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Exploring Middle-earth: Hands On with LotRO's Volume 3: Book 2

Posted Thu, Jul 08, 2010 by Martuk

We got the chance to learn a lot about what Turbine has planned for The Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO) this fall with their still yet to be named Volume 3: Book 2 update that will launch the game into the free-to-play market. The announcement of scalable dungeons, the new landmass of Enedwaith and the MMORPG’s foray into the free-to-play market peaked our interest and generated plenty of discussion in the LotRO community, but there is no teacher like experience and this week we got the chance to go hands-on with Turbine and experience the new content for ourselves. And we now have a much clearer picture of how the new content will filter into the game with this update.

Enedwaith Map

The story behind Enedwaith is that the rangers are heading south and you’re going to accompany them along the way. Throughout the story, you will have the chance to experience story-driven instances, some that will reflect on the history of the rangers and the ancestors of Aragorn to be more specific. Through these instanced Session Play events, you will learn more about the ancestors of one of LotRO’s most iconic figures and have the chance to play as a Ranger.

Enedwaith Ruins

Ruins of old can be found throughout Enedwaith.

Enedwaith
Enedwaith is a place of many colors. This update returns you to a brighter open world area, where you will even find hobbits that have strayed from the Shire and formed their own little settlement known as Maur Tulhau, where hobbits are a bit different but still love to dance as was evident by the two hobbits prancing around before us. But don’t be fooled by the dancing hobbits, this land isn’t as peaceful as it may first appear.

Tolkien didn’t write a huge segment of lore for Enedwaith, leaving the developers with some room for creative maneuvering. Players will experience a number of scenes that range from green and lush landscapes to areas littered with Gondorian ruins.

New Skirmish Window

Classic dungeons have been added to the Skirmish window. The above does not necessarily reflect the final list.

Scaling Dungeons
We first learned about Turbine’s plans to scale their older dungeons at E3 2010, but getting a little hands-on time with the new system helped make things a bit clearer on how it will work. Since the Skirmish system introduced in the Siege of Mirkwood expansion has proven to be popular with many players, Turbine has extended that to include the older dungeons. Joining some of your favorite classic dungeons can now be done by queuing up via the Skirmish window. This will allow players to select one of several dungeons on the list and scale it to an appropriate level.

New rewards for this type of dungeon will be added to vendors located at the various skirmish camps throughout Middle-earth. You can earn new marks for the dungeons you take part in and exchange them for useful items that were once only attainable as mob drops. In one instance we were taken to face Thorog, the dragon in Halegrod. After some magical dev work, the dragon crashed to the ground, leaving behind a chest containing a new Halegrod Mark and a number of other Skirmish Marks. These new marks drop in the various scaled dungeons and like other Skirmish Marks can be exchanged for goods.

Another useful thing being added is that some dungeons are being chopped up into wings, so you can knock out part of it in one session and then come back and join a group of friends for another part of it in a different session without having to worry about losing progress or knocking it all out at once. For example, Halegrod is scaled mostly for a 12 player raid, but in order to bring down the dragon you’ll still need 24 players.

Thorog

Some dungeons have been broken into wings.

Not every classic dungeon will be available to scale with this update. There are plans to release the dungeons in clusters, but for the fall update players will have the chance to head back into some old favorites that include instances from Halegrod, Great Barrows, Annuminas, and Eregion. Each of these instances will drop specific Skirmish Marks that can be exchanged for some of the game’s better loot.

Free-to-Play
When this update launches in the fall LotRO will also be going free-to-play and getting its own microtransaction store similar to the one employed by Turbine for Dungeons and Dragons Online. Players will have the option to play all of the Eregion content for free, but they will also have the option to buy other parts of the game for a small fee using Turbine Points, which players can also earn within the game by completing certain tasks such as finishing deeds. These points can then be used in the LotRO Store to buy convenience items or additional game content such as quest hubs, storage space, or character trait slots.

LotRO Store Interface

LotRO's Store is simple to use and offers a number of items.

The use of the new store is very simple. You can access the store in-game through a new icon added to the UI. There are a number of items currently available on the LotRO store such as experience boosters, moral regeneration potions, horse training scrolls, and additional trait slots, which are mainly for free-account players since they are restricted to a certain amount of traits. Paying accounts will still have access to all their usual character traits. There were also a number of social items ranging from social clothing to housing items and special emotes, which can also be unlocked within the game by completing certain deeds.

Volume 3: Book 2 still doesn’t have a solid release date, but with the implementation of DX11, the scalable content, and the added loot and quests that will come with Enedwaith, LotRO players will be busy grinding through content for some time. The simplicity of the LotRO Store will make the switch to free-to-play a painless transition for players. All this update needs now is a name.

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