Turbine is priming the world for the release of the latest Dungeons & Dragons Online expansion in the form of the Shadowfell Conspiracy. Earlier in the week, we had the opportunity to tour the new expansion with Charles Miles, Senior Content Designer and Ryon Levitt, Content Designer and to learn a little bit about the new location and some of the story behind it.
It has to be unique in the MMO game space that in Shadowfell Conspiracy, players are tasked with breaking into prison, rather than out of it. The expansion takes place at Wheloon Prison, formerly a bustling and very normal village that had the misfortune to fall on hard times when Shar's worshipers arrived and then the Netherese decided to take advantage of the misguided Shar followers and use Wheloon as a base of operations to build an invasion army. Too bad for Mom and Pop who are simply trying to eke out an existence. Rather than sweep in and take care of the issue, the powers that be, in this case the king himself, decided that less effort is better. He ordered the entire town to be encircled by a high wall and the location turned into a prison.
Fortunately for intrepid adventurers, getting into the prison doesn't take much intelligence and grace. Simply report to the local head jailer and nose dive off the wall. Luckily for players, there are NPC companions just waiting to do the same. It's prudent, shall we say, to make sure to take a full compliment.
Once inside, players will be shocked at the town's fall from grace. Everything is in disrepair and marauding gangs of criminals and gargoyles patrol the streets harassing and even killing what's left of the original inhabitants. I forgot to mention that, didn't I? Yep, they were left behind when the wall was built.
When wandering about the prison grounds, don't smugly sit back after wiping out that band of criminals. If you're anywhere near any sort of shadow leakage or are considering attacking that group of shadow monsters, beware. Players can be yanked into the Shadowfell for the battle just to keep things spicy.
At any rate, if you like the color purple, you will love Wheloon as it is now. Let's just say that an overabundance of purple and shades of purple colorize the prison. But it makes sense when, as the story progresses, players learn that the Netherese are using the Shadowfell to recruit and create Shar's army, a tool for their own nefarious purpose.
Wheloon Prison features multiple random encounters and an astonishing five dungeons. It's clear that Turbine is doing everything it can to push the envelope of what the game engine and the storytelling team can produce with Shadowfell Conspiracy. There are touches added to the game that have never been seen before in DDO. For instance, any flat roof can be scaled and used as an attack point which gives the game a dimensional play aspect that hasn't previously been seen as much. Getting to those rooftops isn't a piece of cake either. Folks who love jumping puzzles and/or are fans of console and handheld platform games will chortle with glee at the opportunity to strut their stuff.
The dungeons chain together, one needing to be solved before the next opens up. The first one takes place in a drainage ditch where the refugees have set up a camp of sorts. Of course having some resources at their disposal makes them ripe for the criminal element that wants those things for themselves. Enter the adventurers who ride in to save the day.
Watching the dev team's tour of the dungeons was a pleasure and seeing some of the new gameplay elements was really cool. For instance, in one of the dungeons, half of the battle takes place in the real world, half in the Shadowfell. It will be up to players to find a strategy to keep the damage level up. Jumping back and forth will be tedious so strategy will be imperative to end the boss battle with a win for the good guys.
Shadow Puppeteers will add a truly nasty component to each and every dungeon as well. They can take control of friendly forces (NPCs only at this point) and turn them against the adventuring party. In addition, they're really tough to see and can be very difficult to find and take down before the damage is done. Don't say you weren't warned!
The last new boss is one that is created solely from inanimate objects that happen to lie around the trap that has been set in the local tavern where weary adventurers are teleported after the final battle, hopefully for a cool mug of ale. Not so fast! This bad boy is truly spectacular. As we were told, "If you're around bar stools, you will fight a monster made of bar stools and mugs. If you're around tables with silverware and a nearby iron stove, well, you guessed it."
All I could think of is that players are dang lucky that the Iron Throne isn't around. Think about it.
All in all, DDO's Shadowfell Conspiracy looks like it's going to be a fun and strategic new experience for veteran players. Not only are new game play elements introduced, but players will have to figure out the best way to utilize them to their advantage. Preorders for Shadowfell Conspiracy are being taken already so pony up the cash and break into prison!
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom.