DDO Update 8 Hands-On Preview

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Turbine has released a great deal of new content for style="font-style: italic;">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, style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">DDO!


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style="text-align: center; font-style: italic;">Stormreach
on fire!
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style="text-align: center; font-style: italic;">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.


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style="text-align: center; font-style: italic;">Facing
a
Droaam leader.
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style="text-align: center; font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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. style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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.


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style="text-align: center; font-style: italic;">Fighting
the kobold sappers.
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style="text-align: center; font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">DDO
store. They will not be available from hireling vendors within
Stormreach. While I normally play a rogue ( style="font-style: italic;">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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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 style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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!


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The
Green Hag in all her hideous glory!


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