LoTRO: Mines of Moria

Arep | 17 November 2008 | Comments off

Special thanks go out to Murrh, Kristy53, Nestaron, and Markan for their assistance

Let me tell you what I am doing today, besides writing this article. I am packing up a lot of my Xbox 360 games. I’m also stocking up on Slim-Fast and Doritos (a winning combination, btw). I’m trying to talk my 9-month pregnant wife into either having the baby today or waiting a few weeks. Why? Well, starting on the 18th I will be ending my self-imposed sabbatical from Middle-Earth and striding for the first time into the mines of Moria. I’ll be sharing with you some of the things you’ll find in the new expansion. Gather up that crispy bacon and polish off your evil rings of invisibility, we’re going spelunking!

First, here’s the story thus far. Evil was stirring in Angmar, the ancient kingdom of the Witch King who is the chief of Sauron’s Ringwraiths. This evil was threatening to spill over into the relatively undefended lands of Eriador, which include the Shire, Bree and Ered Luin. You are tasked by Gandalf and the Rangers to investigate and put a stop to it while the Fellowship secretly makes their way through and beyond Rivendell. Over time, you discover a power struggle among Sauron’s minions which results in an ancient foe named Amarthiel coming back into power and striking at the Free People’s soft spots in the area. In the end of the Shadows of Angmar, Amarthiel is eventually defeated and imprisoned by Elrond.

The Mines of Moria expansion starts with the Fellowship having already made their way through Moria. With the power vacuum that was caused by the defeat of the balrog, Durin’s Bane, the dwarves are seeking to reclaim their ancient fortress from the goblins. As the player, you are initially tasked with assisting the dwarves in their preparations. I’m not going to spoil it for you but some of your tasks have you skirting the lake outside of the Hollin Gate where the Watcher ambushed the Fellowship. As you make your way through the area you pass bored dwarven workers casually tossing stones into the lake and you know that isn’t going to end well.

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It only took a year and a half to unlock the first Jedi in LoTRO

So, what is new with the expansion? You get three new areas to traverse. You obviously get Moria which is an indoor area about the size of the Shire, one of the game’s largest zones. You also get Eregion, the part of Middle Earth leading up to Moria. This is the place where the rings of power were forged. Folks who completed the Shadows of Angmar storyline got an early glimpse of this zone. Finally, we get a taste of Lothlorien, the city of the elves. The elves are naturally suspicious of outsiders so we won’t be seeing the actual city for some time. (read: future expansion) Along with new real estate, we get new dungeons to explore. This includes seven six-person instances and two three-person instances. We also get a new twelve-person raid against the Watcher.

The Mines of Moria is more than just new landmass, however. Players will have their level cap increased from 50 to 60 with new skills and traits to fill in the gaps. There are also two new character slots for you altaholics out there. You’ll need them for the two new character classes. The new classes are meant to provide more strategic options for players to take advantage of. The Warden is a spear-wielding damage machine who’s attacks are based on combos. Choosing specific combinations of skills will unlock more powerful skills that can be geared towards DPS, defense or healing. The Rune Keeper is another hybrid class which specializes in either healing or damage-over-time attacks. I say either because the Rune Keeper has a meter that unlocks more and more powerful skills the more healing or damage you do. If you keep using your healing skills in a short period of time, the better healer you will be but your damage output will suffer for it and vice versa.

Kristy53 on the new classes:

I have to say that the duo of RK and Warden playing together is very close to being unbeatable. I used to fight if it looked like a very winnable battle, but if it looked like we were going up against 3 or more mobs that conned red I would stand back and heal, while Gwin fought with her Warden. One tip though, if you intend to do this. The RK has a sigil of healing, that is like a totem that can be placed near the RK during battle. When playing solo it can make a great difference to survivability. When playing with a Warden, it makes it difficult for the Warden to keep aggro. It is a huge aggro attractor, bringing mobs you are fighting and any that happen to stray near the battle area straight to the RK, who is not equipped to deal with this. Also beware the evil Grim. They kill RK’s, and I actually had to stay out of the aggro zone completely and let the Warden kill them. I still got credit, and the Warden had no problems.

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“There’s a what behind me?”

Crafting has also gotten a boost with a new tier being added to each profession. My top-of-the-line raid gear looked like tin foil compared to some of the stuff my tailor could eventually make. Turbine has also added Crafting Guilds to the game. Players can join these guilds to help bolster their professions and gain access to unique recipes that improve your critical success chance. The catch is that players can only join one guild per character so if your character has focused on more than one crafting profession you will have a difficult choice to make.

Another major addition to the game are legendary weapons. Legendary weapons are much like Frodo/Bilbo’s sword Sting and are powerful pieces of equipment.

Kristy53 on the addition of Legendary Weapons:

The Book Quest line that takes you into Moria is what introduces you to your Legendary Weapon. Once you are done with Eregion, you find yourself talking to a Dwarf npc named Rathwald, who stands by an arch, that leads you into an instanced area. He sends you in to the area which holds the culmination to your drive into Moria. There are a number of quests here ... one line is the Book Quest line, and the other consists of Expeditionary Quests. The Book Quest gives you first the weapon, then later it gives entry into Moria. The Expeditionary line gives you access to some very spectacular footage in a session play. This is amazing and not to be miss. It cannot be accessed once you enter Moria, so don’t miss out.

Now, the weapon. When you are given the weapon as a quest reward there is a process to go through which I won’t spoil. It does however require you to level the weapon to 10 and reforge it, before the final battle that gives you access to Moria. As to the items you can equip onto the weapon. You begin with items in 3 categories that you can equip, which customize your weapon. In each category you have a choice of either 2 or 3 items, and can choose what matches your play style best, thus building a weapon that is uniquely yours. During battle, you will receive further epic type weapon and item drops which can be broken down to components. These can either be equipped as is, or re-combined with other broken down components of tier one to give you tier two components. This further goes on through many tiers, making more and more powerful components to add to your weapon, and giving further opportunities to customize the weapon. I should stress that this is an over simplification of the process. I found it rather intriguing and spent a considerable amount of time just grinding to get drops which I could break down and recombine to see what I would get. It was really a lot of fun. It is also fortunate that the broken down components do not go into inventory and thus you can’t accidentally sell them.

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This is not just a pointy stick

Other game systems have been changed a bit as well. Traits have gotten a bit of an upgrade. You now get bonuses from slotting traits from the same family. Packrats rejoice, quest items and keys will no longer end up in your backpacks taking up precious (The precious!!! Er, sorry...) space. Speaking of looting, Turbine has added support for simultaneous looting of quest objects. Now, when you are asked to collect ten branches in the environment you no longer need to wait in line to do it. Combat got tweaked a bit with the addition of devastating attacks and mitigating defense. Devastations are like a super-critical hit that does a significant amount of damage. Mitigations have a chance of offsetting damage by a percentage. Some classes posses skills that can be activated in response to these events.

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Bob lets the ‘Beacon of Hope’ title go to his head

The last thing I want to talk about are all of the changes coming to LoTRO’s PvP (PvMP) area. Rather than creating a new zone and leaving people split between different areas, Turbine has focused their efforts on improving the Ettenmoors. With the level cap being raised to 60, monster players (who formerly started out at the level cap) will be automatically levelled to the new cap. Item wear from PvP combat has been removed entirely. A new population control has been added so that the game is now aware of how balanced things are and will adjust accordingly in the form of buffs to the underdogs. Session play rangers and trolls are now also tied to this population balance. Another thing to keep in mind is that post-Moria monster players are now going to be on par with player characters. That is a big shift from the way things were when the game was first introduced.

One change they’ve made to the landscape itself is to provide a second exit from each side’s home base to prevent one faction from camping the other. The dynamic of the whole zone has been changed so that the primary goal is to take the main keep in the center, with all other objectives adding bonuses to that end.

Access to the raid dungeon in the zone, the Delving of Fror, used to be dependant on how many keeps a particular side held. This has been changed to depend on the control of outposts manned by he neutral faction who resides in the Delving. Once a faction takes an outpost, they keep it for six hours (unless captured by the other side) before it reverts back to neutral control. A faction need only control two outposts out of five to enter the Delving so that means both sides will be waging war inside the raid dungeon.

Turbine has added a new capture the flag dynamic to the fight in the Ettenmoors. Capturing flags from either the goblin town of Grothum or the hobbit town of Hoarhallow will add buffs to the defenders of the main keep, Tol Ascarnen. Flag capture has been added to other parts of the zone as well. No “flag” is more important than the artefacts that reside in each faction’s main keep, Ost Ringdyr and Dar-gazag. Taking one successfully from one to the other will provide some amazing bonuses to the controlling faction. For monster players, the bonuses take the form of Dread buffs but for players they mean bonuses to quest experience, speed, and morale throughout Middle-Earth. This makes it a great incentive to come join the PvP fun in the Ettenmoors.

Now I’ve got to go polish my daggers, I sense there’s some Mithril with my name on it down there in the dark.

GameTrailers.com

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