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Goblins and Cave Trolls and Balrogs Oh My!
The Lord of the Rings Online has so far done an amazing job of pleasing fans of Tolkien’s work. The attention to detail, from the white stones lining the road to the ferry dock over the Brandywine to the steep path into Rivendell that can cause a deadly fall, is superb, and the little details add up to an environment that really feels like Middle-Earth. The stories one discovers while playing are also a success, letting a player take on an important role in the War of the Ring without distorting events discussed in the books.
Turbine takes its biggest step since launch in bringing more world and story to its legion of players this October with the release of the first paid expansion for LOTRO: Mines of Moria. Three editions, Collectors, Complete, and Digital will be available in North America.
The expansion will include 3 new areas: Eregion, a narrow strip at the foot of the Misty Mountains we first get to glimpse in Book 14; Lorien, the Golden Wood, home of Galadriel, where the Fellowship goes to rest after leaving Moria; and Moria itself, the greatest mine and home of dwarfs ever, now abandoned and home to all kinds of nasty things. They are also adding a second Volume including 6 Chapters to the Epic Story and more Session Play. Some of the other big improvements Turbine has revealed are discussed below.
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Level Cap Goes to 60!
Yup, not sure if there are happier words to someone who has been stuck at 50 for however many months, but MoM will allow you to get to level 60, complete with new skills, traits and virtues. They have also added some templates to the Trait UI, so you will be able to switch up traits for different situations more easily, while still allowing you to customize your selections. Two new careers will also be available: the Rune-Keeper; who will combine offensive and healing magic as a hybrid of Lore-Master and Minstrel, and the Warden, who appears to be an off-tank with special attacks based around sequences of build up attacks and stances sounding a bit like a cross between a Guard and Captain.
Most of the new content is geared to level 45-60, though, so the new Careers won’t be there for a while. That does however leave plenty for high-level characters to do to reach the new cap. Gandalf’s run in with the Balrog has left Moria without a leader; now Saruman, Sauron, goblin tribes, and, thankfully, dwarfs are scrambling to fill it. Early quest content will revolve around helping the dwarfs and thwarting the other groups.
Moving into Moria itself will be a special experience for many players, and Turbine is trying not to disappoint. Architecture and quests will try to combine to create the melancholy that comes in seeing such an astounding achievement, totally mind-boggling in scale and beauty, brought low by greed and time. They also need to make the place appropriately threatening to represent its current occupants. One thing not yet mentioned is if they will bring in a new map system, anyone who has been to Goblin-Town will understand the need for something far more suitable to 3-dimensional indoor exploration.
The other side of the Misty Mountains’ quests will see you trying to keep Moria’s denizens of the Fellowship’s trail, with Lothlorien likely sending you on support quests to help supply them for their next move, and serving as the staging area for subsequent free expansions. As you work through these areas you won’t just be leveling yourself, you can also level your brand new, unique, named gear….
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Gear That Levels With You
The most exciting addition after the content and cap-raise is the Legendary Item mechanic. Characters over level 50 can obtain, through quest, drop or craft, “Unidentified” legendary items. You can auction or trade these, or bring them to a Forge Master NPC that will identify them. You can still trade but not auction it at this point, but you will know the item’s “Legacies.” These are buffs the weapon has, different weapons have different numbers of buffs, and the value of the buff is indicated by gold, silver or bronze colour coding.
Equipping the item will bind it, and when you use it and gather experience, it will also, leveling from 1 to 50! As it levels you will get points to spend on increasing the Rank of your item’s Legacies. Every 10 item levels you get a chance to rename the item and trade Legacies you don’t want for random new ones.
You can also add “Relics” to your item. Relics are obtained by having a Relic Master NPC salvage them from Legendary Items, which consumes the latter. The Relics give additional buffs to the item to which they are added. The Relic Master can also take several lesser Relics and re-forge them into a more powerful one. With a maximum of 6 Identified Legendary Items bound to a character at one time, this system is not just a buff-fest, but a serious opportunity for customization.
Perhaps more importantly, the Legendary Items allow the player to feel even more like a noteworthy hero in Tolkien’s world. Like Gandalf has Glamdring and Thorin had Orcrist, you can now wield a weapon that isn’t just powerful, but has a back-story.
If Turbine succeeds in this mechanic, and in the grander task of bringing the Mines of Moria to life with the immersive accuracy and storytelling they displayed in Shadows of Angmar, October’s release will be a thrill for veteran LOTRO players.
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.