Dungeons and Dragons Online has certainly boomed since they went to a hybrid subscription / free to play business model. This model is particularly suited the DDO game play model given that they are all dungeon based adventures and this new update is smack bang full of the latest dungeon crawls. In a departure from their usual story-heavy adventures though, the Vaults of the Artificers is a challenge system that’s more like mini-games in that you play them over and again for achievements – high scores and the like.
Every dungeon is scalable and some have as many as 10 levels of play. Further, each dungeon has four to five variations – each with their own distinct entrance – which really make for quite a lot of replayability. Each has a primary quest goal and several secondary goals or side quests to complete as well.
“Our players really enjoyed our first, the Crystal Collection challenge which we had launched as a live event,” said Fernando Paiz, Dungeon and Dragons Online Executive Producer. The response led them to update 12 which will release another 2 more maps for the Crystal Collection challenge – with rules variations, an Extraction dungeon and an Assassination dungeon.
“It’s definitely a more arcade-like style of play,” Fernando confided, “that some of our players really enjoy, and others look at as a fun departure from our usual story-heavy quests.”
These dungeons are all timed experiences and we delved into one right off, Dr. Rushmore’s Mansion – “Behind the Door” was the map chosen and our main goal was to defeat at least one of the bosses in Dr. Rushmore’s party. Side quests included opening all sealed gates, defeating the other bosses, defeating the mother of the nest and opening three bubbles in the observatory. Buffing up, we soon found different crests as we smashed barrels, evading traps, popping mobs, defeating them in the time honored Dungeons and Dragons manner and opened all the gates we could, looking for a boss. Each optional waypoint – such as opening a gate - also extended the timer. There were also action gameplay power buffs to be found as we adventured. An armor upgrade, a short time invincibility, etcetera.
Having a mansion made for a lot of fun rooms including a rest room where players can rest up, and a variation “Moving Targets” includes bosses changing rooms with the DM or the boss itself announcing that it was going somewhere. The side quests we got in this one included activating every portrait of the Warforged in the mansion and killing a boss in the bathroom! A player with high diplomacy could also convince one of the bosses to help kill Assassination target instead of killing it.
We then popped onto Kobold Island to check out the 2nd map of the Crystal Challenge which we saw at PAX. Arriving on a ship, we again buffed up using Artificer devices as well as our own spells and I was treated to a couple of variations. A day cycle adventure and a night cycle adventure, where the mobs changed from Kobolds to Zombies. Protecting the extractors, killing camps of Kobolds to gather the necessary resources to upgrade the extractors, it was quite a different experience from the Mansion as we worked individually as well as a team in protecting the extractors, rather than crawling as a group through a dungeon.
Update 12 also brings the ability to unlock the Artificer class through playing game content rather than paying for it. Free players can also access the challenges for free as there are Daily Challenges and an NPC will provide a number of Daily Challenge tokens free and these can be saved to be used another day. Premium and VIP players will receive more of these tokens and of course, Universal Tokens can be purchased from the DDO store to play any of the challenges available.
Other update 12 features also include the ability to share platinum across characters in your account, something that players have been asking for, and the ability to change names and pet names through renaming tokens bought in the DDO store – which according to Fernando, will be cheaper and much more convenient than doing it through customer service. All in all, quite a few things to look forward to in Update 12, which will launch on November 9th.