Turbine has created a new test server for its Lord of the Rings Online MMO, and loaded it with the game's next big content update - the first since last year's Mines of Moria expansion - Volume 2: Book 7. That means pre-release patch notes giving us some idea of what will be in the final update.
The storyline continues with the addition of Elven haven Lothlorien, where players will be reunited with the Fellowship of the Ring, but not before they've earned faction standing with the Galadhrim. Over 50 quests, 9 chapters of story and 4 instances are involved. For high-level players, there's also a new 12-man raid in the Waterworks of Moria.
Turbine's also showing new and lower-level players some love with a revamped new player experience, a new quest guide and a speedier levelling curve. Elf and Dwarf new player progression has been "completely redesigned", there are new quests and travel routes and a re-structure of existing quests to improve flow.
The quest guide works with the quest tracker to provide map support. The overall amount of experience needed to reach the current level cap of 60 has been reduced (this works retrospectively, so you might find you suddenly gain up to 3 levels after Book 7 lands).
There's also a "revive" feature that allows you to resurrect yourself in place, rather than retreating. It's on a half-hour cooldown to begin with, increasing to one hour at level 10 and 2 hours at level 40. It doesn't work in group instances.
As for the usual round of tweaking, there are plenty of adjustments to most classes - new boys the Rune-keeper and Warden unsurprisingly getting the most attention - and a rebalancing of Monster Play in the Ettenmoors. Furthermore, both creature difficulty and weapon damage are being reduced in the high levels to make skill more of a factor than gear.
Sounds like an extremely comphrehensive update, as LOTRO players have come to expect from Turbine. We'll have more LOTRO action on Eurogamer soon.