Crack open the Coronas, unfold the patio furniture and get your table umbrellas in the proper position to keep you cool, because it's officially summer, but summer came a day early to the VIP DDO players; on Monday, June 20th, Update 10: The Reign of Madness went live. The Turbine team was kind enough to bring me on board for an in-game walk through of the latest content update late last week and they delivered, in true Turbine fashion, an appropriately detailed MMO experience that is bound to please the game's regular players. So what is it that VIP players already have their hands on and the other players can expect to see from the in-mall purchase in the coming days? Why, I'd be happy to tell you!
With my 17th level Sorceress, Sabrae, being the appropriate level for Update 10, I happily jumped into the game with my tour guide, both in game and on the mic. First off, I got the run down. Update 10 is a Content Pack that opened up for VIPs, as mentioned, this past Monday and for all of you other DDO players, the update is officially available for purchase in the DDO shop effective today, so head over and pick it up right now! Update 10 brings back Rory from a previous quest, Delirium wherein you aided him by helping to close his accidental portal to Xoriat, the plane of chaos, while trying not to slip into madness yourself. Rory, this time, finds himself in a similar jam in Update 10, with his sceptre (the one used to open the portal in the first place) now in the hands of monsters from Xoriat who understand its full power. So here we go, bailing Rory out of a mess again and stepping foot over the threshold of the Sleeping Spell Inn once more in the quest, Acute Delirium.
Being a DnD player myself, it always sets off a twinge of excitement in me any time anyone mentions the new content that's coming in the game, because it's bound to set off some long-forgotten nostalgia in my brain for the old 2nd Edition Monster Compendium and, right off the bat, Update 10 delivered to me on that level. Upon clearing the Inn of unwelcome visitors in the form of Eye Horrors and other chaos beasts, I came face-to-face with a treasure chest... A treasure chest that promptly opened it's razor sharp teeth-filled mouth and devoured the sceptre into its craw. A mimic! DnD nerd wins again! Unfortunately, the sceptre that the tricky little guy swallowed was in fact the very same that we needed to recover, and we needed to deal with him in order to achieve our goals. I regretted that we were on a time limit, as the desire had taken me over to explore the quest a bit further, learn more and tinker with my surroundings, but alas, my playtest needed to continue, and the mimic needed to be stopped.
A portal opens up above you to Xoriat, plunging the Sleeping Spell Inn back into the border of sane and insane, highlighted perfectly by the near-tongue-in-cheek humor of the acerbic DM, prompting you to build an airship out of, and I'm definitely not joking, bookshelves and beds from the inn. Interact with the furniture in a bid to convince them to join your party, after which you'll have to protect them from the horrors of Xoriat while they prance magically (think Fantasia) down to the portal, where the furniture, once fully collected, will combine, Voltron-style, to make a glorious airship that you can use to take off through the portal in search of the sceptre.
Through the portal, we engaged in a battle for the ages, fighting off oncoming beholder forces, but be sure to watch your step, their telekinesis can fling you clear off the airship, forcing you into a death fall (if I said that that didn't happen to me, I would most definitely be lying). Entering the belly of the beast (you'll see what I mean), we continued our hunt for the sceptre, eventually, after laying waste to our enemies, we once again tracked down the Mimic and reclaimed the sceptre for ourselves. It was then time for our escape. I won't spoil the climax of Acute Delirium, but you'll meet up with a familiar Beholder from a certain imbibing competition from an earlier update who factors quite heavily into the events of the climax.
Sane Asylum, the second of the four new quests added in the content update, takes us inside the walls of the Stormreach Insane Asylum, where the forces of Xoriat and the Lord of Eyes have control and are now helping the 'sane' recover from their disease, to become insane and, by their rights, well again. Before we head to the asylum, however, we take a quick detour and visit the Tower of the Twelve, a space where players have been before, but has since seen a complete remodel on the inside, showing players more of the status and wealth that the Twelve represents by opening the space and making the area more accessible. The space also serves as the Hub for your character amidst the quests of the content pack.
We then made our way to the Asylum, where the Beholder servants of the Lord of Eyes have taken control and the sane are being “helped” in a bid to be insane. You must save Fred, Eberron merchant and Mind Flayer, who aids players in exchanging feats, who is deemed sane by the Lord of Eyes as has been taken captive. Insane individuals and their Mind Flayer 'doctors' roam the labyrinth-esque hallways and don't hesitate for a moment to attack you. I must admit, striking down a Mind Flayer in a video game may just be the highlight of my life, whether it's sad to say or not. In wandering the halls of the asylum, you fluctuate between states of sanity and insanity, or rather, nightmares and daydreams, allowing you to see and have access to different areas in order to proceed through the Asylum.
The emphasis on puzzle solving in this quest is probably the most exciting aspect of the game that I saw that day. While DnD often has you scrambling to solve intricately constructed puzzles, it's something that could feasibly difficult to translate to a video game, however, Turbine has translated this maze-puzzle between states quite well to the PC from the table top. Admittedly, however, without a guide or party-mates, I could see this being an infuriating task. Upon reaching Fred, you then have a choice to save him by either engaging in battle, tag-team style, against two of the Lord of Eyes' best and brightest Beholders, The Right Eye and the Wrong Eye, or solve an intricate 3D light-puzzle involving not only the floor of the room, but also the walls and the ceiling of the room.
It's impossible to cover the entire Content Update in the hour that we had to explore the new quests and missions. My foray into Acute Delirium, and my brief look at Sane Asylum though, were engaging in the way that DDO always should be. With the dynamic art of the Wizards of the Coast property and a beautiful unique score, the experience is appropriately immersive, allowing you to sink into the experience as though your group were sitting around the table with you, tossing dice and scribbling dwindling hit points furiously onto their character sheets. Five years later, the visuals and gameplay are still impressive and relevant, keeping DDO amongst the top of its class even still.