The Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria Hands-On

We went underground with the first hands-on of the LOTRO expansion pack.

We're sure that developer Turbine realised this before it took on The Lord of the Rings Online, but Tolkien's world is mighty big. Although they re-created a good deal of it for the original game, there remain vast chunks of LOTR lore that players haven't even been able to visit yet. Thankfully, Turbine hopes to rectify this with what it says will be annual updates to the game. The first will be Mines of Moria, an expansion that adds not only the vast underground environments populated by dwarves, but also two new classes and a new legendary-item system. We managed to go hands-on with the game for the first time, as well as talk to Turbine's Jeffrey Steefel, at a recent London event.

Moria may be deep underground, but its buildings and statues are both huge and immaculately detailed.

At the beginning of the expansion, you'll find yourself in Eregion at the entrance to the mines. All LOTRO players will have access to about 90 percent of Eregion, but the last 10 percent is accessible only to the people who buy the expansion. Here, you'll come across a character named Rathwald who lets you into Moria, but before you can enter, you and your band of dwarves will encounter a watcher. Naturally, this encounter pretty much decimates your team, but its real purpose is to introduce you to the new legendary-item system. This new feature will let you customise up to six items in the game and have them level up, much like individual characters in the game, so that they become more and more powerful as you progress. The first weapon that you choose will help you go back and defeat the watcher, albeit only temporarily, given that you'll encounter it two more times throughout the game.

Although the mines are obviously underground, Turbine has strived to make them as expansive as possible. We got to see the endless stair--the pillar of stairs that Gandalf climbs after battling the balrog in the books--and though it didn't quite stretch the distance that we saw him fall in the films, it took many seconds to fall to the bottom. Speaking of balrogs, we also got to see one in the game, in an encounter that will happen fairly early on, according to Turbine. The game will feature a time-traveling narrative and you will play out King Durin's first encounter with the massive beast. It will be the most formidable enemy character in the entire game, pretty much unbeatable in fact, and your only option will be to run away as quickly as possible.

In addition to the impressive scale of the balrog, we got to take in more of the huge environments that will feature in the game. The dwarves are responsible for carving out huge statues and structures, as well as important natural resources such as gardens and water-cooling chambers to draw heat through the mines. We could see how they took the small amount of sunlight that filtered through from above and built mirrors to send the light and heat around to a huge purpose-built garden underneath. Further into the mines, we saw huge volcanic factories that used giant troll-like creatures secured on tracks to drive giant machines.

Turbine has saved the most ferocious enemies yet for the Moria expansion pack.

Although there will still be instances in which you'll meet the fellowship of the ring, the fact that you go into Moria just as the fellowship has passed through means that these encounters will be less frequent. The team says that it has responded to player feedback and made the game focused on single players with hundreds of new quests. There will also be new 12-player raids as well as 10 new three- and six-player instances. Thankfully, there will also be a teleportation system to take you around this huge labyrinth, and although you can't bring in a horse from the outside, you will be able to use new mounts and take them back aboveground if you wish.

We were impressed with the size and scope of Mines of Moria, and it's certainly a huge change compared to some of the lush, open environments found in the original game. Turbine said that the expansion pack would be out during 2008, and the company promised to lock down a final date by the end of September. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more news on the game's release soon.

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24 comments
ace244
ace244

YOU SHALL NOT PASS

troll-killer
troll-killer

why don't many people play THE BEST GAME EVER?

mixxathon
mixxathon

Well, nevermind the nay-sayers. Although they have the right to have an opinion, they obviously have made up their mind already and there is no point in trying to convert them. That train has already left the station. I have played alot of MMORPG's over time, and all of them have had something to make them fun, some for a longer time than others. EQ was great with all the diverse races and starting locations. EQ2 was beautiful and massive, but in the end too hard for one who mostly like to solo and just occasionally group with others for raids and really hard quests. WoW was great for a while, until the timesinks became all too obvious, and the repetitive gameplay with endless grinds too tedious. Conan was fantastic until lvl 20 and then died a sudden death due to poor gamedesign. Warhammer, although it had good intentions, became frustrating and actually pretty boring when it became obvious that as soon as all had left the area, there were no way to actually complete the public quests that for me was a wonderful design, and all one was left with was a very mediocre questing routine and endless repetitions of the same scenarios, over and over again. At least the questing was made easy due to utterly dumbed down enemies and a great way to find the needed area on the map. No need to read the quest texts, but if one did, the text was actually rewarding and fun. Then there is LOTRO, the game I always come back to for comfort, after having tried a new one with great expectations only to let me down. You see, LOTRO has Soul. And before you write me off as a deluded nincompoop, I would like to explain. Middle earth is so thoroughly designed by master Tolkien himself, It is a living and working world, with layers upon layers of culture, languages, geographical landmarks, a living history, and tales upon tales to be told in the Prancing Pony over a froothing jug of ale, If a bard group is present it oftenly draws a crowd and soon it becomes irresistible not to join in. Almost all of the people one meet are friendly, and if they are not, they most likely have a good reason for it. It will not be due to a hectic gamepace, missed lootdrop, or having been camping and area only to be cheated on the rewards. more likely it will be a dwarf who just had to deal with a sneaky elf and now just needs some good company and alot of orchnecks to wringe to sort it out. If one manages to get into a bit of trouble, one can count on getting help from people one does not even know, That is what a great community makes! About the questing, Yeah, I can agree up to a point. It has more than its fair share of The Wolves, The Tigers, The Bears, Oh my! At least until one passes lvl 20, when stuff actually leave kindergarten and becomes a fully involved epic RPG. This games lives different lives. It is stunning enough to make it good enough to just wander around to explore. It seriously shines in the Epic Quest chains. Who havent played through Book 1 final chapters, entered Othrongroth and liked it everytime, even if it just were for helping some newly baked lvl 12 adventurer to complete it. That book still gives me a rush, to see those 3 seriously heavy badgys in the same place, and praying to Eru for not having to fight them. And one more thing, Fellowship maneuvers! It is just reward enough to be able to actually complete a 6-parter in a battle. No matter if one wins or looses, the talk and memory will surround that maneuver, guaranteed. The graphics is in a league of its own. Just look at the trees. They are marvellous, and with all settings on max, including the textures if your system can take it, with DX10 turned on... well, nothing comes close. All mmorpg have great music, but LOTRO have the best, hands down. Just take the song from inside Tom Bombadils cabin - infectous, or any of the dwarven themes, especielly the evil dwarves. That music if sensational! A great feat for a young composer to pull this off. So, LOTRO have the visuals, the background, or lore if you will, and well written quests with a fair share of mundane quests in the pile (like every single MMORPG). Epic gameplay due to the different 'Book' quests (14 of them and now with Mines Of Moria even more) and now weapons that can level, making endgame grinds all the more rewarding. LOTRO is not a game for everyone, just for those who likes high fantasy and loves the best fantasy work ever written. For a Tolkienist, just the mere posibility of being able to actually walk around in Bree, see the frosty landscape of Forochel, or enter the Halls of Moria, to be able to lay eyes upon the valley of Rivendell or Eregion where it all started and rings were forged by Celebrandil and his students would be enough. To be able to enter Lorien and se its wonders, and maybe get snared by the horrible enchantress that lives there, or so it is said, certainly would close the deal. You think such a game could be playable? Or should one go back to / stay with WoW with its wonderful community, peaceful gameplay with absolutely no rush to get the latest items and to level up NOW to get just that little edge in the 'endgame'? The bliss of being able to write 'omfglolzanythingthatisntWoWsuxorz1' and expect everyone to actually understand and nod frenetically in agreement.... Naaahh.... I'll stay in Middle Earth, on Laurelin RP Server. There I have my house with that nice pond just outside. The sun is shining and it is a wonderful morning. I dip my bait, hoping to catch a fish, but is equally satisfied with just standing there in the grass. I hear a sharp horn and see a horserider coming towards me haistily. Although out of breath, the young man tells me that he was told to send for me. Weathertop is about to be taken by the Free Folk and I was asked to lead the assault. I accept and puts down my fishing rod, reluctantly, in the grass. I pray to Yavanna that I will se my haven again soon, but that is nothing I can count on. I will be back though, maybe not tomorrow, or next week, but I will come back. Tastes differ.

Bobzfamily
Bobzfamily

Love this game...can't wait for the expansion. No matter what some people say, I don't necessarily find LOTRO to be a genre changer, but it is quite innovative. I think the game gets less coverage and respect than it deserves.

pinksandcocaine
pinksandcocaine

It's always funny reading the "not enough people play it" comments. Sure, 10,000,000 people are playing WoW, but it's not like they're on your server with you. Every one of the major MMORPGs (sans EVE) caps the servers and, honestly, I'm generally hardpressed to find tons of people in random corners of the world no matter what MMORPG I'm playing because of it. I'd really be surprised if that alone affects anyone's judgment of the title. I think a lot of people instead mean "my friends aren't playing it", which is a fair thing to say. Luckily I've met a lot of nice people in the game. At normal peak times, it's not hard to find groups on my server at least. I obviously can't speak for all of them. It helps to join the /glff chat, which allows you to look for help server wide instead of just by region.

Vidar08
Vidar08

Not quite django_74. While Tolkien was Christian, and as such that influenced his own views on morality, the Ring doesn't represent sin. Tolkien himself said he did not write the LOTR as an allegory. While it's easy to attribute such a characteristic to it, the Ring can be taken at face value...an physical item of evil that needs to be destroyed or Sauron will take over the land.

gantra
gantra

No, the ring does not represent sin. Sin is an arbitrary concept and is defined variously based on the author. For example according to the Bible, it is a "sin" to weave cloth from two different types of thread. No, Tolkien was not refering to such a trite and arbitrary concept as sin. The rings represent what Tolkien said they represent in the books, which is ultimate power and the corrupting influence that power brings. Don't try and read between the lines and attach your own meaning to what an author writes, because it is almost always wrong.

django_74
django_74

You all know J.R.R. Tolkien was Christian, right? The ring represents sin, and as Frodo got closer and closer to getting rid of it, it was almost impossible to destroy, to where he didn't want to destroy it.

TruthlessHeroes
TruthlessHeroes

I tried Mines of Moria at PAX and it was amazing; cant wait for it to release!

Sevey13
Sevey13

Jared, Tolkien did not make the books to glorify himself. Indeed, he said many times that he was writting only a small chunck of the larger Middle Earth saga. You get the sense reading the books and watching the movies that there is so much going on you can't possible hope to understand even a little bit of it. Yes Tolkien wrote the start, but he wrote it so that the rest of us could build upon it and help it flourish. In that way, Turbine has already surpased the desires of Tolkien by adding to the story and expanding it for a new generation.

JaredTrotterboy
JaredTrotterboy

btw, try reading the books. I worship the Hobbit, really really good. 4 those who don't know The Hobbit is the prelude to LOTR. really really good books, and I'm not just saying that. Trying reading Forgotten Realms too. Authors include R.A. Salvatore and Richard Baker. and many many more.

JaredTrotterboy
JaredTrotterboy

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

JaredTrotterboy
JaredTrotterboy

can't help but feel bad for J. R. R. Tolkien. I've heard this is a good game, but every time theres a Lord of the Rings thing going on, u can at least put (in big letters) in memory or based off of J. R. R. Tolkien. He did after all inspire many other authors and such. Forgotten Realms series books, inspired by the Hobbit & Dungeons and Dragons. And Forgotten Realms inspired Blizzard. They did Forgotten Realms games for awhile, than they did their own stuff. World of Warcraft is one of them. theres a long list of others. but this is a good game, I don't even have to play it too know.

Hawaiianc
Hawaiianc

skablade 6 month is too long there are so much more now u left from bk 11 or 12 but now im on bk 14 waiting for 15. this game has more updates like a male bunny in a female bunny farm i love this game because of it and i know theres a hole lot more coming. but thoughts that got the $199 life time fee "must have" was well it pay off with all the updates and well time spent.. im so happy im not paying 9.99 a month p.s oh they really to listen posters in there forums for ideas with out changing the world or story. unlike other mmos..

cdrikari
cdrikari

Geez. Gandalf climbs the Endless Stair during his battle with the Balrog. They fight at the foundations of stone, the Balrog flees and Gandalf pursues him back up into Moria, up the Endless Stair and then finishes the battle at Durin's Tower. Even the movie got it right guys.

Zee666
Zee666

Awesome, i wasn't that into lotro, i played and found it to be like everything else, with this new stuff ill consider getting back into, i'd prefer if rohan was released though, miles of horse riding amazingness would be awesome, though i spose moria would be cool.

ArchosSecutor
ArchosSecutor

I've enjoyed LOTRO from the start (closed/open beta/launch) minus a 6 month break from fall 07-spring 08. I've never really had issue finding fellows for anything (Meneldor) but I've also run with very excellent kinships. Maelstrom is up to something like 120 balrog kills now, including a couple 6-mans so we're all awaiting Moria and any new challenges it will bring. I'm pretty sure there is going to be a fairly large influx of people when Moria is released.

skablade
skablade

I'm thinking of revisiting this game when Moria comes out. I finished playing about 6 months ago when I had 2 level 50's with high Ettens rank and full etched beryl and rift/helegrod gear. So, a bit of new content couldn't hurt a try. :) Really looking forwards to the new 12 man raids.

The_Bezerker
The_Bezerker

i disagree with MariusSE, i like the fact that there isnt many people on it, it makes it more friendly. On huge MMORPG's like runescape, everyone is horrible and is obsessed with doing better than you. I dont want it to grow too much, its nice how it is :)

dg3215
dg3215

I played this game for about 3 months I got a toon up to 35 and another to 21 but I just got bored maybe I will revist this game when the expansion comes out. But I am also looking forward to the release of KotOR MMO but god only knows when that will happen. I have heard the release date may be announce in late 09

OliveMaster
OliveMaster

Yeah, switch to Brandywine, Landroval, or that server that starts with an E... Lots of people there.

killstar15
killstar15

Switch from realm is my tip =) Really looking forward to lvl my 3 lvl 50 to 60, getting bored after a year playing.

MariusSE
MariusSE

Amazing game, but it really needs more people. Atleast in my realm it's pretty impossible to get a fellowship for anything. Atleast the expansion will probably bring back some old players, but I doubt it will bring in a considerable amount of new players.