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The Lord of the Rings Online: The Mines of Moria

The Runekeeper is the first real magic user class in LOTRO, with the ability to both nuke anything and heal allies. The caveat is that each time you use an offensive or defensive ability, it pulls the Runekeeper’s abilities towards that particular school. So over the course of a fight you may be constantly blowing up things, unlocking more destructive spells and making your attacks more effective. However, this may dampen or even lock out some of your healing abilities, and vice versa if you’re healing a group. While this doesn’t affect soloing ability until the later levels, it makes the Runekeeper an intriguing character to play, and one that, mixed with the new trait system, will become unique depending on your play style. However, The Runekeeper is a departure from Lord of the Rings lore. On Shadows of Angmar’s release, Turbine were very clear that they were keeping spell-casting reserved to Gandalf and Galadriel, but time has led them to change their mind.

“When you’re a level 60 in an MMO fighting The Watcher with just swords and arrows, it just doesn’t feel right. We’ve demonstrated that we can package things in a way that they still fit in Middle-earth, and so when people are zapping other people with lightning, it’ll still feel in some ways like it makes sense in the world. It’s a stretch, no question about it, and we’re going to have some hardcore fans who are going to be upset. Even when we first started talking about the Runekeeper, we had people in the development team who were opposed to the idea,” admits Steefel.

“[Dealing with the Tolkien licensees] is interesting. It comes down to trust, and in the last four years we’ve shown that first and foremost we value the world and lore, and not just because we paid for the license – we’ve become very protective of it. Part of the product is the believability of the world, so we think they’ve come to trust us. Even if we stretch it a little bit, they know we’ll do it in a way that’s believable. They’re also learning more and more about what an MMORPG is, and getting a little more comfortable with the conceits that exist from a gameplay perspective. Players want certain things to make the game more enjoyable. However, they’re going to be looking very closely, especially in areas like this where we push the content. We’re in contact over everything, and we’re very well-connected with them, because if they’re on our side it’s only a good thing.”

This deep connection allows them to really exploit the great big dollops of Tolkien mythos. Moria itself holds around 60 new instances, ranging from solo to three and six-man groups, delving into the huge underground gardens of the Dwarves, the burial chambers of those that fell in the war with the Orcs and even the Shadowy Abyss, the place where the last Balrog hid after its race was killed off. In fact, Turbine hints that you may be able to find out the history of the flaming monstrosity. You can also look forward to a gigantic raid against The Watcher at the very end of the game. The sheer scale, lore, potential and span of content coming with Mines of Moria is stunning. Our only worry lies in how much is left to be done between now and the end-of-the-year release, considering the somewhat rocky release of Book 14 and the amount of things Turbine are taking on. Also, constantly updating the main epic quest line could bring into question the game’s accessibility – in two or three expansions, how could new players catch up?

While Burning Crusade may have been an impressive expansion pack, even opening the Dark Portal didn’t trigger within us the sort of fearful nausea and jaw-gaped awe of Moria’s Endless Stair. Even Azeroth’s Hellfire Peninsula lacked the domineering scale that the cavernous Moria delivers, and while it had a great deal of glitz, we can’t deny our gut feeling that Mines of Moria may give LOTRO players a great deal more than Blizzard gave its addicts. 

Aug 19, 2008

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