I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that despite having played LOTRO on and off for a decade-ish, I’ve never actually made it to the other side of Moria. Until last year, I’d never even made it to the first side. And I’m still, technically, NOT done – various quests keep sending me back, much to my dismay – but as of last month, I officially broke through to the other side. This felt like such a milestone to me that I decided to share a few thoughts and snapshots of my journey through Khazad-Dum.
I lingered in Eregion for as long as I could. My chronic Elf obsession reared its head and kept me in the region, grinding out deeds I normally wouldn’t bother with and taking screenshots of poetic, spooky sunsets. The memory of the once-great Elven civilization permeates the ruins of the zone, and I was particularly charmed by the quests that let you follow in the Fellowship’s footsteps, tracing their exact trajectory from Rivendell to Moria. The quests that flashed you back to the rise of Durin’s Bane as well as the encounter with the Watcher in the Water were both equally exciting. While I ADORE the Shadows of Angmar zones in the game and all the satellite lore they’ve fleshed out in some of those areas, there’s something thrilling about being more closely involved in the actual meat of the stories. I was hype.
I was not hype, however, to spend what I assumed would be a dark, dank, dragging amount of time underground. I’d heard Moria could be a bit of a slog, and while I did weary of not seeing the sky occasionally, I was overall very pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this region. This adaptation of Moria is perhaps my favorite that I’ve ever seen; it certainly outstrips Jackson’s monochrome caverns in terms of variety and creativity in truly building out what the might and glory of Moria could have been. Just as in Eregion, I got a strong sense of what the dwarves had envisioned for their civilization, and I enjoyed exploring the diverse regions and admiring their craftmanship.
The attention to detail in Moria was not lost on me. The lore that imbued Eregion followed me into Moria, and I loved marking off the expected landmarks on my map – the Chamber of Mazarbul, the Bridge of Khazad-Dum, etc. But then there were plenty of touches I didn’t expect to see along the way, such as the other half of the bridge where it had fallen far below in the Foundations of Stone, and my personal favorite, the remains of the Balrog out on the mountaintop. I was pretty gleeful when I found his corpse. I felt like I was walking around in a myth that’s been told to me a thousand times. Very, very cool.
All in all, things went a lot faster in Moria than I expected, though it might be partially because I’m playing so long after its release. There were plenty of quests and instance clusters that I blew past, so it might have felt different when it was current content. And I will admit that I am irked by how often I’ve been sent back after I reached open air for the first time. It’s not exactly an easy journey!
The area around Lothlorien proper has an ominous energy to it, which I love. It hints at the dangers and adventures to come on this side of the Misty Mountains. I’m really looking forward to what the rest of the map has to offer, and I know that it’s huge. I’m not in a rush to leave Lothlorien yet, but it seems like the story will transition me smoothly from this zone to Mirkwood. I like knowing where I’m supposed to go next without feeling like I have so many choices that I’ll have to miss out on something no matter what. We will deal with the shadow coming from Dol Guldur next – but for now, I’ll be romping in the golden leaves.