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Exclusive LOTRO Mines of Moria Preview Pt. 1

Discussion in 'LotRO News and Announcements' started by SWATJester, Nov 13, 2008.

  1. SWATJester

    SWATJester Guest

    [drupal=29677]Exclusive LOTRO Mines of Moria Preview Pt. 1[/drupal]

    I must confess, I've never been a big Lord of the Rings fan. The first movie was pretty good, parts of the second and third ones as well, but nothing spectacular. (I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the fanboys now. WHAT! HE MENTIONED THE MOVIES BEFORE THE BOOKS? BLASPHEMY!) Yes, I've read the books too, every tortuous long minute of them. Don't get me wrong, I loves me some fantasy books, and I actually find some aspects of the Tolkien universe pretty intriguing. But I'm a law student; I already spend my days reading through hundreds of pages of dense material, it's not how I'd prefer to spend my off time.

    So it was with a bit of trepidation that I began looking into Lord of the Rings Online, and its upcoming expansion: The Mines of Moria. My first experience with LOTRO actually came from PAX 2008. I was sitting with a colleague in one of the bean bag areas, watching another PAX attendee playing LOTRO on their laptop. "Hey," I thought, "this game looks kind of neat." I did a little more research on the game, and found that LOTRO has quietly developed a reputation as an extremely solid MMORPG with a high level of customer satisfaction, and some very unique gameplay mechanics. Thus began my journey into the Mines of Moria: as a player who doesn't know much about LOTRO and knows even less about the Tolkien lore.

    The staff at Turbine and their PR agency very graciously arranged for myself and LOTRO Stratics Managing Editor Orvago to have a private playtest with some of the producers. Orvago will surely be bringing you guys his more nuanced input over the next couple days, but today, I present you with my preview of LOTRO: Mines of Moria. As I've hinted above, it's from the viewpoint of someone who has never played LOTRO before, so experienced players might find some of the information in the preview repetitive; however stick around and I'm sure you'll find some new tidbits that you didn't know, as well as plenty of eye-poppingly gorgeous screenshots to drool over.

    So, without further ado... I present you with, Lord of the Rings Online: The Mines of Moria.
    Our playtest began with Orvago and I logging into the test server and meeting up with the developers. Both Orvago and I got a chance to playtest the new classes in the game. My character was a Warden, a sort of hybrid melee-ranged DPS class that has a striking range of versatility not usually found in MMORPGs; while Orvago played as a Rune-keeper, a more traditional caster type role with powerful spells. The Warden class is heavily based on two types of weapons: spears and javelins. The Warden's chief combat technique is the "gambit system." Essentially, with the gambit system, the various techniques employed by the Warden can be chained together in different orders to form a sort of combo called a gambit. For instance, a quick thrust, followed by a shield bash, gives the Warden access to a gambit called "The Boot" which enables him to kick an enemy. In contrast, a quick thrust, followed by a shield bash, followed by another quick thrust enables the "Onslaught" gambit, where the Warden attacks three times in quick succession, with each attack doing 95% of normal damage. Other gambits I discovered involved a power attack, and a healing ability. The gambits system enables the Warden to be a very versatile class: they can do DPS output, they can heal, they can lock down casters, and the gambit system allows them to very rapidly switch between these roles while still having a decent damage output. Not to mention they have a killer stealth ambushing system.

    And thus my first experience with LOTRO's character customization system. Simply put, it's far more in depth than any other system I've seen. In addition to the fighting styles, your character can unlock and invest into various traits, which make them more powerful or grant special abilities. But there's not just one or two branches of traits like other games have done with talent trees and the like. There are a dizzying array of traits in the game, from virtue-based traits unlocked by performing various deeds by the character, to unique class and racial traits, to legendary traits for each class that provide powerful enhancements and abilities. We also were introduced to the legendary weapon system, but I'll get to that in a little bit.

    Anyway, Orvago and I met up with our guide, conveniently named Tourguide, a dwarven guardian. We were in a region called Gwingris, which as I understand is not yet within the borders of Moria. We quickly toured the regions of Pend Eregion, and Barad Morlas, which contained some impressive looking ruins.
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    We then traveled to an area called Tal Caradhas in the Burnt Tor region, where Tourguide proceeded to thorougly beat down a wolf.

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    Our next trip was to Mirobel, where we climbed a weathered looking staircase. The nighttime air lent an almost mystical dreariness to the landscape, something that I rarely have felt in an MMORPG. Most games heavily overdo their landscapes, either with cartoonish effects, or burning skies, or a lack of significant ambience. LOTRO from the very start captured me with the powerful landscapes that lent a sense of weight to the world. In movies, this is referred to as the suspension of disbelief: the art of getting the viewer to feel like they're in the movie. Turbine did a spectacular job of really capturing what I perceived a Tolkien world to be like.

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    Very quickly, our tour reached the gateway into Moria's content, in a region called Nan Sirannon, signified in the screenshot by the red glowing glyph. A dwarf named Rathwald stands ready to assist adventurers into the new content.


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    Our first stop in Moria was the Black Pool that I instantly recognized from the movies, and the glowing gateway into the mines. The team once again did an excellent job of really capturing the atmosphere of the movies when recreating the content into the game. Unlike the Fellowship, however, we weren't chased into the mines by any giant tentacle monsters (though, I forgot to ask Turbine if that was in the game somewhere). We were greeted at the door by several industrious worker dwarves happily picking away at the rockfall with their mining picks. After waving hello, we made our way into the mines. At this point, I want to note that the developers were teleporting us around, so players certainly should not expect to follow the same path that we did.
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    We were greeted in the Mines of Moria by the massive spectacle of Durin's Threshold. Adam Mersky from Turbine gave us a brief orientation on just how massive Moria is. To start with, the whole place is a single seamless zone. There are no loading screens or immersion breaks anywhere you go from one end to another. That was impressive enough, but what struck me was the sheer vertical scale of the place. Durins Threshold is a massive cavern with a towering ceiling, focused on a gigantic staircase leading up into the rest of the mines. The internal areas are certainly darker than one would expect from most MMORPGs (Turbine informed me that there is a sophisticated lighting system that the game uses to light the caverns), but even through the gloom you can tell just how huge the area is. Giant statues of dwarves cut in bas-relief out of the walls flanked the hallway. Maybe they were once dwarven kings? I don't know, but it certainly captured the feeling of what I've always expected a dwarven tomb to be.


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    We proceeded inward to The Great Delving, one of the more vertically oriented areas of Moria. A warning to would-be players: If you're not used to travelling vertically in a dungeon, you'd better become accustomed to it in Moria. The Great Delving had immense waterfalls pouring down into seemingly bottomless murky depths. Of course, I had to see for myself just how bottomless these depths were. We jumped down into the pits, and found out that yes, there really is a bottom, and it's a hell of a long way down. But, as I'll get to later, these falls were not even remotely close to some of the other drops in the game, as we'll see later. The dwarven architecture was certainly apparent as we crossed a stone bridge lit by glowing crystal chandeliers. Giant waterfalls spilled from gaping stone mouths carved out of the wall.


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    Moving on, we entered a nearby area called Gazatmur, and Orvago and I posed for a screenshot. The developers told us that everything that you see in the dungeons can be accessed, so for instance, the bridges way off in the distance in some of the screenshots are actually playable parts of the Mines of Moria. Interestingly, not all of Moria is so dark and cave-like as the Great Delving and the Gazatmur areas. We moved on to Durin's Way. On entering, my jaw dropped, and I'm pretty sure I muttered a stream of expletives that can only be summarized as "This is ***** amazing." The area of the mines is essentially an underground forest, lit by cracks that let in visible shafts of sunlight. The ceiling, however, is WAY off in the distance, and is a testament to the Moria world design team's skills.


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    Unlike Durin's Way, much of the mines aren't directly lit by sunlight, or glowing chandeliers. Instead, the industrious dwarves have used a complex system of reflecting mirrors to take the few beams of natural light and reflect them around the rest of the mines. Wandering around one such mirror, I couldn't help but get the urge to smash it; unfortunately (or probably fortunately) the tour moved on shortly.


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    Just beyond the mirrors is The Endless Stair. This is probably the most awe-inspiring part of the entire Mines of Moria expansion, and truly captures the sheer vertical scope of the mines. The stairs simply rose beyond viewing distance, and the Turbine team informed me that the entire thing is mostly walkable (minus of course some parts that were destroyed in a certain battle from the books and movie). The screenshots are a little dark, but the first shows the view from our vantage point on the middle of the stairs looking up. The second shows us looking down from the same point, and the third and fourth are the result of base-jumping the stairs the whole way down to the bottom and looking back up. Apparently, we were the first group that didn't shout something like "Whee!" or "Banzai!" while jumping off the edge, but that probably was because I was too busy saying "Holy ****" and giggling uncontrollably. Screenshots literally can't do justice to just how massive this thing is, despite our best efforts.


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    Speaking of a certain battle from the movies, we moved on to the mountain slopes of Zirakzigil, where the body of the Balrog lies broken and smoldering in the snowy blizzard. Remnants of that battle litter the mountainscape. The blizzard effects definitely add to the ambience of the region and are a nice touch, though when close up the snowflakes can be rather jarring, as seen in the fourth screenshot. Durin's Bane, truly consisting of shadow and flame, has scorched and blackened the grounds on which it fell. We didn't stay too long, though we hung around just long enough to kill a few stone-worms that were bothering us.


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    Read onward for Part 2 of our Mines of Moria exclusive preview!

    [drupal=29677]Read Full Article[/drupal]
     
  2. SWATJester

    SWATJester Guest

    Part 2 will cover some of the instance and raid content, as well as discuss the legendary item system.