|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Turbine Inc.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Turbine Inc.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov.17, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (Massive Multiplayer Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Derek Hidey
Turbine has gone to great lengths to ensure that fans of Tolkiens masterpiece arent let down in its massively-multiplayer vision of Middle-Earth.
And, it appears, theyve paid the same attention to detail in their first expansion to their initial hit MMO, Lord of the Rings Online, with the expansion Mines of Moria.
There is a ton of new content available for veteran players in Mines of Moria. Starting around level 50, players are able to embark on uncovering the secrets of Khazad-Dum. It is important to mention that this expansion doesnt just give players the ability to explore the depths of the great halls of the Dwarves, but also the areas that sit on both sides of its entrance. And, yes, there is a decent amount of content in these areas as well. While the inclusion of these areas may not seem all that necessary, it does vary the looks of environments a bit for the expansion, which would have had to transition from one type of cave look to another with them.
Mines of Moria is an expansion pack that serves as a great narrative addition to the original Shadows of Angmar, continuing Turbines dedication to storytelling. Nevertheless, with the addition of narrative cutscenes and specific subplots via quests, the Mines of Moria does a decent job at creating pacing for the players. Veteran players may resent the amount of time it takes just to get into Khazad-Dum, which does seem a little longer than necessary. Conversely, once completed, it does make getting to that point far more rewarding than if it had been accessible from the start.
The same standard MMO-like questing is, sadly, still very much alive in this expansion. Despite the periodic breaks for narrative cutscenes, players will be spending a majority of their time traveling between NPCs, delivering items, and killing varying numbers of enemies. Of course, this has become the traditional form of gameplay in most MMOs, so veterans of Shadows of Angmar, or any MMO, should feel right at home. And, while throwing in a little more innovation to this part of the gameplay would have been noteworthy, it makes sense to not deviate too much if anything but for the loyal player-base that is fine with it.
The expansion also includes two new character classes: the Rune-keeper, a wizard-like class that wields powerful magic, and the Warden, which is a spear and javelin class designed more like a tank. Despite the already-long list of classes present in the game, both the Warden and Rune-keeper carve out their own places. For example, the Warden has the ability to perform several attacks in a row to build up enough power to unleash a single, more powerful attack referred to as a gambit. While such a gameplay element isnt new to the MMO genre, it definitely finds a place in Mines of Moria. Moreover, the Rune-keeper, which can be defined as either a healer or an offensive-style magic class, doesnt seem too over-the-top, even considering the subtle role that magic plays in the original universe created by Tolkien. Of course, more diehard fans of the lore may have some issues in this case, but in terms of the gameplay elements the class brings, it isnt really a bad thing.
The least attractive part about the two new character classes is the inability to start them at level 50 to play the expansions content. New players looking to delve into the expansions content will have to wade through the Shadows of Angmar content at first anyway, so picking either of these classes isnt any different from picking the rest for them.
On the other hand, veteran players anxious to explore the new content will be at odds with the classes. Being forced to start from scratch to even sample the new classes is discouraging for veteran players. But, regardless of this inconvenience, it does provide them with a reason to explore the early content once again from a fresh perspective. The other downside to starting over is the decreased population of players in the game world. Most players who are still living within the world are ready, and were ready, to explore the expansions content from the day of its release, leaving the earlier areas of the game nearly barren. Even when exploring the early stages of the expansion, running into other players is a rarity.