November is always a hectic month for gaming as everyone tries to get their game out in time for for Christmas. This year we added Lord of the Rings Online's first expansion, Mines of Moria, into the mix. So many games and so little time. Well, for this expansion I made time. There was no way I was going to miss what promised to be an epic addition to the game.
I've always liked Turbine's interpretation of the Dwarven interior areas. One of the main reasons my kinship hall is in the dwarf region is because I liked the look of it best. So when Mines of Moria was announced as the next expansion I got excited just to see what it would look like. Turbine do not disappoint.
As you'd expect, the mines are extensive. There are twists and turns and ups and downs that will have you spinning in circles trying to remember if you've seen that rock before. It's brilliant. I've never been in a mine, but this is how my imagination always pictured the confusion of tunnels.
Even while you're wandering around in circles you'll want to stop often to look around in admiration. Even though you're underground, regions aren't pitch dark. Of course some places are better lit than others, but Turbine has a deft hand at choosing when and where to place their lighting.
With the new expansion comes new music. As before, they have done a good job. The background music isn't something I would want to listen to on its own, but it creates a good atmosphere. I didn't find the new music annoying or tedious. To me this is a hurtle that many games stumble over, but Turbine has managed to sail right over it.
The generic creature and people sounds haven't really changed. There are a couple of new grunts and growls for the new creatures and the goblins seem to yell at you more. Again, not annoying, so that's a plus.
The story has again progressed and we're headed under the Misty Mountains into the Mines of Moria, but that was probably obvious. I don't want to give anything away as there's nothing worse than a review that spoils the story. It should suffice to say that you cause things to happen and complete a set of story missions in Eregion, prior to going into The Mines. These missions are story setup for the last mission before going into the Mines of Moria. This last mission is important though and will make you really feel like you're part of the story, or at least it did for me.
Once youre inside and you've gotten over the sheer size of the place, you'll want to get going on more quests. The main Epic Quest line continues of course, but there will be smaller quests also. Once inside the Mines of Moria the quests are pretty much business as usual. The area you first emerge into, Durin's Threshold, will ease you into the missions with nothing major or hard, giving you time to acclimatise to your new surroundings.
For those that like the very large raids, you won't find them here. You will find a good 12 man raid and several full fellowship boss instances. Some aren't happy about the lack of large raids, but in leaving these out Turbine have struck a balance between the larger and smaller group players. For those that are interested in the big groups there is content for them, even if it isn't as major a factor as it was previously. The smaller group player has really been thought about this time around though. Many of the standard quests can be accomplished with 2 to 3 people, while some of the more complex quests and the boss instances need a full fellowship.
In the new region you will now be able to find and purchase a new weapon type, Legendary Weapons. Each class has special weapons they can acquire that are customizable. There are two parts that you can modify to make your weapon unique, Legacies and Relics.
Legendary weapons are levelled as you used them. You gain experience for them at the same time as you gain experience for killing creatures. With each level you get a specific number of points to spend on your weapon's Legacies. The Legacies are modifiers that have ranks that you can spend the gained points on. These are randomly selected when you identify the weapon, but all weapons have a Legacy that raises its DPS.
The Relics are small items that you slot into the Legendary Weapon. The Relics come in three types: Settings, Gems and Runes. You can gain these in two ways: The first is to de-construct Legendary Weapons that you don't need or are for other classes, the second way is to make them by combining Relics you have to make others. Relics modify your stats, such as Might and Vitality, and come in a range of combinations. You can slot in one of each type into a weapon. If you find or make a better Relic then you can slot in on top of the old one, but you will lose the one that is already slotted.
Legendary Weapons are a very good addition, but they make normal weapons obsolete. Rewards from quests that are normal weapons, which would have previously been very good, are now useless unless you need a weapon for your off hand. There are many quests in the Mines of Moria that give experience for your Legendary Items, but there are still ones that give conventional weapon rewards, making them worth only selling.
There is a second Legendary Item for all classes except the Hunter. All classes are only able to have 2 Legendary Items equipped. For the Hunter it is their bow and a hand weapon. For all other classes a new slot has been added that is essentially a pocket slot. These pocket Legendary Items work the same way as the weapons do with the Legacies and Relics.
Along with all of this new content, two new classes have been added to the game: the Warden and the Rune-Keeper. The first, the Warden, is a melee combat specialist, while the Rune-Keeper is a “magic” specialist. The Warden has the newly introduced Gambits. These are special moves that you learn like other skills. The activate a gambit you need to use your skills in a specific order in order to make the Gambit available for use. Only the Warden currently has access to the Gambit system.
The Warden can equip a one-handed weapon, a shield and a javelin. Combat with this class is straight forward; one-handed weapon and shield for melee and javelin for ranged. The Rune-Keeper is a magic class and can equip Rune-Stones. The Rune-Stones are a little less straight forward. You can attack with these stones, but they will also have an element affinity. For example, if you have a fire Rune-Stone equipped then when you cast fire magics they will be more effective.
Both of the classes have their pluses and minuses depending on how you prefer to play, but overall I'd say they are good additions to the game.
Crafting has had some additions which are both good and bad. With the expansion another level, supreme, was added to the crafting tree and the crafting guilds. The additional level to the crafting tree gives avid crafters another level to master and a new title to earn. This new level works the same way as previously, but now you are able to craft the Legendary Items. Each of the crafting skill sets is able to craft specific Legendary Items. Unfortunately, these crafted Legendary Items aren't quite as good as the ones you can purchase or can be found in loot.
The crafting guilds have a minor part in the level of crafting. Mostly the crafting guilds are a piece of content that will satisfy those who enjoy the reputation part of the game. You gain reputation with the crafting guild by crafting items for them. As you gain reputation you are able to buy special items and patterns equivalent to your current standing with the guild.
Overall I'm very impressed with Mines of Moria. Visually it has exceeded expectations. In relation to the quests and grouping I think they have struck a very good balance. I am heartily enjoying this new addition to the game.