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Mines of Moria was highly anticipated, perhaps more so than even the developer, Turbine, suspected. While cleverly announcing a Nov 18th launch, Turbine had the game in store and on sale the 17th, and rumours of a midnight EST launch surfaced. Indeed the servers came up during the witching hour, but it didn’t go quite as well as it could have.
Turbine just didn’t count on how many people would be lining up to play in the wee-hours of a Tuesday morning, and, in all fairness; it was the wee-hours of Tuesday morning. That didn’t stop the players from coming out though, and in droves. Many of the game servers were inaccessible, and with everyone trying to enter MoM codes to upgrade their account, the account server went down. The problem was in full swing at 3 AM when I threw in the towel. Everything was fine after a good eight hour nap.
Well, not everything, they brought the servers down at 5:30 PM that day for a “hot-fix”. If a hot-swappable drive goes in and out without shutting down the system, how does a fix that requires bringing down the server get the prefix hot? Jargon aside, everything was back up in less than the two hours in which they promised to have it done.
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Now That It’s Running How Is It?
Very good: there is more of everything at or above the level of execution we have seen in Shadows of Angmar. The graphical prowess of this game never ceases to amaze me, particularly when I think of the older rigs many people are using to play… if you were able to run The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (a March '06 release) well, you can run LOTRO with pretty solid settings. A Core 2 or Phenom system with an upper-mid-range ($200-300) graphics card and 2GB of RAM gets you all the bells and whistles.
The art style is stunning; Eregion isn’t jaw-dropping, but the Tolkien books are clear that it isn't supposed to be. The approach to Moria is incredibly accurate, with backed up lake, staircase, the famous glowing door, and so on, all where they should be. Moria itself is appropriately gargantuan; massive sculpted faces of stone peer out across chasms where you can’t see the bottom; looking up shows arches disappearing into the darkness, presumably holding up a ceiling somewhere above. The scale of the place dwarfs everything, not just dwarves (sorry I had to).
Music is grandiose and orchestral, and there are a bunch of new NPC and mob sound bites. Most importantly, along with the graphics and writing, the sound contributes to making you feel like you have a hand in the events of the most widely loved piece of fantasy literature on earth. Turbine again has succeeded here, making players feel included without offending fans of the books who wouldn’t take kindly to any inaccuracy or modification in the story.
Yes, you get to help Poor Old Bill the Pony get back to Rivendell.
Time to put on your orc-stomping boots, or remove all footwear if you’re bringing a Hobbit, because the grand-daddy of all dungeons is opening its doors.