Massively multiplayer online role-playing games may come and go, but Lord of the Rings Online has proven to be one of the genre's true success stories. Developer Turbine is set on expanding the game for the community, and with a wealth of Tolkien source material, the team plans at least two more add-ons over the coming years. The first is Mines of Moria, which will open up a completely new underground world to explore, and we got to check it out at the Codemasters booth.
Although the original Lord of the Rings Online had its fair share of caves to explore, Mines of Moria offers a whole new area that's completely below ground. It's the stomping ground of the dwarves, who populate a lot of the area and congregate at the major city of Moria. Aside from this completely new area to explore, the expansion will add a new level cap and two new classes, and will let you forge legendary items. The level cap will now jump up to level 60, and the two new classes are the runekeeper and the warden. The runekeeper is particularly interesting, given that it will be the first completely magic-based character in the game.
Although you'll be playing below ground, the sense of scale in the mines is still very impressive. We saw a huge staircase in the first part of the demo, and it took about two minutes to climb. The lighting and overall detail also made us want to explore more, although we sadly didn't get to see any of the city. Turbine also promises a better item-advancement system through something called "legendary items." The developers have implemented feedback from players who said that it was a bit complicated, and you will now be able to level up and forge new weapons in a more efficient menu system.
The Mines of Moria expansion pack is looking polished at this stage and will launch before the end of the year. This will leave the team free to concentrate on the next pack for the same time next year. When asked about how far they were aiming to go, the Turbine rep said, "We'll get to Mordor eventually!"