Turbine's Producer Eric Boyer and Development Director Ian Currie offered us a sneak peek a few days before the highly anticipated update featuring underwater combat (for the first time in DDO) went live. Level-wise, Update 6 offers a new level 7-11, but epic mode will allow players up to level 20 to check out the all new update.
Storywise, it would be hard for Turbine to outdo Update 5- how can you beat the sheer awesomeness of a troupe of assassins using a traveling carnival for cover? But players hoping for a little more epicness in the final Phiarlan Carnival scene will be pleased with how Update 6 progresses. House Kundarak has put out the call for adventurers to aid a village of drow refugees beset by hordes of invading Sahaugrin, a fierce two-legged fish people that had until recently acted fairly peacefully toward surface dwellers.
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The Red Fens look pretty green to us, and the tall grasses hide all kinds of baddies.
Our journey first took us into the Red Fens, an expansive wilderness area featuring rock outcroppings and tall grass crawling with stealthy fen cats, mudmen (which toss , you guessed it, blinding mud - always a fun addition to any fantasy MMO), Will O' the Wisps, and my personal favorite, Vine Crawlers and Vine Stalkers. These last two are gorgeously rendered plant creatures a little like miniature treants, but Iain informed me that players much purchase a monster pack to unlock these baddies. We eventually came upon a burnt out drow village, and here players will aid drow in making a stand against the fishmen.
Most of the Red Fens, including how the Drow refugees storyline progresses, was off-limits for the tour. Turbine didn't want to spoil too many of the surprises, of course. Ian and Erik did point out some of the coming attractions, including some of the 40+ rare mobs. One of which, a truly horrific Abishai (or a cross between a humanoid devil and a dragon - a being of immense power), was summoned by placing three looted crests in an altar. These crests - snake, octopus, and scorpion - could be looted from any mob in the zone, but here's the catch: if you leave the Red Fens, the crests won't come with you. It's a clever way of doing a single-session gated encounter in an overland zone.
Finally, we took a stroll up a moss covered ziggurat, the likes of which might make H.P. Lovecraft start with the adjectives. This was a preview of coming attractions, for the Sauhaugrin, a deeply religious fishpeople, had another one just like it in the Deeps. Speaking of the Deeps, that was our next stop.
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The Abishai summoning altar (left) and Drow refugee village (right).
Update 6 works just like other DDO updates in that a player must be keyed for the capstone quest. In Update 6, the "Into the Deeps" capstone quest disables a barrier at the top of the ziggurat. So, with one of DDO's trademark dives down a dark shaft at the top of the ziggurat, we found ourselves just outside the gates of the underwater Sauhaugrin city. A friendly Sauhaugrin NPC (I'll leave it to you to find out how a Sauhaugrin comes to be friendly) encases us in a bubble, and I discovered one of the most intriguing things about the new underwater gameplay in DDO. Eric explained that while enemies could swim and move around in three dimensions (they're fish people, after all), player characters have all the weight of the ocean on their shoulder and, what's more, can't swim due to the bubble. As a consequence, walking about is a little like moving in molasses. Make that moving as a sort of slow motion Flash Gordon, since once you gather some momentum you begin to accelerate. At the same time, you have to keep an eye out since hostile Sauhaugrin may attack from above. As a nice touch, dead enemies float upward, "like your first goldfish" as Eric laughingly noted.
Graphically, I've never seen a better looking underwater area in any game. The blurry blues are offset by otherworldly pink and green orbs, and the underwater temple looms ominously at the center of the area. The inner chambers of the temple are protected by another forcefield, and the temple pit beckons. There, the High Priestess was worshipping an undecidedly un-Sauhaugriny deity, and stopping her would restore a tenuous state of peace to the fishmen.
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The Sauhaugrin city gates (left) and the underwater temple (right). Note how the players are encased in air bubbles.
But before the final confrontation, you'll have to blast through several stages of a ring fight. The High Priestess has a few surprises of her own, but once she falls, you'll be well rewarded both with a trip to the nearby treasure room and a bonus encounter even further down in the pit against the demonic object of the high priestess's worship. The Demon of the Frenzied Blood is a tough encounter, and to banish him, be sure to stay out of the boiling tar and take down as many of the portals as you can.
The showdown with the High Priestess ties together this visually pleasing update nicely.
Sporting a compelling wilderness zone, a host of rare encounters, some excellent boss fights, and a brand new take on underwater combat, Update 6 offers some very compelling mid-level content (or level cap content, should you opt for the epic version), and seems like one of the longer updates that have come to DDO. It might take more than a single night to get keyed for the capstone let alone take down the High Priestess, and there's plenty of replayability with the crest-summoned Abishai and rare mobs sprinkled throughout the Red Fens and Deeps. If you have character in level range, U6 appears to be well worth your time and money. Speaking of which, U6 is available as of Thursday, August 19th for roughly $8 in Turbine points.
And if you thought the High Priestess was tough, meet her deity.
Eric and Ian also dropped a few hints about Update 7 as well, which we're sure to hear more about at PAX Prime in early September. Turbine remains committed to one of the most long-awaited additions to DDO Unlimited - Half Orcs - and Update 7 will also include some long awaited UI changes, such as a string-searchable auctionhouse at long last. In keeping with the usual timing between DDO Updates, Update 7 will make its debut in the fall of 2010.
A big thank you to Eric Boyer, Ian Currie, Elicia Basoli, and the DDO Unlimited team for making time for this preview of Update 6. If you're interested, be sure to check it out in the DDO store (it's available today) and stay tuned for more info from PAX Prime in early September!
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