Mines of Moria, the first expansion to the successful Lord of the Rings Online, continues to tell the overarching tale of the War of the Ring. But it isn't afraid to expand on the lore established by J.R.R. Tolkien to create an exciting virtual fantasy world where players can live out their Middle Earth adventures.

Delving deep into the dark depths, the dwarves of Moria discovered dangers untold. The path of the Fellowship was but a glimpse of the underworld that once held the greatest city of an age.

Mines of Moria, the first expansion to the successful Lord of the Rings Online, continues to tell the overarching tale of the War of the Ring. But it isn't afraid to expand on the lore established by J.R.R. Tolkien to create an exciting virtual fantasy world where players can live out their Middle Earth adventures.

Moria is a large subterranean city, and it's full of dark corridors worn from abuse by the orcs and goblins who've occupied the area since the fall of the dwarf culture.

That doesn't mean it's all caves and stone corridors, though. The game's creators took descriptions from the novel and expanded on them, logically extrapolating the infrastructure needed to support a city of millions.

Aside from new places to explore, there are also new foes. The more players plumb into the darkness, the more corrupt and twisted the enemies they fight.

Players will find Moria is geared for high-level play. Encounters in the mountain begin around level 50, and the expansion provides 10 more levels of play - it should take average players a good number of hours to complete.

"The Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria"

System: Windows PCs

Release date: Nov. 18

The game also introduces two new character classes - the rune-keeper and the warden - for more advanced players. Both classes use some unique new mechanics to pull off their special abilities.

The magic-wielding rune-keeper bends the lore a bit more than purists will like, but it's a necessary character addition to the game. Using spells and enchantments, the keeper shifts along a scale that boosts either their healing or destructive abilities on a per-encounter basis.

The more traditional damage-dealing warden chains abilities to pull off combination attacks. Similar to combo attacks in a fighting game, players execute a chain of abilities that lead to a dramatic payoff move.

Online games have to evolve and expand over time, and this first expansion of Lord of the Rings offers fresh content and additional tactical options that should keep players sated until the next one.

I'm personally excited to see how the game changes as the War of the Ring heats up and play moves into the fields of Rohan and beyond. But, then again, I'm the type of guy who would dress up as Gimli for Halloween just to justify my drinking habits.