Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria

Like the height-discriminating signs at a theme park, you must be level 50 to wield a legendary weapon. But Moria’s content isn’t only for high-level stallions. The Warden and the Runekeeper are added classes available to anyone; the former is a medium-armor tank who uses a similar fighting style to that in Age of Conan: On the surface Wardens only have a few abilities, but by utilizing them in certain orders, players can activate gambit moves that heal the Warden, taunt enemies to attack, stun opponents, or deal damage. The intricacy of the class comes in knowing what gambit moves you’re opening up with each combo, and Turbine touts that it will be one of the most complex classes to play.

The Runekeeper is the first real magic-user class in LOTRO, and it’s designed to be similarly versatile - capable of dishing out damage but moonlighting as a healer. The caveat is that each time you use an offensive or defensive spell, it pulls the Runekeeper’s abilities toward 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.

As for the setting itself, Moria holds around 60 new instances ranging from solo to three- and six-man groups. Players will delve 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 have the chance to learn more about 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. While Burning Crusade may have been an impressive expansion pack, even opening the Dark Portal didn’t trigger 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.

+ Gloomy as it is, Moria’s rich lore and massive real estate should be a refreshing new environment; legendary weapons allow avenues for solo play.
– We’re still in the dark about The Watcher, the Balrog, and any other big-name baddies you’ll encounter in the Mines.

Sep 24, 2008