Posted Thu, Aug 16, 2012 by jeffprime
Just eight short weeks after the launch of the Menace of the Underdark expansion for Dungeons and Dragons Online, Turbine is set to add additional content with the upcoming Update 15: Song of Druid's Deep. This latest update for DDO includes a new adventure pack, a new challenge, and the release of the Monster Manual. Ten Ton Hammer got a hands-on preview of Update 15 from Amanda Grow, Head of Community, Ricardo Liu, Lead Content Designer, and Fernando Paiz, Executive Producer.
The core of Update 15 for DDO is the new adventure pack, Song of Druid's Deep. This adventure pack contains four new adventures (Outbreak, Overgrowth, Thorn and Paw, and The Druid's Curse), all set in the Forgotten Realms setting. These new adventures are geared for characters of level 17 and up to level 23 for Epic settings. The overall arc of the adventure pack is that a new plague has hit Eveningstar that is turning people into rampaging plant creatures and it's up to the players to find out what's going on and deal with the person responsible for it.
The theme for Update 15 is definitely druid-based in that the new adventures deal with the schemes of an evil druid, Halsaime, who has unleashed the power of corrupted nature. As the team took me through three of the four dungeons, it was made abundantly clear that nature was taking over. Everywhere you looked, plants were growing, climbing up the walls of houses and choking the corridors. Honestly, the riotous attack of green makes me realize that we're no longer in Eberron with its muted browns, but in the heart of Corymyr in Faerun. Turbine has really done an excellent job with the graphics in this update.
The monsters in Update 15 definitely fill the nature theme, and not to mention extremely tough. Players will face red musk zombies, primal wisps, corrupted druids, frenzied wolves, and more. The hardest creature that our group faced were the dreaded wood woads. These plant creatures, which resemble burly, bestial men, not only have tons of hit points, but cast earthquake almost constantly. I spent most of the fights with them laying on the ground.
An interesting tidbit that was mentioned that gave a nerdgasm was that the Harpers are coming into DDO. Turbine is working closely with Wizards of the Coast on storylines involving the Harpers, who will be a new faction in DDO. This fact really pumps me up as it really connects DDO to the pen-and-paper game that I've played for so long. (I've been playing D&D for over 30 years, even before Forgotten Realms became the main campaign setting.) The quest givers for the new adventure pack are all Harpers and further storylines with them will be explored in future updates.
The new adventure pack in Update 15 is free for VIP members of DDO.
The dreaded wood woad!
After running through the adventures in Update 15, the Turbine crew showed me the new Monster Manual. The basic gist of the Monster Manual is that it serves as an achievement system for DDO players. Each volume of the Monster Manual will have ten creatures listed (there are five in the prologue volume) that you can fulfill various deeds. There are two types of deeds: slayer and hunter. Slayer deeds are based on killing a certain number of creatures of that monster type. The higher the tier of creatures you kill, the more xp you will gain. Hunter deeds are based on destroying different kinds of the same monster type or named monsters. An example would be kobold shamans and kobold hunters for the kobold entry in the Monster Manual.
If you fulfill a certain amount of deeds, you'll get a master reward. One of the common mastery rewards is the ability to see the hit points of that creature type in combat. You can also gain a pet as a mastery reward. I was informed that you can get a rust monster pet and an earth elemental pet when Update 15 launches.
Each monster entry has two pages. The more deeds you complete, the more the picture on the first page will fill in. The second page lists all the named monsters and the various monster types you have encountered for that creature type. If you click on a specific monster on the list, their picture will appear on the right side of the page and, if you mouse over the image, it will become animated and you'll be able to move the image.
When Update 15 launches for DDO next Monday, there will be three volumes available. Every player gets the base prologue volume of the Monster Manual, with VIP members getting future volumes for free. Volume 1 is free for VIP and premium members.
Overall, I like the concept of the Monster Manual in DDO. Players like to have an achievement system as it's nice to get some kind of reward for your actions in the game. I also like it as just having a reference in the form of a Monster Manual just feels right as that DDO bases itself upon the pen-and-paper game. How many hours have each of us perused the various Monster Manuals (or Fiend Folio for us old-timers!) over the years?
Update 15 for DDO also includes a new challenge for those who have the Eveningstar challenge pack. The new challenge is a variation of the Ruined Keep called The Ruined Keep: The Daybreak Ritual. In keeping with the druidic-theme of Update 15, this new challenge has players attempting to defend the ruined keep from evil druids, intent upon using the area a source of power. Be prepared to slaughter nature as you'll fight hordes of animals and other monsters.
All in all, Update 15 for DDO should please those players yearning for more adventure in the Forgotten Realms when it launches on Monday, August 20th. Turbine is really emphasizing nature and druids in this update, featuring them in the new adventure pack and challenge. The graphics and sounds that I experience in my preview has shown that DDO has come a long way. Long time D&D nerds like myself should be stoked at the inclusion of the Harpers. It seems that with Update 15 and the Menace of the Underdark expansion, Turbine is making a committed effort to link DDO with classic D&D. The most obvious example of that is the new Monster Manual. Personally, I think that's a good thing.
I would like to thank Amanda Grow, Ricardo Liu, and Fernando Paiz for giving me a hands-on preview of Update 15 for DDO.