A week after having bought The Lord of the Rings Online™ Volume Two: Mines of Moria™, I spent some time in the Mines of Moria. Fun! Big! New!
Finishing up Eregion, I respect how things are ordered within it, even if it works poorly for an existing level 80. It is a textbook example of sending people between quest hubs, quests that lead you through the deeds, and all that jazz. The only error in it is having quest chains from two hubs send you to Pembar. Either you are running both hubs at once, in which case all the “go to the next hub” quest chain caps are pointless, or you are making a LOT of trips to Pembar. I have the School instance and one other quest (chain?) left in Eregion, plus deeds if I feel like killing about 1200 enemies to finish them all.
On to Moria! I stepped inside when I finished Volume 2, Book 1. There is a dwarf camp there, with the usual “go talk to a couple people” and “find the lost dwarf” quests. Going back, I ran past that bit and up the stairs into Moria. And kept going. And kept going. Moria gives you a good idea of its scale by starting out with a staircase that takes 10 to 20 seconds to climb. That would get annoying if I did it a lot, but it makes a good introduction.
Those bridge-like banners up on the balconies at the top of those stairs? You cannot jump far enough to land on them, even if you could land on them. It takes less than 10 to 20 seconds to hit the ground.
You immediately see new enemy models. Deep claws replace the familiar cave claws; they look like cave claws crossed with bears. They live near giant insects. Right around the corner, you see the new Moria goblin model. The goblins all have a buff icon saying what sort of thing they are; some use offensive powers, defensive, healing, debuff, etc. A group of goblins is pretty explicitly like a fellowship of PCs.
There were a bunch of goblins and no safe path I could see the first way I tried, so I checked the stable master. Yes, you can ride a giant goat to the real first town from the base camp! Oh, I was supposed to take a turn around that dark corner there. I need a flashlight or something.
Every dwarf camp seems to have NPCs for the legendary items. If any of them have auction houses, I have not noticed them. The quests are mostly standard things: kill ten goblins, collect ten pieces of goblin armor, go talk to Bob, etc. I spent a double-binge play session sightseeing, so I took the quests as “hey, look at this!” rather than a coherent path through the new zones. That means I did about half a quest in the epic line. On the other hand, I hit level 54.
If the theme of Day One was “I have already stopped to smell these roses” and Day Two was “these roses are a fifteen minute ride apart,” Day Six is enjoying the chance to smell the roses. The roses are infested with goblins and insects, but we call those “thorns.”
I am told that the obstacle ahead is learning to think in 3D. The closest I have had to that so far is, “Huh, I wonder how I get down to that resource node.” You cannot get lost if you do not know where you are going.
Wandering, wandering, merrily wandering. That path leads to another dwarf outpost; let’s see what the NPCs there want. This path leads to a goblin outpost; ooh, they count for some quests I have. This other path is insects, and this one mixes insects and deep claws. And goblins, goblins everywhere.
I am quite fond of the new beasties, the insects and deep claws. On the down side, the insects have a carapace that reduces damage by 50%, so my DPS drops and there is no point in wasting Heartseeker on one. On the up side, once you crack open that carapace, they take extra damage, and they walk slowly, the best thing for a Hunter. I usually kill them before they get to me. The deep claws let me use the rest of my Hunter abilities, like Heartseeker and my beast fear. All a Hunter asks for is a beast that will fall before getting a claw on him.
One of the goblin caves has stealthed goblins wandering all over, plus wandering archers, plus spots with two to four goblins together. It is add Hell. It is great. If you want to see how your tactical thinking works with respect to space and leaving a safe margin of error, go hang out with the goblins.
My favorite part was the solo instances. You pay an infused garnet as an admissions fee; reward is legendary item xp and faction with one of the two dwarf groups. One of the instances is a training hall with about 25 orcs in it, half of which are weak recruits. I am pretty sure that everything rushes you if you do not clear them before hitting the (signature) boss. He was calling for them, but I had expected that. The other instance puts you in the goblin mines, with guards, overseers, and mining slaves. Not too complex or difficult, just simple, well-designed single-character encounters. There are more tiers of infused gems for more instances.
One of them dumped legendary items on me, five of them. I fed most to the auction house on the cheap. Sometimes NPCs drop a barter token instead of an item; there is an NPC who will accept them for 50-55 legendary items. I have 10 of those tokens now, so when I hit 55, I am going to keep redeeming until I get items with legacies that I like. And then redeem the rest in case I find something I like slightly more. For now, the level 51 bow I found is still winning for “most useful legacies,” although I found a nice grouping one (-threat, -enemy block/evade, +evade).
I wandered to the Waterworks. Along the way, you meet dragonets, another new monster type. The Waterworks have a different look from the rest, predictably a huge, shallow pool with machinery and platforms. The first enemy I met there was the glow worm, the sort that is ten feet long and dripping with phosphorescent slime. I did not fancy them. In an example of how we can be amused with shiny things, the next enemies were giant toads, the sort that swallow hobbits whole. I suspect it is a new model, unless the old toad model was good enough to scale up that much without looking silly. Repeat the salamander and lizard models with a color shift, but then comes the new shiny: glass spiders. Ooh. Making something partially transparent cannot be that hard of a tech trick, but doing it well is something, and the glass spiders look really nice. I owe you a picture here, but I was busy shooting them.
The Waterworks are adjacent to a fire zone, the sort where the fire is on fire. I suspect a Balrog somewhere in there. I did not explore much, since there were 57s near the entrance. New orc model! Or maybe they recycled it from the Rift; I never looked too closely there, because I did not go often and I always went with a wall of melees between me and the orcs.
I paused at times to remark that the gameplay novelty is low. They are still goblins and spiders (no boars yet), some of whom have a new trick. I am not an especially visual person, and increasing the numbers on the old goblins should not do much. Despite that, there are so many new little touches to see, I don’t care, and any Explorer worries I might have are squelched by the Achiever who likes seeing numbers go up.
The game advertises “two new regions” with twenty-two “expansive areas.” For once, the PR understates things. This feels really big, and I have no idea just how many more zones there are. Twenty-two total, I imagine. People “beat” Wrath of the Lich King within days. I could spend weeks just poking around here, seeing all the new instances. Or maybe I am being optimistic; for all I know, half the new zones are solid rock. But it looks like there is a lot to explore.
I am looking forward to level 55 because I can get a new pack in my vault. A new tier means another pack-plus of toys, resources, etc. 54 was excellent for the upgraded Swift Bow, a great favorite of mine. With just that basic ability, I now open fights with 600-1000 points of damage, depending on crits. With a new legendary bow at 55, I will be well prepared for a few more levels.
I still have a lot of blue bar (rested xp). It goes much more slowly at higher levels. I put a level 3 character in the newbie zone with a full blue bar, and I ran out of blue bar before reaching the real world. Levels that go quickly go very quickly with a blue bar. At higher levels, I feel like I am relying on the quest xp. I will be at the level cap in another week or two, and then I can join my guild in their runs on instances, or maybe finish leveling that Minstrel up towards the cap. Plus joining the Casualties static group on Tuesdays, once I get my Loremaster’s trade skill stuff unloaded. Then I have trade skills and such on other characters… I have many things to potentially keep me busy in Middle Earth.