LOTRO Legendarium: Is Moria amazing – or agonizing?

    
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In about a month, Lord of the Rings Online’s progression servers will unlock their first expansion and take us deep into the mines of Moria. It is then that these players, both new and old, will face the same underground gauntlet that all others have experienced since its release in 2008.

As I’ve listened to the chatter about the upcoming expansion unlock, I’ve also recalled many years’ worth of conversation about Moria. It’s remained a very divisive topic among the community, with some calling it one of the most amazing pieces of content ever created for this MMO and others deeming it pure agony to complete. Due to the mandatory nature of its existence — all characters have to go through Moria to some extent — there is no option to circumvent it. When you play LOTRO, you will go through Moria.

So which is it: amazing or agonizing? In today’s column, I’ll be looking at both sides of this expansion and revealing why these differing viewpoints can co-exist even in the mind of an individual player.

An amazing achievement

Even back in 2008, the sheer scope and vision of Moria had a lot of gamers picking their mouths up off the ground. A massive fully underground dungeon consisting of multiple zones had never been attempted in MMORPGs, and people were pretty impressed that Turbine managed to pull it off. Not just a venture into one of the more iconic locations in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Moria also gave players a night-and-day change from their previous adventures through Eriador.

From the moment you enter one side of the mountain chain to the day you leave it, you’ll be in for weeks if not months of questing, navigating, sight-seeing, deed hunting, and combat against the forces of darkness. It was a vastly different realm than the Shire, Trollshaws, and Eregion, as Moria mostly lacked trees, sunlight, and a horizon. Instead, players were plunged into caverns and Dwarf architecture, lit by crystals and marked by pathways, chasms, fire, and water. There was no doubt that when you enter Moria, you knew you weren’t in the same-old areas as before. This was something wholly new.

To this day, Moria’s unique setup and its immense scope has cemented it as a favorite to some veteran LOTRO players. The places found in this underground kingdom continue to be so unlike everything else in the game that it’s a wonder to explore and enjoy. Plus, the Foundations of Stone remain one of the creepiest places in the entire game to date.

An agonizing journey

Conversely, not everyone appreciates Moria. The core issue for many is the sheer length of this interior journey. There’s something psychologically oppressive to remain indoors without any sight of a sky or hint of nature. After extended stays in Moria, even brave souls found themselves clawing the walls and bemoaning the length of the trip. The saying goes that you’ll enter Moria in awe of it and leave running away from it. Well, I just made up that saying, but you understand the gist.

Moria’s omipresent gloom isn’t the only problem at hand. Navigating a multi-tiered realm with only the terribly limited “hand-drawn” map can be a nightmare, as is some of the backtracking and occasionally downright ugly areas. Plus, what is up with Dwarves never putting handrails anywhere? If you haven’t fallen to your death a half-dozen times in Moria, you really haven’t been there long at all. And if you lack a good goat, you could find yourself jogging all over the place.

Then there’s the push for legendary items, which the expansion promoted pretty heavily. Having LIs clutter up your inventory and quest rewards soured some players’ feelings on this zone, especially considering how poorly the system has aged.

A flawed gemstone

The Moria we have today isn’t the same that came out in 2008, of course. The developers have done a couple of major passes to the graphics and layout of these zones to make them more attractive and user friendly. Having gone through Moria multiple times, I can say that it may not be my favorite, but it’s nowhere near as frustrating as it used to be.

So can an area be both amazing and agonizing? Absolutely. I feel this way in Moria as I play tourist with my screenshot key and then fall into a bottomless pit while cursing whatever Dwarf happens to be closest. It probably got very old for those chain-running multiple characters through it, but for a once-in-a-while journey, Moria does exactly what it was created to do. We can’t help but imagine how Frodo and his company felt going through this place, cut off from the civilization that lay behind us and confronting the inky black unknown ahead.

It’ll be fascinating to see how the progression server communities — which feature a mixture of long-time players and fresh faces — handle Moria when they dive into it en masse next month. I expect some good-natured moaning and groaning, but I’ll bet that Moria is a lot more palpable when you have the companionship of hundreds of others all around.

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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Bango on Laurelin

Moria is now a gentle stroll since the revamp. The worst region is West Rohan that demands competing hundreds of dull quests in order to obtain the 5 trait points.

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Thompson Clayton Radcliff

You left out the best part! Finding the Water in the Water, the Chamber of the Mazarbul, the Bridge of Khazad-Dum, the corpse of the Balrog outside on the snowy mountainside…and even later finding Gandalf’s hat in the Deeps..playing the legendary quests where you fight the Balrog… this was RICH with lore from the books themselves. Finding these spots for the first time with my Captain was like walking through a museum. It was a thrill.

By the way, I liked two of your statements very much:
1) Due to the mandatory nature of its existence — all characters have to go through Moria to some extent — there is no option to circumvent it. When you play LOTRO, you will go through Moria. The Fellowship felt the same way :P

2)The saying goes that you’ll enter Moria in awe of it and leave running away from it. As did the Fellowship :P

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Cory James Hill

Moria is awful, IMO. I stopped playing this game three different times while being trapped in that boring place. The design itself is utterly uninspiring, even for an older game that looks pretty great everywhere else. The quests were yawn inspiring. I had zero fun there. Mind you, I’m an OG player who has been in the game off and on since Beta.

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Kayweg

I only ever played the original version of it, so i don’t know about the changes that have been and are going to be made to it.
My take…simply brilliant, and yes, i made it through to the other end.
But then, i always enjoyed the underground settings of games like Arx Fatalis and Ultima Underworld, and would welcome an entire game set in that type of universe.
Currently getting my claustrophobic kicks from Deep Rock Galactic, but not really an RPG that.
Sadly Underworld Ascendant turned out to be a complete trainwreck.
And if even the creators of the original UU can’t do it, well who can ?

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Tamanous

I’ve not once gotten through Moria and able to see any content after. It bored me to death.

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Melissa McDonald

It’s long, dark, and dangerous. Exactly as Tolkien described. They hit a home run.

mosselyn
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mosselyn

It’s both, IMO. I think Turbine did a great job with it, but it is also pretty much my personal definition of virtual world hell because I am navigationally challenged.

No matter how many times I go through there, I spend way too much time wandering around lost. Even after they thinned out the mobs, turned up the lights, re-did the quest flow, and added more taxi goats. (Honorable mention goes to Felegoth in Northern Mirkwood and Skarhald in Ered Mithrin.)

Besides, the goats have it in for you: One of the taxi goats killed me by running off a cliff back when. Never trust a goat.

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Dividion

Moria is pretty amazing. It’s changed over the years, and not nearly so dangerous anymore. You just need to stick with it until you feel the oppressive darkness seep into your soul, and then move on to Lothlorien. They’re polar opposites, and you don’t really appreciate Lothlorien if you don’t spend enough time in Moria.

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Dividion

And just for fun, here are a couple of images from the Moria beta, where the devs were running around as monsters, with 3M health. Caused for a lot of chaos over by the bridge of Khazad-Dum (one of the devs knocked me off the edge at one point). The second image looks like an outdoor snow scene, but that’s actually from a Rune-keeper, which was also released with Moria.

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Robert Mann

Moria is a fine place, full of great scenes. Where the mob density was punishing to many early on, along with the short respawn timers, that has been adjusted over time. Questing, too, was far worse when first released.

Those bothered by the lack of nature, sky, and so on are just not dwarven enough at heart! However, they then get Lothlorien. Enjoy you nature freaks! *Hisses at the sunlight. Go away bright thing, leave me in peace!*

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Humble DG

One of the best expansions in any MMO. If the goal was to feel that you were going through a mountain, mission accomplished. The issue with Moria was not the location, the layout, or anything around the questing. It was the ridiculous deed quantity increase and the confusion around the legendary system. Cool that you could name the items, and even leveling up legendaries was cool, but having to break and mold and slot and combine and merge and rinse and repeat was just over the top. Combined with the fact that it was for every type of weapon and each class had their own, and you needed multiple, way too f’ing much.

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Robert Mann

That, and the initial questing and mob density was a problem. That has long since been fixed, however.