Standing in the tiny store, I found myself at a crossroads. I'd put a lot of thought into this, but now that the decision was starting back at me, it seemed much more daunting. The question kept repeating in my head, "Do I buy Wrath, or Moria?" The financially devoid part of my brain enthusiastically yelled, "Both!" while the logical part reminded me that my time was already stretched fairly thin and that trying to dive into two new expansions would probably not be a wise move.

Decisions, decisions.

When I look back at that moment now, I realize that it didn't actually take much time for me to decide which expansion to purchase first. I was merely giving both a fair mental shake, probably out of some misguided sense of politeness to either developers. Not that they didn't deserve it, but I highly doubt they require it. I don't regret my choice, which is probably why my hand lunged for the game box with the emblazoned figure printed across it's face. Mmm, Balrogs.

I even knew which of the two new classes I was going to create first as I paid for Mines of Moria with my by-now-melted plastic money card. It was going to be a Warden, because there's something alluring about carrying around a huge stabby stick. That and the fact that I really wanted the option to play solo if need be, which is something I could never really do with any of my preferred classed previous to Moria's release.

The first thing that's jumped out at me is the Warden's class mechanic -- I adore special class mechanics. You've really got to appreciate a class that's able to swing between tanking and damage pretty much on the fly. This class plays it fast and loose, but not in the dirty sense. Unless you consider hybrid classes dirty, and I suppose some would. Anyhow, a Warden doesn't seem capable of playing the main tank role. While it can easily fill the shoes of an off-tank -- which any group is more than happy to have -- the fact that it can only wear medium armor limits its mitigation properties. However, the upside to being an off-tank is that when a Warden wants to kill something it doesn't feel like you're hitting the monster with a foam bat covered with goose feathers.

Playing through the first ten levels of Lord of the Rings Online has rekindled my appreciation for many of the game's features. I've been especially reminded of how much I loved Turbine's method of storytelling: instanced sections full of drama and plot development via narration, NPCs and set pieces. But new gameplay additions like class traits have created an amazingly organic approach within the leveling process. A Warden simply uses their spear abilities and gains class traits that improve that style of play. This creates a circular pattern where getting all the class traits involves playing the Warden in all of its different styles. It's a wonderfully inventive way to expose players to all aspects of their chosen class.

I'd been sitting in my chair for what seemed like a couple of hours. Glancing at my clock told me it was closer to five. The knowledge caused my mind to realize I was starting to feel stiff and numb from sitting around so long and thus it was time for a break. Rewinding back to several hours earlier, I was just starting the first book, or main series of quests, with my Rune-keeper friend. Little did I know that towards the end of this play-session we'd be ending it on the last quest. Wardens and Rune-keepers make a powerful duo and adding any of the classes as our third would've made things move along even faster. In this moment I felt my envy for large static groups grow even more, though I'm happy that Turbine's given players the opportunity to play the game in this way.

Visually speaking this game has always been impressive, but this time around it seems even more-so. I'm not sure if it's because I've got a better machine now or if the game engine has seen performance improvements (I'm guessing both) but with DX10 shadows and particle effects active, I'm consistently in awe. The Old Forest alone entranced me the entire time I was inside it. At least until a crazed tree turned me into a Warden burger with extra googly eyes.

This article was originally published on Massively.
The Daily Grind: How are those expansions going?