‘Tis the season, and all that, but if you’re a style="font-style: italic;">Lord of the Rings Online
player there’s something else you’ve been enjoying
for a few weeks that is sure to keep you entertained throughout the
holidays. No, I’m not talking about a free pet hobbit for
every subscriber; I’m referring of course, to the style="font-style: italic;">Mines of Moria

The original target="_blank">LotRO never captivated me. The
story was good, but the
game play felt lacking. This was the opposite of games like style="font-style: italic;">Crysis, where the
game play was quite good, but the story was old hat. LotRO was the
reverse. It was the anti-Crysis.
Despite the fact that the fundamentals haven’t really
changed, I did notice a lot of improvements in  style="font-style: italic;">Mines of Moria.

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href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/51966" target="_blank"> title="Panoramic View in Mines of Moria"
alt="Panoramic View in Mines of Moria"
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style="font-style: italic;">Inspired art and detail.

Regions Arterrific

The most obvious step up comes in the art style. In earlier play
sessions I had dismissed the game as somewhat cartoony, with a bit of
grainy character. The new regions, however, are really quite inspired.
The environment is crisp and immersive, and throughout my entire
adventure to get into the mines, I was taken away by a very keen sense
of adventure. The game is quite a tease in that regard, often giving
you a glimpse of something really cool, but keeping it just out of
reach to keep you playing a little longer. I haven’t been
that willing to jump through that many hoops since grade seven when
hormones became the latest craze.

I was thrilled to see the lake monster return in href="http://lotro.tentonhammer.com/index.php?module=ContentExpress&func=display&ceid=749"
target="_blank">Mines of Moria. The encounter with that
watery beast is one of the defining moments of the Lord of the Rings
story. As I approached the entrance to the mines, and saw the dwarves
staring over the Black Pool, I knew it was coming. The pool rippled,
and the little plink and patters of skipping stones set an ominous tone
rivaling one from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan. They were teasing me
with foreshadowing. And I liked it. Sure enough, as I worked my way
through the story arc, fed some dwarves and supplied fresh pickaxes,
the tentacled fiend came out of the lagoon in all its superlative
grandeur. It was a momentous gaming experience.

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href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/51967" target="_blank"> title="Tentacled Beast" alt="Tentacled Beast"
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style="font-style: italic;">The tentacle beast returns!

The Straight and Narrow

Environments and multi-limbed monsters aside, the quest line is a
little linear for a MMOG, and that’s somewhat true of the
entire LotRO game. It’s not as open-ended as other titles
available, as you are guided through a very specific story line. This
is neither a good nor a bad point, but should be noted, as this type of
game play will not suit everyone. If you’re the type of gamer
to grind through quests, gaining experience as fast as you can to get
to end game raid content, neither LotRO nor the new expansion are
suited well to you. Similarly, if you don’t like to read,
then I cannot, in good conscience, recommend the game, or this review
to you.

As far as the questing goes, I found some of the side quests a little
too difficult to solo. Normally this would have been fine, and I would
have just asked a friend to join me on the quests. However, the problem
was that the particular instanced region and quests on which I had been
working were only available to players with the MoM expansion who
hadn’t yet gained access to the mines. Once a player is in
the mines, the introductory instance and its quests are no longer
available. So, fair to say, it’s rare to run across anyone
else who can go through the side quests with you. It isn’t
game breaking, but it is a little frustrating. I was enjoying the
story, but I was unable to complete a few tasks before I moved on,
knowing I’d never have another opportunity to do them again,
outside of leveling another character up to level 50.

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href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/51965" target="_blank"> title="Legendary Items Interface"
alt="Legendary Items Interface"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 200px; height: 125px;">

style="font-style: italic;">The Legendary Interface

Goodies and Gumdrops

Turbine has added more to the game than just new adventuring content.
There are also two new classes (the Rune Keeper and the Warden), and
new ‘evolving’ gear. This has added a great deal to
what has been missing from the game to this point – new goals
and new content for end game players. The game had become victim to
what troubles a lot of MMOGs; that is leaving the players with little
to do once they’ve explored the world and reached maximum
level. “Is that it?!” has become the mantra of many
a gamer. Now with this new legendary gear, players will always have new
ways of improving their character.

The mechanics behind the evolving equipment are fairly simple, but it
can be a bit overwhelming to become accustomed. This is quickly
rectified, as the introduction quest to gain access to the mines
provides one with a legendary item, and the quest itself is a
walkthrough on how the mechanics work. To simplify, the items gain
experience along with you. As they ‘level up’ you
can assign more stats to them to make them more powerful. You can also
adorn the items with gems and runes to customize them even more. To top
it all off, there are legendary titles available that you can affix to
these items to make them truly unique. The whole system is
comprehensible, and effective, and as it turns out, quite fun.
It’s nice to get a level up on your equipment even after
you’ve reached maximum level on your character. For a more
detailed guide on evolving equipment, check out our href="http://lotro.tentonhammer.com/index.php?module=ContentExpress&func=display&ceid=740"
target="_blank">Guide to Legendary

The Skinny

In conclusion, The Mines of Moria are pretty linear, but there are
enough side quests as you unravel the story to keep you sane. The art
direction in the game is simply gorgeous and Turbine deserves kudos for
that accomplishment. The story is involving, and most importantly of
all, fun. It’s not a game for a MMOG purist who prefers their
games to be 100 percent massive 100 percent of the time, but it is a
game that will be enjoyed by fans of the Middle Earth lore, and fans of
LotRO alike. Legendary items and two new classes add a lot of replay
value and longevity to the game, which was quite needed.

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(3.5 / 5

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016