LOTRO Legendarium: Exploring Lord of the Rings Online’s enormous new Neaths zone


Do you remember when you were a kid and you got to poke around and explore a cool place? You’d eagerly run around it, committing all of the nooks and crannies to memories while allowing your imagination to contemplate the possibilities. If you can relate, then you can understand me when I say that this is the feeling I got when zipping around the huge new zone that came in Lord of the Rings Online’s Update 40.

Or, to be more accurate, five new zones. One new zone with five sub-zones? It’s a big, big place, is what I’m saying. And in SSG’s typical fashion, the studio pretty much undersold what a beefy update this was to the game.

I haven’t had nearly enough time to do all of the quests in the Neaths, but I did spend a good amount of time rekindling that childlike spirit in me that wanted to go exploring. That brought out two notable strengths of this zone design: It’s relatively easy to navigate to almost anywhere you want to go (very few dead ends or weird trails, in other words), and the mob density is usually on the low side, so you aren’t wading through packs of elite mobs trying to get to your destination.

The Neaths also feel different than other underground spaces that we’ve seen in this MMO. It’s not giant and cavernous like Moria or Gundabad, but it’s also not twisty and organic like barrows or spider caves. This place easily conveys the foundation and infrastructure of an entire city, staying more or less flat with low ceilings and lots of intersecting hallways.

So as I explored, I took some notes and screenshots for each of the sections to share a few preliminary thoughts with you:

Tâkhdar, the Cellars

SSG said that this is “where shady business deals and black market sales take place.” I haven’t quested here, so I don’t know much about that, but this is such a cool locale. It does feel like the cellar or basement of a very, very big house, with lots of creaky timber supports, crumbling rock, pipes jutting out, and water running under grates.

The Cellars is also absolutely massive, perhaps the biggest of the five sub-zones of this update and central in its orientation. It was here that I got the biggest “kids exploring forts” vibe from my explorations.

Ilmabiri, the Wells

The Wells is the “sewer zone” if you had to reduce it to a simple biome. It reminds me a whole lot of Dungeons and Dragons Online’s earlier sewer missions (and boy did that game have a lot of them), although this area is definitely more open and less restrictive.

There’s a lot of green, scummy water running through these hallways, and you’re going to want to stick to the sides so as to not get knocked off your mount in the slightly deeper areas. I liked the green mossy vegetation that hung down, but the coolest spot I found was where a huge pipe poured gushing water from the streets above while a bit of sunshine sparkled down through it.

Kamrabezûr, the Vaults

The Vaults may be my least-favorite area, probably because it doesn’t have that tight, infrastructure feel to it. Rather, this is like an underground palace of sorts with massive rooms and lots of up and down stairways and some inexplicable purple mist. There are some cool arched hallways that look infinite if you stare down them, though.

Khabârkhad, the Crypts

Maybe I’m just such a Halloween fan that I say this, but the Crypts are my favorite spot. And that’s weird to say because LOTRO has lots and lots of underground tombs. Yet this place has a subtly different take on them, with unburied coffins and a really neat “haunted house” atmosphere. But yeah, you get a lot of spiders, bats, and skeletons here, so it’s not surprising in the least, just atmospheric.

Dil-irmíz, the Berths

The Berths is definitely the odd man out for the sheer fact that two-thirds of it is intended to be a grouping area with a lot of elite/signature mobs. Thematically, it’s kind of like an underground waterway with gates, elevated islands, and a whole lot of gigantic crocodiles. It’s really not that big, overall, and the fact that it’s a cul-de-sac means that you won’t have to go into the grouping portion just to get somewhere.

All in all, I’m pretty impressed with what I’m seeing so far! With all of the quests and the weekly quest series that run in the Neaths, it should provide high-level players with many hours of adventures as they wait for the fall expansion.

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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