Dungeons and Dragons Online - Module 6 Preview
MMORPG.com News Manager Keith Cross recently had the opportunity to take an early look at Module 6: The Thirteenth Eclipse for Turbine's Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach. Today, he files this report on the new module as well as a quick look at the game since launch.
My journey through the world of Dungeons & Dragons Online began with a picture book tour of the game as it stands right now, up to module 5. I was briefly teleported to a number of different regions to see a snapshot of what each previous module added to the game, and how the game has evolved into its current incarnation. When DDO first launched, there were several things that seemed like they were missing. The game had plenty of dungeons, but where were the dragons? ‘Dragons’ is right there in the title, so one would think they should be there. And there’s an ampersand in the title too but I didn’t see any of those running around in the game either.
My guides explained the reasoning for the lack of dragons at first. Dragons are tough. They’re not really a fair challenge to lower level characters unless you water them down a bit. But watering down wasn’t an option for Turbine because they had decided to go with the 3rd Edition D&D philosophy that dragons were special. You won’t meet a dragon in a random encounter, and each dragon is unique, with their own name and powers. Their name is in the title after all, so it makes sense that they’re among the fiercest foes in the game. The first dragons that players could battle were added with module 4. A trio of young chromatic dragons that looked like they’d jumped straight from the pages of the Monster Manual.
Capturing the look and flavor of 3rd Edition D&D is something Turbine has done very well. During the initial tour we ran into several other classic D&D opponents, such as the Marilith and a Beholder with a spectral template, and they each looked exactly like pen and paper counterparts. The artistic devotion to D&D’s core books continues in Module 6, and I was excited to see Gnolls (a personal favorite) and a variety of Devils done in a style so true to the original sources.
While the visual style was there from the start, the actual feel of D&D took a bit longer to develop. I have to give Turbine credit for listening to their audience, as most of my complaints about the earlier version of the game have been addressed in subsequent modules. I had actually tried to get into DDO when it first came out but I found the beginner quests a bit too tedious and I could only hack a few hours before I would get bored and abandon the character. Turbine heard these complaints from people with more patience than myself, and revamped the early game. They say they will be looking into redoing more of the early content in future Modules. There were dungeons aplenty at launch, with a friendly Dungeon Master voice-over, reminiscent of old booked adventures, but the game lacked wilderness adventures, a staple of both MMOs and Pen and Paper. Players also complained that it could often be a hassle waiting to form an adventuring party, and they wanted the option of a more casual or solo experience so they could have something to do while waiting for friends. Seeing these shortcomings, Turbine set out to add more open landscapes, exploration quests, and solo content over the course of several modules, and Module 6 is no different.
And after four paragraphs we finally get to the point of this article, Module 6 and all of its secrets. So what’s new with Module 6: The Thirteenth Eclipse? New challenges and new adventures of course, and a few new rules as well. The big news for all the adventurers of Stormreach is that the level cap will be bumped up to 16, opening up more room for advancement. There’s good news for the accident prone as well, as the death penalty will no longer carry an experience penalty, but rather a temporary resurrection sickness. If you’re the type of player who likes to avoid death as much as possible, aka a coward, they’ve dotted the landscape with more strategically placed rest shrines to help keep the game flowing and to support solo players.
Beyond a few rules changes, the real story with Module 6 is, um, the story of Module 6. The action takes place in the Vale of Twilight, a region that is closely linked to the Outer Planes. Every 3000 years (has it been 3000 years already?) the 13 moons of Eberron align with each other to form an eclipse, hence Module 6’s title, The Thirteenth Eclipse. You’re probably wondering why hardened adventures would be interested in 13 heavenly bodies aligning in a celestial event that occurs once every 3 millennia. To answer that we have to take a look back at the end of Module 5 and the Black Abbot Lich and his designs on godhood. If you’re playing Module 6 then you’ve already foiled his plans, which is good, but the whole mess has thrown the planes out of whack. That’s bad. Remember how the Vale of twilight is linked to the planes? You should, because I only mentioned it six sentences ago. The Vale is currently linked with one of the more benign planes, but that link changes every 3000 years when the eclipse occurs. Whichever plane is the most influential when the eclipse ends becomes the dominant plane in the Vale of Twilight, and the instability caused by the Black Abbot has allowed the Devils of Shavarath (Eberron’s 9 Hells) to seize the initiative and attempt to bring Shavarath’s influence to the Vale of Twilight for the next three thousand years. And that’s why adventurers should care.
When the players arrive in the Vale of Twilight they’ll need to find the public hub where they can track down a friendly quest giving NPC. Long time players will be pleased to know that Module 6 will finally open up The Twelve, and while in the Vale of Twilight you’ll be working for the mysterious group. All of their secrets won’t be revealed in this module, of course, because you’ll be too busy fighting off Devils and their servants to unravel their web of mystery.
The Vale of Twilight itself is divided into five sub regions. The first of these regions that I visited was Twilight Canyon, where the previously mentioned Gnolls make their home. The Gnolls have formed an alliance with the devils and are their servants. The Gnolls of the Twilight Canyon are the warm-up monsters, being weaker and more numerous than the Devils.
The next phase was a location dubbed ‘The Gauntlet’ on account of the seemingly endless foes that come from portals which pop open with little waning and in large numbers. The idea of this area is to fight tactically. The faster you can close the portals the easier the area is. My Guides informed me that in this area, it “doesn’t matter if you don’t have the top tier loot from the last raid” if you fight smart, you’ll be fine. If you can’t find a way to close the portals in a timely fashion, it becomes harder and harder to complete you’re task, and even harder to maintain you status as one of the living. The end of this area is also where they introduce the prototype of their crafting system. Players will have the opportunity to enhance a few of their items before moving on to the next area. The system itself is fairly simple, just put the appropriate ingredients in the magic box and presto, you’ve got a holy sword that shoots lightning. Or whatever, there are 1100 recipes so you don’t have to go the holy thunderin’ route if that’s not you’re style.
The next region is nick named the Packman level on account of the fact that the area is a square maze with bad guys inside, and when you kill the nasty Devils their ghosts float back to the centre of the map. This is another level where team work and tactics will win the day over brute force, although you’re new weapon will be helpful. I’m not going to tell you the trick to beating the level though, mostly because I don’t want to ruin your fun, but partially because I’m just a jerk.
The next area was another maze like area, but with a twist, there were no monsters to fight. Instead you find yourself isolated from your companions alone in a small room with a puzzle on the floor. The puzzle on the floor opens the door to freedom. Unfortunately for me I was one step from solving it when I stepped on the wrong square on my way to the right one. The level is well designed though, because there is more than one way out. A friend could come by and open the door from the outside, or if you get annoyed by making a stupid mistake you can take out your frustration on the large glowing crystal in the room, which when destroyed also opens the door. Then you use teamwork to solve the larger puzzle to leave the maze entirely. At this point I should mention that when I said there were no enemies in this level I wasn’t being completely truthful. There are no bad guys to fight, but there are hazards to avoid, like the blade barriers, and the roaming prismatic wall.
The final phase is the fight with the end bad guy. I won’t say much about him, but this time I’m not being mean intentionally. It’s because my guides asked me not to ruin the surprise for people. All I’ll say is that he’s an iconic D&D nemesis, and once again he looks exactly like his monster manual description.
By the time players have battled their way throughout module 6’s content they’ll feel like they’re well prepared to face off against any infernal threat. My guides describe Module 6 as Fighting Demons 101, because that’s what it was designed to be. With what’s on the way for Module 8, players will be pleased to have a little training, as Module 8 will take characters to Shavarath itself, and other exotic planes of existence.
Beyond that, the future of DDO can best be described as delivering the rest of the Player’s Handbook, with the addition of the Monk, the Druid, and Half-orcs. Rogues will be getting some love as well, as they’ll gain a few more skills direct from the PHB, like skill mastery and defensive roll. What happens when they run out of PHB content? Levels beyond 20 and epic level content, but that’s all they’ll say.