new recipesthat greatly enhance your abilities. A ‘Supreme’ tier of mastery is waiting to be achieved; the items produced being appropriate for those above level 50. If you’ve improved your reputation with your Crafting Guild far enough, you’ll even be able to produce special Class items, Legendary Weapons, and items that can boost the speed of leveling that new Legendary Item.
Another interesting change is the representation of the ‘Traits’ system. Traits are special character abilities, such as increased might, agility, or even a propensity to be protected from wounds or disease, etc. These traits are slotted to your character by visiting one of the many Bard NPCs in the game, but you can only have a certain number at any one time. Standard traits, called virtues, are common across all characters, but other traits are based on your class, race and so-called ‘legendary’ traits for completing certain deeds of derring-do. The traits themselves are not new to LotRO, but the new multi-tabbed window to represent them is certainly a welcome addition.
Turbine have done an amazing job in expanding their game while being mindful about not unbalancing the core Angmar experience or leaving vast swathes of Middle-Earth deserted as people migrate to the new areas – a problem many MMOs have suffered from. In Lord of the Rings there’s always a good reason to head back to the original areas, not least to complete deeds, build up traits, access key crafting halls and go trading at the Auction House. There’s always something to do, and it isn’t all about fighting evil.
Moria is not without its faults: the first week of release saw an unwelcome and unusual abundance of bugs. Server stability has been a little bit questionable, with dumps to Windows, characters getting stuck in doors and finger-tapping waits while the game attempts to clean up your connection when you reconnect. These are not uncommon issues for MMOs to experience during the post-release blues of a major update, and given the game’s previous level of bulletproof reliability prior to Moria, we expect Turbine to stamp on these flaws promptly. But it still leavesus wondering darkly if this expansion was rushed to release to coincide with Wrath of the Lich King.
And as a final grumble, for all the well written and entertaining quests here, there’s still the traditional MMO grind fare of kill X number of things and recover X number of body parts. That said, we’ve enjoyedour time in Turbine’s Middle-Earth for months now and have no intention of leaving the Fellowship to journey on without us. See you in Mordor.
Dec 4, 2008