Lord of the Rings Online has a new free content patch releasing very soon, and Turbine was kind enough to give us our very own dev tour of the new content. We've seen some tidbits of information here and there, across the forums and other fan blogs, but it's always nice to get the info from the perspective of the people who created the game, while they warp you around to closed instances, secret locations and encourage you to jump out of trees with your borrowed immortal character (that never gets old).

So on our tour we soaked up as much as possible to unleash on you, our favorite readers (yes, I'm talking to you!). We learned about crafting and battle instances, the new quest guide, Lothlórien's newest cities and environments, and the epic quest line. You can bet we took a billion screenshots along the way (ok, 18), including a new complete map of Lothlórien which shows the areas east of the Nimrodel. Follow long after the cut for more on LotRO's Volume II: Book 7.
We'll start off our tour guide to Book 7 by explaining a bit about what this new content patch brings to the game. Turbine has listened to player feedback, and that feedback has been the number one inspiration for everything in Book 7. Of course the storyline and Epic questline has been established already, but it's in the way that this new content and story is brought to us which proves that Turbine is here to make their game fun every step of the way, not just an interactive version of The Silmarillion. The early questlines have been refined and streamlined to provide an overall more pleasant experience for brand new players, which the game has seen an abundance of since Moria's release.

New Quest Guide
An excellent example of this draw for new players is the introduction of the quest guide. This new quest guide aids players with a bit more information than was previously included in what some players have deemed a difficult (and sometimes inaccurate) quest log.

With Book 7, we will have a small yellow arrow on the radar map that points in the direction of the quest objective. It doesn't mark the objectives directly, just guides you towards those objectives. Once you're in the correct area where the quest objective lies, the area's name under the radar map will glow yellow, indicating that you're on the right track (see right).

On the map screen, the quest guide is also included in the lower left hand corner (although it's completely movable) which lets you select which quests to track on your map. Quests with a direct objective (such as a single boss to kill) will show up as a blue marker on the map. Quests where the objective is within a general area (such as kill 5 boars) will show up as a white overlay cloud within that area. The quest guide is automatically disabled in instances, and any player can turn off this feature if they feel it gives away too much information or makes the game too easy for them. If you'd like to see a more interactive demonstration of this feature, check out this excellent video at Under the Banner.

Lothlórien's new areas
For anyone who has already reached Lothlórien in the current game, you'll notice that you can't really go too much further past the Nimrodel river. Now the entire region east of the Nimrodel has been opened up in Book 7, and it introduces a few architectural aspects pulled from places like Rivendell and Moria itself.


Working within the relatively small landmass of Lothlórien, Turbine stayed true to the lore and grew the Elven cities on a vertical axis, up into the trees. There are dozens of platforms to explore throughout these trees, all reachable with ladders. Just as with Moria's multi-leveled landscapes, you can access every platform you see in Lothlórien. In fact, Turbine's Aaron Campbell even mentioned that there is a quest line in the area where players will need to navigate around the maze of platforms within a certain time limit.

Take special note that this new land is not accessible through conventional means. The Elves of Lothlórien are very particular about who enters their lands. You will need to gain their acceptance, which is not granted to many. Entrance to the new area is done by either finishing Book 6, thereby garnering the approval of Lady Galadriel, or by proving yourself to the Elves with reputation. This is done either through a series of reputation quests, or gathering the rep yourself as with previous rep-building factions in the game.

You will continue to build reputation throughout the area in order to reach the area's capital city of Caras Galadhon. Reputation is so important that it's basically your only currency for this land. The Elves of Lothlórien don't believe in cash transactions, so your character will need to gather special silver or gold branches to do any trading. These branches can be found throughout the zone, and special repeatable quests are put in place to help you gather more.

Crafting Instances
Again, the crafting instances were created in direct response to player feedback. Many crafters were looking for exclusive zones in which they could gather their resources in a manner more exciting than simply running around picking away at nodes. These crafting instances are repeatable daily and offer randomized monsters that can be different each time you enter. In addition, each of these six types of crafting instances are capped off with a special boss. These instances offer various rewards, to give incentive to do them multiple times. It also pointed out to us that despite the name, these crafting instances are not only for crafters. The rewards are hopefully good enough to inspire other players to finish them without lifting a pick-axe, Forester's axe or Scholar's glass.

Battle Instances
New battle instances are introduced with Book 7 which are very similar to those seen in Angmar and Moria. "Preparation for War" is a series of quest chains that open up the Elvish offensive against the Orcs in the northern battlefields of Lothlórien. These instances are open to a complete fellowship once it has been unlocked through this quest line.

You will have key defensive points in the northern, western and eastern sides of the battlefield with special champions that you can assign as you please. Multiple objectives create more of a custom feel to these instances, as you can choose to continue on with optional goals in addition to the mandatory objectives such as defending the control points and keeping your main NPC alive. You can also carry your banner through certain control points to claim each point for your team as you make your way closer to the Orc stronghold. There are idols you can destroy for another reward, and special bosses that spawn whose defeat offers yet another reward. This, as with the crafting instances, gives players the opportunity and incentive to run through these challenging battle instances multiple times.


Epic Quest Line
So we've discussed all of this new content and changes to the game coming with Book 7, but what about the actual storyline of the book itself? Well, rest assured that Turbine hasn't skimped here either. You'll meet back up with the Fellowship during this questline which will even take you back to Moria. We're told that this entire book is much more soloable than the previous six books in Volume II, which is something else that many players have been requesting since Moria.

We hope you've enjoyed this brief tour through Book 7's new content. While there is still no definitive release date yet, Turbine's Adam Mersky tells us that it will release within the month of March. You can count on Massively to let you know the second the actual release date is announced. Be sure to also flip through our dev tour gallery linked below for some exclusive shots we grabbed during the tour.

This article was originally published on Massively.