DDO: Menace of the Underdark Beta Preview
Closed beta for DDO's first expansion, Menace of the Underdark, has started and Ten Ton Hammer was able to garner a sneak peek of the new content. Helping us cross over from the world of Eberron to that of Faerun (the world of the Forgotten Realms setting) were Ian Currie, Design Director, Erik Boyer, Senior Producer, and Leo Tan, Public Relations.
DDO players have been clamoring to play in the Forgotten Realms setting since the game launched and that time is now here in Menace of the Underdark. (Now I guess I can start some new threads asking when we can play in Greyhawk. Yes, I'm old!) Our guided tour covered several topics, such as the new Epic Destinies, but our focus today is on the adventures and setting of Menace of the Underdark.
The thrust of the storyline for Menace of the Underdark is that Lolth's actions threaten both Eberron and Faerun and it's up to the players to put a stop to it. To journey from Eberron to the Forgotten Realms, players must cross from Khyber to the Demonweb to the Underdark and then to the town of Eveningstar, which is located in Cormyr. To begin, players will click on the portal found in the harbor, which will bring up a small list of choices for the player to choose. You can choose to do one of the two quests from the Update 13 storyline or you can go directly to the Demonweb entrance. Once there, you'll see the portal that was opened up previously and that a number of gatekeepers are attempting to keep Eberron from being destroyed and sucked into the void. From there, you'll meet Elminster who will fill you in on the situation and ask that both worlds work together to stop Lolth. He will then guide you through the Demonweb along a safer route.
DDO players will then enter the fearsome Underdark, home of the vicious drow and other unsavory creatures. The Underdark is vast and contains multiple levels for players to explore (and most likely perish). For those who are not familiar with the Forgotten Realms setting, here is a handy chart for the differences between the drow of each setting.
- Eberron Drow = good or evil depending upon individual
- Forgotten Realms Drow = sadistically evil and psychotic
During your quest to reach the surface, you will help rescue villagers who have been kidnapped by the drow. Chief amongst these is an NCP, Ana Brabener, who will play a very important role in events to come. Freeing the villagers also helps to convince the people of Eveningstar that the players aren't evil. Remember, warforged and walking-around-in-the-daylight drow are unheard of in Faerun. Once players have completed this first quest, called Beyond the Rift, those players will be flagged so they can jump easily from one world to the other.
Once on the surface, players will find themselves in the village of Eveningstar, which serves as the quest hub of Menace of the Underdark. This rustic village is where the new graphics created for the expansion really shined. The colors are extremely vibrant and are markedly a very different palette than that used for Eberron. I joked that it was really nice to see so much green and blue instead of brown. If your computer is running DX10 or 11, you will really notice the difference. As we were walking through a field of tall grass, the grass would sway and move as we passed. The graphics are a refreshing change of pace from the typical Eberron setting. Turbine has really done a big job in making the visuals of Menace of the Underdark, from trees to buildings to even the sky, entirely new and different from what DDO players are used to.
From Eveningstar, we ventured into a ruined temple in search of a magical artifact and to free Ana, the NPC that we freed earlier from the clutches of the drow. It was while fighting our way through the temple that Turbine pointed out a new mechanic for DDO. There are controlling enemies, such as drow slavers or necromancers, that will control other enemies and will force them to attack the players. The quickest way to stop these attacks is to defeat the controller, which will cause enemies such as slaves or undead to cease attacking. This is easier said than done as that these controllers do not lead from the front, and the drow slavers had to be knocked out of stealth so we could attack them. Sadly, Ethec and I failed miserably to free any slaves from their insidious collars. After the slaves are no longer controlled, you can attempt to remove their collars in a number of different ways (strength, open lock, use magic device, or unskilled). If you fail in your initial attempt, the collar activates and kills the poor slave.
As DDO players fully explore the lands found in Menace of the Underdark, they will uncover bits of lore about the Forgotten Realms setting. Similar to the method Turbine used in Update 11: Secrets of the Artificers, players will find fully voiced messages detailing lore and information about the setting. In the Underdark, players will find messages from a drow high priestess and in the King's Forest, players will hear tidbits from the mighty Elminster himself. While the voice of Elminster is not Ed Greenwood, he is a professional voice actor and has been Ed Greenwood-approved. (If you don't know who Ed Greenwood is in connection to Forgotten Realms, then shame on you!)
All in all, Ethec an I enjoyed our introduction to Menace of the Underdark and it looks like DDO is really hitting its stride with this new expansion. As a long time player (over 30 years) of playing D&D, it was really cool to see areas such as the Demonweb and Cormyr brought to life. With the introduction of druids, the new Epic Destinies, and being able to finally adventure in the most popular setting ever for Dungeons and Dragons, Forgotten Realms, Turbine is definitely making 2012 a big year for DDO.