Fantastic! I could probably just leave that one word, and that would be enough, but of course I’ll give a little bit more detail than that. Disclaimer: I’ve only played for a little while so far, so that’s the perspective that I’m looking at things with. Read on, fair reader, for my thoughts. Josh also wrote up a great summary of his experiences in Book 7, so check it out as well!

Lothlorien and the Book 7 Epic Quest Line

I am loving Lothlorien. It is everything I could have ever wished for, in an online-gaming-computer-rendered kind of way. It is absolutely gorgeous, and Turbine has outdone itself. I loved the ambiance of Moria, the endless tunnels and darkness, and thought that it did more than justice to the lore. Lothlorien surpasses that, in my opinion, and takes the lore and runs with it. Caras Galadhon is encircled by a path, just as I would expect from the books, not to mention utterly breathtaking. I haven’t earned the rep standing to go inside yet, but from what I’ve seen elsewhere, it is very close to how I always imagined it. Cerin Amroth is gorgeous, and the glade surrounding it is peaceful and beautiful. The Great River Anduin is spectacular, as it should be, and I can’t wait to explore its other side in the coming books (hopefully). For a lore-junkie, it has been a wonderful day or so spent under the eaves of the mellyrn.

The Great River

The Book 7 Epic quest line is quick, easy, and perfectly suited to be an on-ramp for the later books in Mines of Moria. You don’t have to have the previous books finished to start it, and can jump right in as soon as you gain entrance to Lothlorien. I’ve only gotten as far as 7.4 (I need more time in my day!!!), but so far, it has been great fun. The solo instance I did for 7.3 was excellent, humorous, and fully seated my opinion that the lore in Turbine’s hands is a safe place for it to be.

The lore in and of itself is paid great attention to in Lothlorien, so you’re not going to find many kill quests here. There has been a lot of complaining about that, but to those who complain I say: “ELVES DON’T KILL NEEDLESSLY AND WANTONLY!” Please, if you must kill hundreds of mobs to sate your bloodlust, go back into Moria. Personally, I’m greatly enjoying gathering berries, singing to trees, giving people flowers, and making wine. Brilliant, Turbine, fan-freaking-tastically brilliant.

Again, I am greatly looking forward to seeing Caras Galadhon, and getting to explore it fully. It is HUGE from the outside, and beautiful, as it should be. What little I’ve seen of it has got me wanting more, and I’m sure I’m going to be spending a lot of time with the elves in their great city.

Crafting Instances

One of the things that excited me the most when it was announced for Book 7 was the inclusion of solo instances geared towards crafters. I love crafting in LOTRO, and have a Supreme Master Woodworker and Scholar. Gathering mats for my Scholar was fairly simple, since she’s a Hunter and can go pretty much anywhere, with lots of nodes all throughout the Mines. Gathering wood for my Woodworker was a bit more problematic, so I was really excited to hear that we would be getting these with 7.

So far, I’ve played through both of the instances geared for the Woodworker/Explorer/Tailor, and I’ve set foot briefly in one of the Scholar themed instances. I’m really impressed with the design and flow of the instances, and find them to be challenging, but not difficult. Lots of nodes to farm, and lots of mobs to kill. Not only do you get a significant amount of resources, but you get quite a decent amount of cash as well from vendor trash you pick up along the way, which should help offset the high cost of Supreme tier crafting.

Time for a funny story! In the first instance I took my Minstrel into, there was a point near the entrance where I suddenly found myself with 8 Dread and started cowering. It completely freaked me out, because I couldn’t figure out why in the heck I got it, especially since I have 3/6 Radiance pieces. I was thinking it was a bug, and was getting ready to report it, but decided to move away from the spot to see if that helped first. Sure enough, it did. I went on through the instance, and by the nature of how it was designed, I was able to get a little perspective on that particular spot. This is what was there:

Shhhh! Don’t wake it up!

IT WAS A GIANT-FREAKING-ENORMOUS CAVE CLAW TAKING A NAP!!! I wish I could post the full-size screenshot so that you can really see it! I couldn’t target it, or otherwise interact with it, but it scared the crap out of me, cause I knew if that was what I had to fight at the end, there was no way that I’d be able to survive. Thankfully, I didn’t! Nice touch, and kudos to Turbine. I’m looking forward to seeing if similar things happen in the other instances.

Minstrel Changes

I was initially planning on writing an entire article about the Minstrel changes after MoM, but decided against it until after Book 7 had dropped. In a nutshell, I wasn’t entirely impressed with a lot of the changes they made to the class, and I was especially unhappy regarding our healing skills and potency post 50. I’m still not entirely happy with healing, but I’m going to hold off on any ranting until I get to heal a group after Book 7, which I haven’t been able to do yet. I was fine with our damage, and didn’t have any problem with that aspect of the class, other than the fact that taking mobs down was slow, and you had to be careful. Most of the time, I duoed with my husband who plays a Champ, so damage wasn’t really something I needed to worry about anyways.

Minstrels after Book 7 are vastly improved! By that, I mean that it feels like we got our mojo back. A lot of Hunters and Champs have been crying on the forums that Minstrels now do more damage than they do. NOT TRUE. We do really great burst damage, front-loaded stuff. Put us in a prolonged situation though, and we wilt like week-old flowers, which is a completely logical tradeoff. The changes to our Ballads in and of themselves mean that if we don’t take something down within the first few minutes, we won’t last much longer than that because of our increased power consumption. I love the fact that I can tier up my Ballads almost instantaneously, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how much the healing magnitude addition helps our healing.

The one thing I really wish I could have seen with Book 7 was a change or removal of Soliloquy of Spirit, our (now) level 60 HoT skill. I don’t like it, never have. I use it more out of amusement than utility, and I really wish that Minstrels had gotten a better healing skill. I understand Turbine’s rhetoric that they did not want to blur the lines between the healing classes since Captains and Runekeepers are primarily HoT healers. I’m totally cool with that. My problem is that they gave us this little, tiny HoT (which is now our level 60 skill!!!!) that doesn’t really do all that much. To make the skill halfway decent, we have to completely trait in the Watcher of Resolve line (which I’m not a huge fan of), and have 6/6 Radiance pieces, and even then, the skill is lackluster IMHO. That’s a lot of work to get a trifling HoT, that’s all I’m sayin'.

XP Curve Change

I loved logging in my lowbie alts to get their little bump. My level 18 Captain went to 21.5, and my level 29 Runekeeper hopped to 31.5. I’m also really looking forward to taking these two through the 30-40’s now that the curve has been fixed, since that is one of the longest slogs in the game.

A+++ Turbine!!

Overall, i’m really happy with Book 7. There’s so much to do and see, and I’m sure that it’ll take me quite a while to experience all of the content. I still haven’t done a fair chunk of it from SoA, and let’s not even get into what I haven’t done in Moria. It’s going to be really interesting watching how people react to Book 7. It’s not even been a week yet and it already is!