Posted Thu, Jun 28, 2012 by jeffprime
Dungeon and Dragons Online has launched their first true expansion, Menace of the Underdark. Players will now be able to adventure in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, D&D's most popular setting ever. However, there is more to the expansion than just questing in Faerun, such as the introduction of the druid class, epic levels, and epic destinies. Is buying the Menace of the Underdark expansion for DDO worth the price? Read on and find out!
It is a safe bet to say that players have been waiting for years to be able to play in Faerun as that the Forgotten Realms is the land and lore most commonly associated with D&D. While I first cut my role-playing teeth in Greyhawk (I've been playing D&D since 1981), the majority of my various characters' exploits have occurred in the detailed lands of the Forgotten Realms. When DDO was first launched, I was initially dismayed by having Eberron serve as the campaign setting for DDO, but it eventually grew on me. However, I have always hankered to adventure in the setting that I knew so well and had played for decades in. With the release of Menace of the Underdark, I can now do so and face fierce foes such as the Drow in their naturally evil and sadistic state. Let's examine various aspects of DDO's Menace of the Underdark to see how well the expansion stacks up.
The Menace of the Underdark expansion focuses on the players' struggles against the vile and evil Lolth, chief deity of the Drow. All the action focuses around the town of Eveningstar, located in the kingdom of Cormyr. To get to Eveningstar, players must first travel from Eberron through the rift opened from the Web of Chaos adventure pack from Update 13. From the rift, players will travel through the Demonweb (where they will meet the most famous person in Faerun, Elminster) to the Underdark and then to Eveningstar.
When players purchase Menace of the Underdark, they get three adventure packs that are set in the Forgotten Realms setting: the King's Forest, the Underdark, and the Demonweb. Each of these adventure packs has their own wilderness area and several adventures. The wilderness areas are huge compared to the wilderness areas we're normally used to in DDO. You can literally spend hours walking around investigating them thoroughly. The King's Forest, in particular, is enormous and the Underdark has a good variety of differing heights and maze-like paths. Make sure you have a feather falling piece of gear equipped in cause you step off a ledge in the Underdark as you will probably fall for some time.
One of the biggest changes to occur in Menace of the Underdark is random encounters, which is a throwback to the original pen-and-paper game. Rare encounters are no longer locked in one single spot but may occur in various areas of the wilderness. These encounters are not necessarily the usual defeat the named creature scenario, but can include other interactions such as skill checks. Certain events can also trigger an event, such as killing woodland creatures in the King's Forest could result in dryads spawning and attacking you. I really like this system as it adds some nice randomness and variety to your explorations, and as a rogue, I love to show off my skills.
Since I play mainly as a rogue, I was interested to see the new traps in Menace of the Underdark such as bear traps and spell wards. If you come across bear traps, keep an eye out for dire bears as you can be sure a pack of them are hanging around. Be warned that the creatures and adventures in this expansion are challenging. I went into my first few adventures prepared to kick ass and take names and found myself fleeing for my life. Most of the adventures can be soloed, but it's always best to have some friends. Preferably, friends who run slower than you!
There are a lot of new monsters in the new expansion which will be familiar to long time D&D players. Dryads, werewolves, purple worms, dretches, dire bears, and more populate the land to challenge the players. The biggest additions, literally, are the dragons who are now truly to scale in all their glory. My initial foray into the King's Forest found my group stumbling across a purple worm and seeing the massive height of the beast really amped up our enjoyment of the fight.
Of course, the Drow take center stage in Menace of the Underdark in all their vile evilness. These are the Drow that I'm used to where stumbling across a Drow raiding party was always certain to wipe that smile off your face. In my group's first encounter with the Drow, I had a nerdgasm when the Drow I was fighting whipped out his hand crossbow and shot me with it. (To the unitiated, the hand crossbow is synonymous with the Drow from 1st and 2nd edition D&D.)
A new creature type makes its introduction in this expansion. the controller. These range from necromancers to slavemasters. These controllers have absolute control over other creatures and you'll need to take them out first in a fight. The longer they stay in the fight, the more problems they create so kill them quickly.