The oppressive summer heat keeps me entrenched firmly within my house, happily playing pretend online. The cold stone of the Dwarven halls of Moria is a welcome sight on my computer screen when I come in from the record-breaking days-in-a-row of 100+ degree temperatures.
The Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria expansion was released a long time ago, in November 2008, but having just joined the game last fall upon the Free-to-Play conversion, my progress is a bit behind the times.
Yes, I play in a fantasy world pretty much every day. I certainly like it better than watching television. My affection for these little video game distractions is almost embarrassing (especially when mentioned to people who look at you like something green and purple just sprouted out of your head when you start discussing them out loud).
Anyway, as for Moria, it is vast. My only gripe with LotRO is that, spoiled Guild Wars player that I am, the artwork leaves much to be desired. Guild Wars is stunningly beautiful; LotRO is blocky and semi-cartoonish. BUT - and this is a huge plus - they really understand how to use the z-axis: the dimension of height, up and down in space.
Guild Wars has a few staircases here and there, but nowhere near the depth and layering that has been accomplished in LotRO, and especially in the Mines of Moria area. Even the enemy creatures are successfully separated along the z-axis so that sufficient vertical distance prevents aggro (unwanted attention), unlike GW.
Being a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien since childhood, the famed author of the Lord of the Rings book series, I have thus far enjoyed stumbling across the many lore-consistent tidbits, persons and places in the game. Even with everything I had been enjoying over the last ten months travelling across the lands that are so familiar to me from the stories, now that I have finally arrived here, I have been more pleasantly surprised and even awed by Moria.
At least six levels of staircases seem to surround every small outpost, and then when you leave the area, you will go up or down again to another wonderful maze.
In one "small" area alone you can wind around a central open mine shaft for comparatively hundreds of vertical feet, and this is deep beneath at least 10 levels of decoratively carved stone above.
Walking up and down and around these vast halls and mazes of stone staircases and ramps littered with statues the size of a castle, I get genuinely lost. Humorously, the NPCs will occasionally add "Are you lost?" to the standard "How may I help you?" dialogue. And correct they are in asking.
Yes, the graphics leave a great deal to be desired in comparison to Guild Wars. I wish Guild Wars 2 would hurry up and be released. But I fervently hope ArenaNet (creators of Guild Wars) will take serious note of Turbine's (creators of LotRO) ability to build all over the up-and-down in our fun fantasy play space.