Tolkien's tales of Middle-earth have captured the imagination readers sowing the seeds of what we recognize today as high fantasy. Just over a year ago, Turbine invited gamers to become part of the adventures that started with one unlikely burglar and his amazing treasure in the Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar. I recently had the pleasure of accompanying Cardell Kerr, Creative Director; Aaron Campbell, Live Producer and Michael Jablonn, Lead Producer through the Mines of Moria, the first expansion for Lord of the Rings Online. Gear up and get ready to move out as I prepare you march through the gates of Moria.
Now for a brief history lesson. Khazad-Dûm once epitomized the height of Dwarven civilization. The Long-beards under Durin built the vast halls and dug deep to harvest the mithral at the heart of the Misty Mountains. Durin's hubris and greed awoke the Balrog which destroyed him and his kingdom. Since then it has come to be known as Moria, “The Black Pit.”
The story line of Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria begins after the Fellowship of the Ring has passed through its halls. The defeat of Durin's Bane has left a power vacuum many factions are eager to fill. Players begin in Eregion as they prepare to aid the Long Beards in their quest to restore Moria to it's former glory. You'll leave your faithful mount behind before braving the gates of Moria.
Moria itself is a wonder to explore. The development team has taken Tolkien's descriptions and crafted a setting with such depth, you can believe it was once a self sustaining bastion of civilization. Moria features vast Waterworks for power and cooling as well as forges and mines such as the Redhorn Lode in the deeps. An indoor garden, built in an age when friendship flourished between Dwarves and Elves, is found in Durin's Way and Durin's Court captures the faded grandeur of Moria in vast expanses and minute details.
Each seamlessly interconnected area has it's own unique architecture and features. Amazingly, Moria is one unbroken setting. It appears to be layered with walkways, courts and balconies although no area passes under another. Anywhere you can see you can explore.
Although Moria is meant to be the ultimate dungeon crawl, players won't be groping in the dark. Light sources are as simple as torches and braziers or clusters of glowing crystals to sunlight reflected by an intricate system of mirrors. There is also light at the end of the tunnel; Lórien, home of Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel. Players will travel through darkness and danger to the lush gardens of the Golden Wood to gaze at last into Galadriel's Mirror.
As fascinating as the work the development team has lavished on the world setting is, don't let the waterfalls and gigantic statues carved from the living mountain distract you. Moria is crawling with challenging new creatures and nemeses that will make the careless and unwary pay dearly for their inattention. The shadows teem with creatures small but deadly while some of Moria's denizens openly challenge players. The giant spiders of the waterworks glow eerily in the half-light.
Although the Balrog has been overthrown, it's twisted demonic minions vie to retain control of their territory against the White Hand of Sauraman and those loyal to Sauron. Add to that the conflict between the Long-beard and Dourhand dwarves and you have a volatile mix just waiting to ignite. At one point you will have to chose between two warring factions neither of which are the kind of allies you want at your back. Your greatest challenge lies in the murky depths of the water systems of Moria. Only characters with the best legendary items and mightiest deeds will have a hope against the Watcher.
Characters can look forward to a wide variety of gameplay experiences. There will be many 5 and 6 man fellowship instances as well as 12 man instances and those designed for one stout hearted hero. Crafters can hone their skills to new levels of expertise and learn recipes to create legendary weapons and items as well as runes. The redhorn goat will be available once you've crossed into Moria. You can bring this superior mount with you as you continue on your quest to aid the Fellowship and thwart the forces of Sauramon and Sauron.
Moria speaks volumes of the hard work and dedication the LOTRO development team has put in. However, words are not enough to describe what you will experience stepping into their creation.
You can get more details and screenshots on Legendary Items
as well as the Lord of the Rings Mines of Moria Interview
with Cardell Kerr on Gaming Nexus.