DDO Update 8 Hands-On Preview

dungeons and dragons online medusa
dungeons and dragons online medusa
Turbine has released a great deal of new content for Dungeons and Dragons Online this year. The newest expansion, Update 8, is the final update for 2010. I, your humble correspondent, got to get a sneak peek at the content of the latest update from Jeff De Puy, Art Director, and Ian Currie, Design Director. These two epic-level devs gave Ten Ton Hammer a great overview of the content of Update 8.

The biggest attraction with Update 8 is the adventure pack, Attack on Stormreach, that continues the saga began in Update 7 a few months ago. Players will remember that in Update 7, the Droaam, a nation comprised of monsters, appeared in Stormreach appearing to want to broker a truce with the Coin Lords. In reality, they were laying the seeds for an invasion. In the Attack on Stormreach adventure pack, that invasion is in full swing and only the players can change the tide of battle and save Stormreach from the monstrous hordes.

The Attack on Stormreach adventure pack is comprised of four adventures and is a pay-to-play adventure pack, which means that you’ll have to purchase it from the DDO store unless you’re a VIP member. The four adventures are:

Attack on Summerfield – In this adventure, the Droaam army has overtaken the ward of Summerfield and the players must fend off the invaders and hold the line.

Blockade Buster – The Droaam navy is blockading the harbor of Stormreach and the players are sent in during the dead of night to destroy the minelaying ships of the enemy.

Undermine – The Droaam have succeeded in tunneling into the Lordsmarch Plaza. It is up to the players to fight their way back through the tunnel back to the Droaam base.

Siegebreaker – Here, the players will attempt to break the siege of Stormreach by closing the portal located in abandoned Giant ruins occupied by the Droaam army. The portal is being opened by one of the leaders of the Droaam army, Sora Katra. This leader is a powerful Green Hag and is the first appearance of a Green Hag in DDO!

dungeons and dragons online update 8
Stormreach on fire!
dungeons and dragons online update 8
Close up combat!

Ian and Jeff ran me through two of the adventures, Attack on Summerfield and Undermine. In the Attack on Summerfield, players will be treated to a sigh that they have never beheld – that of Stormreach in flames and being destroyed by the Droaam siege. Everywhere I turned, I was surrounded by burning buildings and could hear the crackling of the flames. Bodies of fallen defenders littered the streets and enemy forces attacked us from all sides, leading to some chaotic fights. Our main goal was to repulse the numerous waves of invaders who were coming in through various magic portals. In addition, there were also various optional parts of the quest that we could do for increased xp such as helping wounded soldiers or making sure the local captain stayed alive. The enemy was everywhere, including a lot of snipers shooting at you from rooftops. Make sure you have some ranged firepower handy to deal with those pesky bastards.

The next adventure we got to run through was Undermine. At the start of the adventure, I found myself standing in Lordsmarch Plaza as the entire plaza shook and rumbled. Suddenly, a portion of the plaza collapsed and Droaam invaders leapt out! Once we dealt with the initial assault, our party entered the tunnel to fight our way back to the Droaam base. The tunnel is packed with Droaam troops and includes hordes of sappers and their master demolitionist, Kaboom, all of whom are kobolds. To make our way through the tunnel, we had to clear the way by using some purloined explosive charges.

dungeons and dragons online update 8
Facing a Droaam leader.
dungeons and dragons online update 8
Mr. Elemental looks pissed!

A few moments and experiences in Undermine really stood out. First, the dialogue of the kobolds was funny, with lines such as, “Medusa have to give kobolds what we want!”, “Paid egg-laying leave!”, “Injury benefits when ogres chew on us!”, and “They hire city-scum to break kobold union!” Second, there were some great situations that a party will find itself in while traveling through the tunnel, such as walking into a mine field and encountering an homage from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The graphics are impressive, especially the elementals. The elementals really take on the texture of the rock walls they now come out of and look awesome. Needless to say, the elementals seemed to take a dim view of us using explosive charges to blow our way through solid rock.

With every update, it seems that the team at Turbine creates some great new graphics to be used in their adventures, and Update 8 is no exception with the new look of the elementals, the destruction of Stormreach, and the hideous Green Hag. Of course, it wouldn’t matter how pretty the setting is if the game isn’t fun to play, but this adventure pack was a blast to play. There’s a great deal of action, a lot of optional tasks that you can complete, and there are several ways to finish an adventure. DDO is probably the one game where you don’t have to fight everything to complete the quest. If you have a party of characters who are really adept at sneaking and hiding, you can bypass most of the enemy forces and actually be a fantasy black-ops team. (Maybe in a future update they’ll have a black airship where your characters can rappel down from in cool special-ops style!) Plus, who doesn’t love the optional quests that pop up during an adventure in DDO? Having optional tasks and named villains show up really adds some spice to the adventure. Of special note in the Undermine adventure is the fact that you can blow up the wooden floors that you see are over water to unlock underwater tunnels to travel through to reach optional content.

dungeons and dragons online update 8
Fighting the kobold sappers.
dungeons and dragons online update 8
Watch out!

After the new adventure pack, Update 8 adds two more things: rogue hirelings and cosmetic armor. Players have asked and now they shall receive; rogue hirelings will be available in the DDO store. They will not be available from hireling vendors within Stormreach. While I normally play a rogue (DDO is the only game that a rogue is not only useful, but actually rocks.) and had some initial misgivings about this, I can understand why Turbine is making rogues available. Completing adventures on a harder difficulty can be extremely hard if you don’t have a rogue to disarm traps or find secret doors. Since they’re hirelings and need to be controlled, they won’t replace real life rogues. Thus, Rogue Union Local 358 won’t have to resort to breaking some legs.

The cosmetic armor changes the appearance of your armor. Have a really cool suit of armor, but it looks like crap? Well, no longer, my friend! Now you can make that dud look like a stud. There are 8 different patterns that you can attach to your armor set. Each pattern will base its final appearance on the type of armor you are wearing such as heavy armor, light armor, robes, etc. Overall, there are 170 different appearances and they do take gender into account. My female half-elf wizard that I was playing tried on a few sets and her midriff was exposed for that sexy wizard look. While not practical, the chainmail bikini is a staple of fantasy gaming!

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dungeons and dragons online update 8 dungeons and dragons online update 8 dungeons and dragons online update 8

You can toggle the cosmetic appearance of your armor on and off if you wish. If you want to try before you buy, you can go into an armor shop and purchase a preview of the cosmetic kit for a single Turbine point. Once you leave the armor shop, the cosmetic change is gone.

All in all, Update 8 for Dungeons and Dragons Online is a solid expansion. It adds a great new adventure pack filled with new graphics and sounds, rogue hirelings, cosmetic armor kits, and a few minor things, such as a cookie jar to be used to store all your Festivus candy. The only drawback is that all the big ticket items are all pay-to-play, but I don’t mind that. Turbine has to make money to keep DDO going. However, paying five bucks or so for an adventure pack that you can replay on multiple settings (from normal to epic) seems like a good deal to me. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got to pretty up my armor and get ready to defend Stormreach from the evil of the Droaam invasion!

dungeons and dragons online green hag
The Green Hag in all her hideous glory!

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