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Dungeons & Dragons Online Previews: Demon Sands Preview

By Carolyn Koh on October 25, 2006

DDO: Stormreach: Module 3 - Demon Sands Preview

Sleepy clumped around the marketplace, glaring at the Warforged lounging around the place. I put on my headphones and called in. After some initial technical difficulties (with the telephone) I entered the call and was greeted by James Jones, Executive Producer; Kate Paiz, Producer; Derek Flippo, Design Manager; Joseph Barry, Associate Designer and David Eckelberry, Lead Systems Designer as well as a couple of others who wandered in and out. Well, that answered my unasked question, "Why a conference call and not in-game chat?" Without further ado, we grouped up and were off.

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In the eight months since DDO was released, there have been two major content additions with Demon Sands being the third and due end October.

Current players were given the chance to tour the new module in September and once again over the past weekend. MMORPG.com was invited to a preview tour conducted by members of the development team.

The Tour
The first area we explored were the sprawling dunes of Menechtarun, a desert landscape with towering pillars of rock, vast sand dunes and deep canyons. It is a completely new look and feel for DDO: Stormreach, which until now have been limited to the city of Stormreach and apart from the newbie practice zone of Kobold Island, were all in-door zones - sewers, warehouses, dungeons and basements. The area is peppered with different groups of Gnolls at war with each other, pockets of mummies lurking in the shifting sands and other dessert nasties. The Demon Sands lives up to its name.

"The Menechtarun is a vast desert that sprawls across the western reaches of Xen'drik. In ancient times, the Menechtarun was ruled by a tyrannical Wizard-King and his demonic servants. Today, these lands are home to rugged settlers, barbaric gnoll tribes and a sect of fanatical drow and scorrow called the Vulkoorim, or the 'Chosen of Vulkoor'. The Wizard-King himself is long dead, but his ageless servants have flourished, giving rise to another name for this region -- the Demon Sands."

Although the region is instanced for your group, and I was warned that you do require a group, it feels like the vast landscape in any other MMORPG. The Menechturan Sands is an encounter based region with a variety of named mini-bosses. It is meant to be explored rather than conquered like all other dungeons to date. We wandered over the sands, down canyons and picked up encounter quests as we neared areas where various NPCs spawned.

Our next stop was the Spiral of Vulkoor - the largest and longest of the dungeons - home to Eberron Drow and Vulkoorims, a humanoid / scorpid cross. As we ran around the dungeon killing things while trying to talk, asking and answering questions, taking screenshots and notes, we bumbled around having fun at the same time.

    "Someone fireball that thing."
    "Isn't it lucky we can't die?"
    "Man... I can't hit this thing!"
    "Immunity is nice."
We then entered the Chamber of the Wizard-King Raiyun himself, encountering Golems and Efreetis, then finally, Queen Lailat; a snooty Marilith. A creature with the torso and head of a woman, the tail of a snake and six arms, all wielding nasty weapons.

"Hey Sleepy. Why don't you talk to her. She won't talk to me. Maybe she likes dwarves better," the told me.

I stepped up. Ohhh... kay... so they want me to trigger her. Does she death touch, I wondered? Then I remembered that I was immune. After a short conversation, it was time to play. What a nasty. She teleports and calls minions to her aid, then all of them hurl spells and fire bolts at you from afar. She finally teleports back down and whacks you with that tail of hers.

    "Watch that tail action!"
    "Man... if you stand too close you can be laying down half the fight."
    "Move her will you guys?"
Jumping and tumbling helped, but we were all knocked down, much, much too many times. Nasty... and oh... what a challenge for a good party of level 12s. After all that fun, we headed to town and questions.

Auction House
In Zawabi's Refuge, I was shown the Auction House interface, a new feature to be introduced in Module 3 where players buy and sell in-game items. Sellers will be able to set an opening bid and an optional buyout price for their items. Buyers will be able to browse through items using the Auction House user interface and place bids on items that they wish to purchase. DDO loot tables are random and the Auction House was introduced to provide a system to help players obtain the gear they need. Auctioneers will be located across the city, and players may access any of them.

PvP
DDO's active combat control system requires tactical thinking and quick reflexes as much as character abilities and skill. There will be two modes of PvP: Tournament Battles and Tavern Brawls. Tournament Battles will consist of Capture the Flag and Death match scenarios, while Tavern Brawls can be joined in any of four different taverns.

With my PAX report, I made mention that spells could be dodged by clever player action, so I specifically asked about spells that tracked. In particular, Magic Missile since by definition, it "never misses unless prevented by magical means" the answer was that they were still looking to "make sure that combat will be fair."

In PvP play, players will not gain nor loose XP. The reward for participating in PvP is fun and out-of-game fame in the shape of leader boards (and a redesigned website) which will be launched at the same time as the module release.

Other Features
Module 3 is the biggest expansion to DDO, increasing content by 40 percent since DDO's launch in February. Apart from new party and solo dungeons, it brings 10 more ranks to players for a level cap increase from 10 to 12. With the increase, new spells and feats of those levels will naturally be increased. It also brings a Feat respec system and new Favor rewards.

Finale
Module 3, the Demon Sands has been much anticipated. The criticisms that DDO suffered soon after launch was three-fold: The first was lack of content (players got tired of doing the same dungeons), the second was that it was strictly group based (no solo missions), and the third that it was claustrophobic with only one city (Stormreach) and missions only in sewers and dungeons.

The first was addressed by continuous content releases by Turbine and this is the third major Module release to date. The second was addressed by introducing solo missions and solo options for some dungeons, the third with Demon Sands and the vast outdoor, encounter based Menachturan landscape.

The sneak peek at release notes are already released on the official website and those wanting to take a second look at DDO... do. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

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