Dungeons & Dragons Online has undergone many changes since its launch six years ago, not the least of which is having become one of the first pay-to-play titles to successfully convert to free-to-play. But today Turbine took another huge leap forward, answering fans who have long been clamoring for a Forgotten Realms setting with DDO’s newest expansion, Menace of the Underdark. The expansion not only brings the Forgotten Realms to vivid life but is DDO’s biggest expansion to date. Last week, we embarked on a whirlwind tour, accompanied by DDO Producer, Fernando Paiz.

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"This expansion is sort of like a players’ wish list of Things You’ve Always Wanted to See in DDO."

“We had two big requests from the moment we launched DDO six years ago,” Paiz told us. “The things we’ve heard most often are ‘When can we play the Forgotten Realms?’ followed by ‘When can we play the Druid class?’ This expansion is sort of like a players’ wish list of Things You’ve Always Wanted to See in DDO.”

Menace of the Underdark ushers in many new features and upgrades including the Druid class, a level cap increase to 25, the Epic Destinies system (check out our Epic Destinies preview for more details), a new public group option to help players automatically find groups, and an upgraded engine for better performance and visuals. There’s something for all players level 16 and up in the expansion. Although we’ve been fortunate enough to preview the expansion before, this time we were not only able to plumb the depths of the Underdark and take the Druid class for a quick spin, but we got an awe-inspiring glimpse of the Drow goddess, Lolth.

The expansion is the equivalent of about 4 of Turbine’s usual live updates. It includes four Challenge Packs around the town of Eveningstar and three large Adventure Packs, each with a large wilderness expanse and four or more quests as well as random encounters--mini quests, if you will--scattered throughout. (Paiz said that players could expect to come across four or five random encounters during their travels through the various areas.) The last of these areas, Demonweb, includes a 12-person raid against Lolth, the Demon Spider Queen. More on her in a moment.

The story arc in The Forgotten Realms begins at level 16, but it can also be soloed by a level 20, or played by a level 20 group as an Epic challenge. The different challenge levels allow for a wider variety of players to take advantage of the new content.

Menace of the Underdark Screenshot

The Druid in an elemental form.

The Druid

Although there wasn’t much time for actual playing, I was able to journey with the DDO devs as a Druid. The Druid offers powerful nature magic and shape shifting. My character was able to shape shift into wolf, bear and elemental forms. As you might expect, the elemental forms amplify elemental damage, the wolf form focuses on DPS, and the bear form specializes in tanking.

Druids can also call a wolf animal companion, which begins with them as a pup and levels into a full-grown wolf the player can equip with gear and customize as he sees fit. “Essentially,” said Paiz, “the pet is like a hireling that doesn’t count against your group count, so he’s very handy.”

New Places to See

Menace of the Underdark Screenshot
Menace of the Underdark Screenshot

The King's Forest and the quest hub, Eveningstar.

I won’t linger long discussing some of the sights we were able to see in Cormyr: the vast outdoor woodland of The King’s Forest, the quest hub city of Eveningstar, the Underdark and Demonweb. I will mention, however, that the expansion brings some fantastic visual improvements to DDO, which take advantage of DX10 and DX11 technology--in short, everything looks great. It’s a richer, more colorful visual experience than the one I remember from my days in Eberron several years back.

Read on as we step into the gloom of the Underdark...

Venturing Into the Underdark

Menace of the Underdark Screenshot
Menace of the Underdark Screenshot

Driders (half drow, half spider) lurk in the gloom of the Underdark.

After visiting the lush, wooded locales we headed for the Drow underworld, the Underdark.

“True to its name,” Paiz said, “The Underdark is...quite dark. It’s a huge underground space--the largest dungeon we’ve ever put in DDO, if we can call it that.”

The Underdark is vast and has a strong vertical element. Looking over the edge of the cliffs we were winding along we could see below us the distance we had already traveled. While peering into the gloom below, I experienced vertigo and slipped right off the edge of the cliff

The goggles, they do...something!

(at least that’s my story; I may have been capturing screenshots and not really looking where I was going). Paiz laughed and said, “That’s not uncommon, and not entirely unintentional. That’s part of the way it works in here in The Underdark. Gravity is strange here.”

Although the Underdark is, you know, dark, Malchor’s Undersun Goggles (provided to players upon reaching the Underdark) provide some light and reveal hidden enemies by making them glow red.

On the course of our journey through the Underdark, we encountered an enormous red dragon, Micahrastir. We decided that we weren’t a coordinated enough adventuring party to take on the task of prodding him awake and stealing his treasure, but the dragon woke anyhow and wanted to play. (Even the devs I was traveling with were surprised by some of the tricks he had up his mythical sleeve.) Paiz mentioned that there would be other dragons to encounter in The Forgotten Realms, as well.

Menace of the Underdark Screenshot

The goggles make the dragon glow red. In case you haven't guessed, that means he's a threat.

The Demonweb

Before departing our tour of The Forgotten Realms, we entered The Demonweb, Lolth’s domain. Although we had limited time and couldn’t play through the raid in its entirety, we did (through the magic of dev travel), get a visit from Lolth, the final encounter of The Demonweb’s 12-person raid. Take a look at the screenshots below for a look at Lolth’s spectral image as well as the Spider Queen herself.

Menace of the Underdark Screenshot
Menace of the Underdark Screenshot

“The powerful always want to be more powerful, and they don’t care who’s in their way.” - Fernando Paiz

Before we ended our adventure, Paiz informed us of a nifty bonus for players who want to get their friends back into Dungeons & Dragons Online: the ability to level up any friend who’s played DDO in the last four years to level 16, the necessary level for exploring Menace of the Underdark content, for free. This ability comes with the purchase of the expansion pack.

If you’ve been longing to see The Forgotten Realms, Menace of the Underdark launches today, delivering familiar and well loved settings and characters along with tons of new (yet familiar) places to explore, characters to meet, and adventures to face.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.