DDO: Menace of the Underdark PAX Coverage
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
The Turbine booth is always a fun trip at any convention. It’s rare to find a development team in the online industry as dedicated to their lore and storytelling to the point that DDO and LOTRO’s team are. Unfortunately I wasn’t a major table top gaming enthusiast growing up so at times I stand in confused awe as they ramble off the amazing twists and turns occurring in the DDO universe, but I’m here to do my best to describe just how epic their latest content update, Menace of the Underdark, is going to be.
Lolth looms over the D&D Board Game Booth
The Forgotten Realms and Lolth
Hands down what impressed me the most with this update is the Forgotten Realms controlled by Lolth, a gigantic Drow Goddess that can only be described as half dark elf, half spider lady. Players will have to battle against her numerous Drow and Spider minions in an epic new raid to preserve the sanctity of their world. Unfortunately your world is not the first to be targeted by the Forgotten Realms, and you’ll have to face off against the numerous corruptions of lost worlds as you battle your way through an “elephant graveyard” of destruction and demonic forces.
A pretty slick piece of this raid is the fact that the various land masses are connected by ethereal looking spider webs known as the Demon Web. No worries as the webbing is more than strong enough to carry you safely from place to place but it really adds an eerie feeling walking across see-through web with a bottomless purple abyss swirling below you. Beyond epic storytelling, man does their art department know how to create a mood for the setting.
Evening Star and King's Forest
Unfortunately I don’t have any screenshots of the magical Demon Web. I do however have quite a bit of Evening Star, the newest quest hub for this continuation of the DDO story. Evening Star is a quiet little farming town with dark secrets and a population plagued metaphysically by a group of Hags creating a base in the King’s Forest. This dark and twisted tale all begins with players seeking out the hags and discovering their dark connections with the Drow as they attempt to acquire the Thread of the Weave belonging to a missing amiable goddess. I can’t say exactly what Loloth’s plans for the Thread of the Weave are, but let’s just say combined with the Demon Web, things are going to get real bad real fast.
One of the elements of the King’s Forest that Turbine is most proud of is the random encounter system. Each time you travel through the forest, different challenges may be awaiting you. For instance on one trip you may come across a lost girl looking for an escort back to town. Successfully protecting her from monsters and getting her back to town will earn you a hefty reward. However on your next trip through you may come across another lost girl asking for an escort back to town. Unfortunately no good deed goes unpunished and she ends up being a Hag that leads you into an ambush. Keep your eyes open travelers as the dark and twisted King’s Forest is full of surprises.
Out of all the surprises though, one of the worst may be coming across the Drow’s Darkening ritual. In an attempt to devour Evening Star in eternal blackness, they are drawing the Forgotten Realms closer than ever before to reality, resulting in a pitch black fog that gives Drow’s a supreme advantage inside as their Dark Vision allows them to see their surroundings bright as day. Luckily players can also acquire this ability to take the fight to them on their home turf.
Those feeling adventurous can head to the Deep Forest in which your surroundings seem to constantly change and only the most alert players will be able to find their way around. It is in these reaches that players may stumble upon dragons the likes of which you have never seen before in the world of DDO. These dragons are massive in scale, come in poison and fire varieties, and will pose an awesome challenge to anyone trying to prove their worth.
During the demo I was able to see the green poison dragon in action. Their DPS was huge (the invincible GM was quickly in the -6k hp region) and consisted of a combination of knockdown attacks, poison aoe breath, tail whips, and 360 degree spin attacks. To take one down you’ll need plenty of poison resistance and good positioning/timing. Of course it wouldn’t hurt to team up with the newest class as they seem ideal for taking on such creatures.
Many MMOs try and fail to create that one ‘jack of all trades’ type class but DDO seems to have the formula sorted out perfectly with their Druid class! The basic principle behind the druid is that they command animals while shape shifting into various forms to augment their already powerful magic abilities. For instance if you’re looking for a more melee heavy DPS build, you can transform into the wolf or snow wolf. If your group is lacking in tankiness then the bear and dire bear transformations will suit your needs. Those looking to unleash the ultimate forms of Druid magic can experiment with its elemental avatar forms including water, fire, and air depending on what the situation calls for. Just be careful with the more advanced forms as while they provide stronger powers, they also limit some of your abilities to maintain game balance. The one example I saw in action was that the snow wolf was unable to use the sun shield ability that the Druid normally possessed. The art team is really on their game for this update as the production value in the Druid’s animations is spot on. Watching his wolf form doggy paddle down a river looks exactly like seeing a Labrador swimming through the pool to catch their favorite toy.
In terms of standard Druid power sets, they run the gamut from elemental damage spells to aoe suppression to party support. Healing and resurrection will definitely make Druid’s wanted members for raid groups. They also have some really sweet nature based abilities such as the insect swarm that creates an angry swarm around yourself that attacks any enemies foolish enough to approach you automatically.
If this still isn’t enough to sell you on the Druid class, then pets just might be the tipping point. The Druid pet is not some half thought out idea but rather an extension of the progress made with last update’s launch of the Artificer followers. You can choose from a wolf pup, spider, or panther and train them up in level along with your main character. Pets can learn skills, wear gear, and receive enchantments.
Well that’s all I have to say on DDO’s Menace of the Underdark for now. OnRPG will be getting a press account in the coming weeks to check out the new content at our own pace in the near future so stay tuned for a more indepth look of how this new raid feels. And no worries as unlike most titles that seem so far off in the future, Menace of the Underdark will be going into beta testing in May!