There have been some complaints on the official forums that this content update doesn't include a new land mass to explore. But the history of content updates for LotRO shows a pattern of only adding land mass every other update. Since the last update was a full expansion with the introduction of Mirkwood, it follows that this one would not include new lands.
That being said, there are many new areas to explore. The devs have created new instances in the "old world" for you to enjoy as part of the new Volume III epic quest line. So while this update doesn't deliver Rohan, it does have new dungeons to explore as well as a new Skirmish.
The tour (with some mild spoilers) starts after the jump!
Volume I was from Gandalf's point of view and Volume II was voiced by Galadriel. With the kick off of Volume III we learn that Elrond will be our guide through all its Books. You are called to Rivendell where the Elf-lord explains that Aragon is going to need the help of the Rangers of the North to defeat the enemy. In his library he talks of each ranger you need to recruit across the land.
These are NPCs that you've already encountered while leveling up and you will see many familiar faces. And you will see them right in Elrond's library. As he speaks of each, an image of them appears in front of you. Its a wonderfully cinematic device from the LotRO devs to remind you exactly which Ranger is which.
As you travel across Eriador and talk to the Rangers, they will each have a task for you before they can leave their post. Some will have you run errands, but most send you into battle. This is where much of the new playable areas are encountered with new instanced dungeons off of Trollshaws, North Downs, Forochel and other places. The Forochel area has a particularly cool new ice effect shown in the picture below.
By the end of the questline, you will have several scrolls and iXP runes. As of now, there is no cloak or other powerful equipment item reward we normally associate with finishing an epic questline. Many players have complained about this on the test server forum and this may change when the patch goes live.
The end of the epic questline takes you into a new Skirmish, The Rift. This uses one of the first raids introduced in the game and makes it accessible to all the players by transforming it into a Skirmish. You can run it in solo (1), the new duo option (2), small fellowship (3), fellowship (6) or raid (12) mode.
Anything other than solo mode will require that your group execute a specific Fellowship Maneuever to get around large lava spikes that are thrown in your path. Be sure to listen to what the NPC Ranger is telling you to execute the correct FM. If you do not, you can't proceed.
For those who like to participate in Raid Skirmishes, many of the rarely seen Rift armor models are now available at the Skirmish Camp vendors. I covered those in an earlier Road to Mordor column.
Older Epic Questline revamp
Many players, such as myself, have not completed the older epic questlines due to the difficulty of finding a group for the big encounters. In the interest of allowing newer players and longtime players with new alts access to as much content as possible, the LotRO devs have added a new solo mechanic to the game. Any quest in Volume I that requires a group will also grant the solo player a special item that grants Inspiration. This temporary effect only works during the epic encounter and greatly boosts the player's damage output and survivability.
For those that still wish to group through those big encounter, that option still remains in the game. No word yet on when this new solo mechanic will be applied to Volume II epic quests, but it will probably happen eventually.
Every year the devs like to add a new activity to the seasonal festivals and this year shrew stomping is added to the Spring Festival list. This event joins the Hedge Maze, the Horse Races and the Fest of the Greenfields.
In an instance off the Elf starting lands, you are given the task of killing 10 shrews that are eating the flowers of the gardeners who are trying to prepare for the Spring Festival. You are given stomping boots and let loose on the field. Too take down the Enormous Pesky Shrew, make sure you talk to the quest giver who gives you the Enormous Boots. Remember that the boots aren't equipable, but you'll want to put them on your hotkey bar.
Though this area is instanced, it can hold about two dozen other players, so getting to the pesky shrews first is part of the challenge. If you don't stomp them all, don't worry, a new round will unearth a minute or two later. This quest is repeatable and is a quick way to stock up on the Spring Festival currency that is used to buy some specialty items only available this time of year (Vase of Irises anyone?)
There are many new Spring Festival housing items available and they can all be seen in the gallery below. You'll need the Spring Festival currency to purchase them.
Though many professions are getting new recipes or stat revamps, one new mechanic is being introduced that affects all crafters. The Crafting Skirmish vendor will have a recipe that will allow you to level your profession quicker. Buy the recipe, then buy the corresponding component from the Skirmish vendor, craft it for big exp, sell it as vendor trash, wait for the cooldown to end, rinse and repeat.
This is a wonderful way to help crafters lagging behind, like myself. At level 65 I decided to level up my Tailoring from scratch. But the price of buying hides off the AH is insane and the idea of farming 500+ hides per tier is also not appealing. I've been leveling mostly off of the Tailor Guild reputation patterns, but still haven't hit Supreme level yet. Now I can get their quicker, and so can you!
Community link of the Week
DocHoliday has started a new Warden column on the LotRO Reporter blog. Wardens are considered an advanced class due to the complexity of their attacks. DocHoliday breaks it down for us with his first column that covers the basics of the class and the first 14 levels.