At Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany, MMORPG.com got its first real look at Lord of the Rings Online's upcoming expansion, The Mines of Moria. Fans of the Tolkien series will recognize the name, as the Followship passed through the massive underground city on their way to Lothlorien. The abandoned Dwarven kingdom, as you may recall, had become home to all kinds of evil, including the famous Balrog that Gandalf the Grey was forced to battle.
Well, the story for Lord of the Rings Online is that after the fellowship passed through Moria, the Dwarves begin an effort to fully reclaim their lost land. Hence, the influx of players into the mines and the action that will bring them there.
Turbine Lord of the Rings Online Producer Aaron Campbell described the mines as "the original dungeon", the "dungeon" from which all others grew. He probably has a point, and as such, it presents daunting challenge to the developers in doing it proper justice.
On the one hand, the developers want to be as true as possible to what Tolkien laid out for the region. For example, he described the entrance to the mines as having 300 stairs. As a result, the first stairway that players will come across in the expansion area has exactly that.
If that sounds like a lot of stairs, it is. Seeing the in-game demo, the gathered reporters got a real sense of the size and scope of the new area. "It's not just a cave," Campbell said, "it's an ancient civilization."
He wasn't kidding. Anyone who was expecting to see a claustrophobic, dank, underground area is in for a disappointment. Turbine has even gone so far as to create a new technology that will allow them to layer floors, creating the enormously high ceilings that don't cause performance issues. It's called Dual Height Map Technology and from what I could tell, it works just fine.
I mention this because I was truly blown away by the look of the mines. While you are most certainly in an underground environment, you don't necessarily notice it at every turn. Some of the visuals in this area are truly breathtaking, including looking up and barely seeing the ceiling overhead at such a height. It should be noted as well that the scenery in the mines aren't just backdrops, you can always reach a location that you see so long as you can find the correct path.
This new expansion also gives the developers the ability to explore beyond the areas specifically detailed by Tolkien. The "endless stair", for example, which Gandalf had to climb after his battle with the Balrog will be in the game along with many new and variations on old monsters. It's a delicate balance between re-creating described areas and creating new areas that fit in with the "feel" of the original story.
So, beyond story, what can we expect to see from the Mines of Moria expansion? It turns out that the answer to this question is unsurprisingly more in-depth than a twenty minute demonstration could cover, and MMORPG.com will continue to bring you more details as we approach launch.
In the presentation though, they covered a lot of what we've already heard about. Campbell briefly touched on the new legendary weapon system that will see players obtain a weapon akin to Frodo's Sting that will actually advance in power (and gain XP) alongside its wielder.
There are two types of legendary weapons. The first is in the form of swords and similar type weapons, the other will be items that benefit a player's class abilities (one would assume for those classes which rely on magic-like abilities for combat).
The Mines of Moria will see the game's level cap raised by ten from 50 to 60. The game will also see a number of new three and six-man instances as well as a new twelve-man raid.
One of the biggest features of the new expansion is the addition of two new classes:
The Runekeeper - LotRO's first overtly magical class withh be able to cast both offensive spells like fireballs and lightning, but also healing spells. There's a trade-off though. If you focus your attention on casting offensive spells, your healing spells will lock. Similarly, if you decide to heal, you will find youself without many of your offensive abilities. After a certain amount of time out of combat, your abilities reset and the whole dance begins again.
The Warden - A new medium-armor tanking class that will make use of combo attacks called gambits. The Warden has three different types of attack: threat generating, defensive and melee strike. As they use skills from these categories in a sequence, more powerful attacks will be opened up for their hacka nd slashing pleasure.
While, as I said earlier, we were not able to cover a good deal of information in the allotted time (a show as big as Leipzig is go,go,go and some things must wait for later), I think that we were given a pretty good overview of what Turbine hopes to offer in Volume 2 of the game's story. We look forward to learning more and of course sharing it with you as soon as we can.