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More Mines of Moria information revealed

Jennie Lees

Speaking to an assembled crowd of excited gamers this afternoon in Birmingham, Jeffrey Steefel unveiled the first Lord of the Rings Online expansion, Mines of Moria. We've got the lowdown on the expansion, which Jeffrey was visibly excited to announce.

Mr. Steefel began with a brief discussion of Book 13 and Book 14, which will be coming soon as live content updates. He went on to discuss the general environment of Moria, which he described as an incredible underground world. There, you'll face the Balrog of Morgoth, go face-to-face with epic encounters, and even take on a PvMP challenge similar to the Ettenmoors. Full details are available below the cut!

Gallery: Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria Gallery | 99 Photos

Steefel began by talking a bit about Book 13 and Book 14. The Defiler monster class will be a healer that uses poultices and other less-than-savoury methods of curing wounds; improvements to the Looking For Fellowship system are also in the pipeline, with a summoning horn available to transport fellowship members around easily. Book 14 will send players into the Ring Forge, providing a climax to the Shadows of Angmar story arc and leading into the next part of the saga -- the Fellowship's journey into the Mines of Moria.

Jeffrey described Moria (Khazad-dum in the Dwarvish tongue) as 'the most incredible underground world ever imagined' -- this is the dungeon to end all dungeons, a seamless experience through caverns populated by monsters, goblins and generic 'evil'. There's named evil, too -- the Balrog will be part of a player encounter, though details weren't forthcoming on exactly how.

The development team plan to include content aimed at endgame players, including raising the level cap to 60 and introducing a new loot customization system. You will be able to make your items truly 'legendary' via 'unlocking' gameplay -- for example imbuing your weapons with special powers. These items will advance with mechanics like XP and Deeds, and you'll be able to have multiple customized weapons; the good news is that once you're finished with your Glamdring, you can disassemble it and sell or trade the parts that made it great, opening up a new avenue for crafting.

There will be new small-group and epic raid content, and another large-scale PvMP area similar to the Ettenmoors. You'll also be able to unlock achievements and earn your place on the leaderboards with heroic exploits in PvE and PvP alike; this won't just be limited to the hardcore, as the devs will include achievements tailored across-the-board.

The three new regions include Khazad-dum and Lothlorien, and there will be new instances with long-reaching consequences on the wider world, similar to those available at the game's initial launch. There are also improvements planned to lighting, including a player lighting system (hint: torches!) and a improved environment-aware AI system that will make the creatures of Moria seem all the more terrifying for their intelligence.

As mentioned previously, a website will accompany the countdown to the expansion launch, with web mini-games (the first starts on March 31st) allowing you to unlock Deeds and thus gain items and rewards ingame. This is quite an interesting concept and we're fascinated to see how this viral idea works out in the long-term.

So what else is in the pipeline? Annual expansions and quarterly episodic content (Books), so this time next year we'll most likely be hearing about the next expansion. There are wider changes in store, too; LotRO will launch in China, Korea and Russia later this year, and new technology development is going on so you can "spend less time looking at loading bars", a move many will applaud. Plans to make the new player experience more accessible are also underway, and the presentation promised that Turbine are "just getting started" -- here's hoping we find out more about the tricks up their sleeve!

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