Crystals, Pirates, and Bugbears! A Hands-On Preview of DDO’s 5th Anniversary Event

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons Online and Turbine is ready to celebrate!

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons Online and Turbine is ready to celebrate! This MMOG, based upon the father of all pen-and-paper rpgs, continues to move forward, even after setting the online gaming industry on fire with its successful move to a hybrid free-to-play/subscription model. Your humble correspondent (Ethec won’t let me call myself a bard – maybe he’s afraid I’ll start singing around the office!) got invited to enjoy a hands-on preview of the 5th anniversary event for DDO. My DMs for this journey were Design Director Ian Currie and Producer Erik Boyer, who walked me through this pirate-themed event of Euphonia's Challenge: Treasure of the Crystal Cove!

This event will run for a week starting Thursday (there’s a preview today) and run for another week in late March, so jump in as often as you can right now!

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Fighting in the Crystal Cove.

dungeons and dragons online crystal cove fight
Protecting your miners from pirates!

The Setup
Euphonia's Challenge: Treasure of the Crystal Cove is a two-tiered event that takes place in two locations. Your overall goal is to collect a variety of doubloons, gems, and crystals to trade in for some really great gear. Also, every character gets a free pirate hat (if your character existed before the special event patch) ranging from a simple bandana to the mighty Dread Admiral’s Tricorne.

The first location is Smuggler’s Rest, which was the original starting area in DDO until Turbine created Korthos Island. (At Ten Ton Hammer, you always get free history lessons!) You can travel to Smuggler’s Rest by talking to Sailor Calatin in the Harbor. Smuggler’s Rest is a fog-shrouded area that is filled with dangerous pirates, but who doesn’t love bugbear pirates? Anyway, your goal is to gather enough map pieces to unlock the Crystal Cove. How do you get map pieces? By killing scurvy pirates, that’s how! Smuggler’s Rest is an open public area that has enemies ranging from level 1 to 20. They won’t attack you unless you attack them first, so be careful with who you’re picking a fight with.

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A selection of piratical headwear for your adventurer!

When you defeat the pirates, they’ll drop doubloons and map pieces for you to loot. You turn in the map pieces at the Barter Box located next to Euphonia Teles on board her ship. When a certain amount of map pieces are turned in, then the Crystal Cove will unlock. The final number may vary, but the first time to unlock the Crystal Cove on a server was 50,000 at the time of the preview. Once the Crystal Cove is unlocked the first time, then it only takes a grand total of 1500 to unlock it again from there on. Once unlocked, a message will be sent out to the entire area and everybody can begin traveling to the Crystal Cove. To get to the Crystal Cove, you will need a compass, which can be looted from pirates or bought from the barter box.

The second location for the event is the Crystal Cove, where your job is to protect kobold miners as they mine crystals. Yes, you heard me right. Your job is to protect kobolds. This stage is a mini-game where the goal is to collect a certain number of crystals (100), with any extra kept by the players. The trick is that kobolds will stay only within 20 feet of a Safety Incense Torch and said torches must be within 30 feet of another torch. Basically, you’ll plot a line using the torches to where crystals are located for the kobolds to mine them.

To increase productivity, you can buy additional barrels for kobolds to strap to their backs to carry more crystals and you can purchase a teleporter device that allows the kobolds to teleport back to their boss to turn in the crystals. You can also purchase additional miners to work the area. Sounds easy, yeah? Well, the rub is that you will be constantly under attack by pirates seeking to take the crystals. Kobolds will squeal in horror and not be of any use in this fight as that, according to Kobold Minion Union Rulebook (available from Foreman Wee Yip Yip on Euphonia Teles’ ship), “6. In case of combat, workers are authorized to scream and run around in panic until rescued.”

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Your kobold workers follow the union rules. Know them!

You will need to employ some sound strategy to gather the needed amount of crystals, plus any extra for you to take. The Crystal Cove is an instance that lasts for 20 minutes and remains unlocked for 40 minutes at a time. You can solo the instance if you wish or go with an entire group. You can gain bonus crystals (if you get any) by choosing a higher DC than the highest player level in the group. If you choose a lower DC, you’ll get penalized the number of crystals. If you choose 5 levels lower than the highest level character, you won’t get anything at all.

Overall, the pacing is whatever choice you decide for Smuggler’s Rest, but once you get to the Crystal Cove, it is practically non-stop combat. Killing pirates in the Crystal Cove will net you more doubloons and gems that you can use to buy items from the Barter Box onboard Euphonia Teles’ ship. In addition to the normal pirate forces, the occasional red named enemy will show up just to mess up your day.

The Payoff
Euphonia's Challenge: Treasure of the Crystal Cove is a nicely executed event with one caveat, which I’ll get to in a minute. First, the layout of the event is extremely atmospheric from the fog-shrouded public area to the gleaming Crystal Cove. DDO has always put their best foot forward with the environment and this event is no exception. The nautical themed music was very well done and was actually nice to listen to. I thought about doing a sailor’s jig to the music, but decided against it.

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Shiver me timbers! Pirates!

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It's time to smack down some pirates!

For me, the real treat was the kobold miners. I honestly couldn’t stop laughing as they swarmed around me when I entered the Crystal Cove. They’re so excited to see you and constantly cheer you on and butter you up. Erik and Ian mentioned that they recorded over 130 lines of dialogue for this event and it shows. Hearing the kobold cheers and saying things such as, “Get in ma barrel!” and “So pretty…” and “Kobold beat the odds! Kobold come home!” will really endear these joyful kobold miners to your heart.

The loot that you can acquire is some damn good gear. Going through the items (which I didn’t have that much time for) made me want to get a bunch of things for my characters to have. That, however, leads to the one rub for the event. It is an extremely grindy event. With the large number of items needed for the good gear, most people will only be able to get one to two pieces. If you’re a nut for getting everything, you will howl with despair because I don’t think that’ll be possible. If you can live without getting everything under the sun, then you’ll have to set your priority and go for the item you want most.

Overall, Euphonia's Challenge: Treasure of the Crystal Cove is a well designed anniversary event that is available to all players, from level 1 to 20, and from solo to über group. The mini-game aspect of the Crystal Cove is a lot of fun and challenging and will probably be applied to future events, according to Erik and Ian. Most players should be able to get a really good item piece before they’re done, but players that want to collect everything will be frustrated. The grind aspect of getting the higher end gear items will put off some players, but most players will just jump right in with a “shiver-me-timbers!” and begin dueling bugbear pirates. That kind of fun is what online gaming is all about!

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Protect your kobold miners.

dungeons and dragons online
This is what you're looking for!

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