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Lord of the Rings Online: Expansions Run Down

17. October, 2012Tags: Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Blog

LotRO Expansions Run DownRiders of Rohan, the latest expansion for Lord of the Rings Online, has been released, adding a whole load of new features. While we’re going to be taking a closer look at that over the next few weeks, I thought this would be a good opportunity to remember past expansions, in the same way we examined the expansions for World of Warcraft when Mists of Pandaria was released. We’ve already seen what has been added in Riders of Rohan, but how has the game evolved since its initial release in 2007? The world of J.R.R Tolkien has become far more open to exploration, but the gameplay has been fixed and improved upon as well, time and time again. How does Riders of Rohan measure up? Let’s find out.

Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria

The Mines of Moria are famous both for being the final resting place of Balin – one of the dwarves from Thorin’s party in The Hobbit – and as the place where the Fellowship of the Ring lost Gandalf to the Balrog. A once-great home to the dwarves, it became overrun with orks it is because of those orks that the fellowship must face many of their first tests. It stands to reason that, with all this going on in the book, Moria has an awful lot to live up to when made digital in Lord of the Rings Online. The Mines of Moria expansion also adds Lorien to your map, a beautiful green area, part of which was the perfect shelter for the Fellowship after losing Gandalf.

Mines of Moria expansion of Lord of the Rings Online

Like all of the expansions for this game, the most important addition is the storyline. By opening Moria, the player will come face to face with the likes of the Watcher in the Water and be forced to defend areas of Moria not unlike the way in which Balin would have had to survive. It’s a great way of reliving parts of The Lord of the Rings without actually going over old ground, so it’s the developers managed to strike up the right level of original material and source material straight from the first expansion (and in the main game, if you want to get technical). There were also some additional free downloads that took the player further into Lorien and which allowed you to meet other well-loved characters.

In terms of gameplay, Mines of Moria added a whole host of new locations to explore, many of which will be recognisable to fans of the films and books. There were new instances added that allowed you to play with both a host of allies and alone. More than that though, the Mines of Moria expansion added two new classes and legendary weapons to the mix, adding to the replay value of the larger game. The Warden added a new way of using skills and the Rune-keepers gave the player the chance to use a kind of magic. More than that though, Turbine went back and perfected already available classes, something they’d continue to do in both incremental patches and major expansions.

Although it wouldn’t prove as popular as Wrath of the Lich King, Mines of Moria was often praised just as much (if not more). Asides from being a great expansion to the game, it also managed to add an awful lot and Lord of the Rings fans everywhere celebrated the attention to detail, to lore. It didn’t hurt to have a set of exciting cameos from famous characters (or their relatives) either.  Most praised was the story, not a surprise when you consider how much influence was taken from the original work. Mines of Moria set the bar for future expansions.

Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood

Furthering their ability to bring together familiar faces and original storyline, Turbine opened up the Mirkwood areas of Middle Earth to players in 2009. The Siege of Mirkwood expansion concluded the storyline started in the Mines of Moria expansion and set things up for the Rise of Isengard expansion, the first two chapters of which would complete this arc. It also showed how things were moving on in the battle for the ring, and the player plays an important part in bringing together the grey company and moving them on their path. After a series of accidents, it becomes obvious that Saruman has had a hand in all of the problems face by the company, and then it’s on to Isengard.

Siege of Mirkwood and new areas

Alongside new areas of plot, Mirkwood became available to explore for the first time in this expansion. Skirmishes, massive combat-based instances, also became an important new way of interacting with other players and of gaining new, powerful weaponry and armour. Asides from this, new skills and items were added to the game, as well as polish on existing character classes and skills. There were also changes to the combat system.

Siege of Mirkwood got the same high marks that Mines of Moria received, especially for its story and attention to detail and lore. Some critics commented on the fact that newcomers were unlikely to benefit much from the new expansion, but that long-time fans would love the depth of content available to them.

Lord of the Rings Online: The Rise of Isengard

The Rise of Isengard was probably the biggest expansion for Lord of the Rings Online yet. Not only did it include a great story that would have the player and members of the grey company captured by Saruman, but that would add new locations and a higher level of polish to the experience. The story involved trying to turn the local clans against Saruman, but when you’re betrayed and sent as a gift to the turncoat wizard, you must muster all the help you can get to escape and continue your adventure to aid Aragorn.

Pits of Isengard

New items, a higher level cap, a new skirmish that allowed for 24 players to battle it out were all major features in this expansion and a whole host of new areas to explore were added to the world map.

Rise of Isengard got lower scores than past expansions, marking around the 8/10 level. The amount of new quests and locations were praised, but critics felt that things hadn’t evolved enough. It was great for a continuation to the story, but not enough to bring people back. It didn’t help that some people felt the expansion was unfinished when it was released and it took some time to polish up.

Conclusion

The expansions to Lord of the Rings Online are quite literally expansions to the original world.

The biggest part of each add-on pack has been the addition of new locations, new stories and new quests, all of which take part in the larger mythos of The Lord of the Rings. Other features have tended to be secondary and, in a way, that continues in the Riders of Rohan pack. Still, it’ll be a plus for long-time players and, at the end of the day, I suppose that’s the sort of people who buy expansions anyway and, the chances are, Riders of Rohan will continue the tradition of excellence from Turbine.

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