It sounds petty, but when you're introducing your game's first paid-for expansion, the last thing you want to do is give people buyer's remorse because their epic journey begins with kicking crows in the face.
This monotony does end, eventually, as you somehow satisfy the dwarves and their menial tasks and are allowed to proceed to the Hollin Gate, only to get attacked by The Watcher In The Water. Again, this experience was remarkably underwhelming, as you're whipped by remarkably tender-looking tentacles and see nothing of the hulking beast within.
Scampering back under your mother's skirt, you're handed a weapon of the Third Age - your first Legendary item - and sent to Rivendell to work out how to use it to fight off The Watcher. This begins probably the coolest addition to itemisation in MMOs - levellable weaponry.
Essentially, these Legendary weapons level alongside you, and with each one you receive a pool of points that can be attributed to Legacies - useful, class-specific ability upgrades. These can range from critical damage upgrades to the addition of snares to your abilities, and there's something to be said for the utterly bewildering amount of choice - and that's to say nothing of each one having three sockets to add statistics to.
As you level them up, every ten levels requires you re-forge them, resetting all the statistics on the weapon and unlocking even tastier legacies. Turbine has really pushed the boat out on customisation, not just with the similarly-levellable titles you can give each weapon, but with the choices you can make to really forge a weapon that's yours. You can level six of them at a time, too, meaning that eventually you are armed to the teeth with customised battle-axes and bows.
Once you've levelled your weapon of choice through ten levels (which, while not as long as it sounds, was still far grindier than sits well with LOTRO), you can face off against the Watcher in a surprisingly dynamic and dramatic instance. While, once again, you're just fighting off the tentacles, at least this time you're able to turn around and hack them down as they pull dwarves into the Black Pool.
On entering Moria, the expansion's wow factor actually kicks in. Say what you will about the repetitiveness of this fine genre, but Turbine knows how to immerse the player in a world that feels truly huge. Moria is no exception, making Ironforge feel claustrophobic in comparison. The darkness stretches on seemingly forever, and areas like The Endless Stair gently nuzzled at my vertigo, while the Dwarven Structures are breathtaking.
Story-wise, Moria continues to be a triumph for Turbine's elaboration on the Lord of the Rings myths. While 'Mines' suggests 'carts', Moria is genuinely an underground world, with full-scale cities, civil wars between orcs, and the Dwarven contrivances that kept the city in working order before it all went to buggery. In fact, you're actually able to witness part of said buggery yourself - Moria tells part of its story via a series of historical instances which range from very interesting to full-on nerdgasmic, resplendent with dropped Mountain Dew and beads of sweat.
Moria has shaped up to be a bold evolution of Lord of the Rings Online. While we can't exactly say it stretches the genre, the technological changes used to simulate the epic size of it all are a triumph, and anybody who enjoys the well-done instanced story-quests will drink it up. With ten more levels to plough through and hours of content to do it to, as well as the potential for dragging your friends in with two easy-to-learn and satisfying classes, now is one of the best times to get into the game.
Lord of the Rings Online: The Mines of Moria is due out for the PC on 18th November.