I finally completed about everything I could do at my level (except maybe the School instance) in Eregion. I had a blast with that new content, but now I was heading into the crown jewel of Lord of the Rings Online’s first expansion. At first, I really didn’t like it… but that changed.
The main reason I didn’t like it was because of the 3-D movement space. In most of Eriador, I played on mostly a 2-d plane. Sure there were hills and caverns and what not, but I could think in terms of X,Y on the map. In Moria, content is stacked on content. I can’t normally just go in a general beeline from X1,Y1 to X2,Y2. I might have to go “out of my way” to get to the next floor up to go across that bridge in order to avoid the chasm of death between me and the shiny.
I don’t think this occurs everwhere in Moria (I did get to see a little bit of the Waterworks when I accidentally fell down a well), but the Great Delving requires 3-D thoughts to get from A to B. I have grown to like it. Now that I am not a Great Delving noob (currently learning the basically two-leveled Silvertine Lodes) moving from A to B is kind of fun. Also, there is not set path to get from A to B; there are a lot of different routes one could take.
The second thing I didn’t like was the lack of fast movement via my horse. One cannot use horses in Moria… only goats, which of course the stunties won’t sell to me unless I become their bestest drinking buddy (read: rep grind). However, Moria follows Eregion in creating ‘Chapters’ of content with a goat-stop at the hub for each sub-region ‘Chapter.’ Travel is not as big an issue as it is pre-level 35.
The rest is all cake.
The scenery and layout is beautiful. I cannot imagine the time and effort that Turbine took into making an underground world with the internal structures. It’s so seamless, and I would go so far as to say realistic. I mean, the buildings that the dwarves of old created look like they were put there for a reason… not because a graphic designer had something to say.
As a quick tangent. I bought my current gaming laptop for Warhammer Online, which of course was delayed nearly a year from the time I bought it. Warhammer Online looks and plays fine. Lord of the Rings Online, on the other hand, looks fantastic. My wife just likes watching me travel around because “the scenery is so beautiful.” She rarely gives any other game a glance. I, myself, am addicted to watching the DX10 shadows that move with my character.
The story is also fantastic, and it really has me looking forward to visiting other parts of Middle Earth. The 10-second premise is that the Fellowship (the people in the movies) caused quite a shakeup and stir, and the death of the Balrog (Durin’s Bane) caused a power vacuum. So, the dwarves of Middle Earth decided the time was right to reclaim the greatest dwarven city ever built. They have to deal with multiple goblin tribes (not always allied with each other), native denizens of the dark, ruined structures, broken machinery, and crazy miners that go off by themselves.
Turbine’s next Book of content is rumored to be coming in January, but I am taking things nice and slow. I am even concurrently enjoying the Forochel region, which I am just now exploring. I highly recommend the expansion. I would say that it wins hands-down for me the best MMO experience and product of 2008.