Wednesday, 10 December 2008


Mines of Moria, the long-awaited Volume II of Lords of the Ring Online, has been up and running long enough by now for us to get over the original high, take a couple of steps back and evaluate it as calmly as possible… First of all, there can be no doubts at all about the graphic design: this is by far the most impressive game environment I have ever seen. For once, the pre-launch hype didn’t lie. The Mines of Moria are breathtakingly grandiose and wonderfully imaginative; I almost wish I had a l.70 character whom I could take for a leisurely tour of the whole region, unbothered by orcs, goblins and other such irritants.

Unfortunately, for the first couple of weeks many of us couldn’t properly experience the game’s glories at anything better than the “low” graphics setting, since the huge numbers of players gathered in Moria, particularly at choke points such as the Deep Delving and the 21st Hall, slowed all servers down to a crawl or worse… Fortunately, measures seem to have been taken with the latest patch, and the situation is noticeably better - but it still isn’t advisable to log out in the 21st Hall, since coming fully back online could take minutes.

The success of Moria itself shouldn’t blind players to the less dramatic but still very effective design of Eregion, the region leading to the mines; once again the designers have come up with a wholly successful concept for a semi-desolate no-man’s-land, this time with the emphasis on eroded hillsides, boulder-strewn plains and dried-up riverbeds. Kudos also to those responsible for the final instance of Volume I, namely Book 15, chapter 12, to my mind perhaps the single most effective episode of the game so far, combining as it does a very tough fight, an extended follow-up and some very strong plot elements. Many (perhaps most) players skipped this entirely in their rush to enter Moria, and they would be well advised to go back and try it; if nothing else, a successfully completed instance presents players with the single best reward to date. Also highly recommended are the School and Library sequence of 3-player fellowship quests near Mirobel.

All in all, Mines of Moria has proved that it is possible to make a good game substantially better, and Turbine fully deserve the increase in player base which this upgrade has undoubtedly provoked.

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