With the year winding down, the Dungeons and Dragons Online team at Turbine had a chance to offer us one more tour, featuring their last update of the year. Set to launch on Monday, December 13th, Update 8 brings in a brand new adventure pack, and adds a few demanded items into the DDO Store. Design Director Ian Currie and Senior Content Producer Charles Miles at Turbine took us through the new adventure pack, explaining the story as we went along.
We began our journey inside the Lordsmarch Palace, where representatives of Stormreach were gathered around, clearly upset by a new turn of events - the Droaam army had now launched a true invasion against Stormreach. This invasion forms the basis of the new adventure pack, "Attack on Stormreach." As a continuation of the free Adventure Pack "Half-Bloods" released in Update 7, Attack on Stormreach involves players directly in the war against Droaam. While it is only available through the DDO Store or as a VIP, players will not have to have completed the previous adventure in Update 7.
Our first step in fighting back the Drooam invasion is to assist in the siege against Stormreach in the Summerfield District. Arriving in the war-torn ward, there was no doubt the Droaam army had taken the invasion seriously. The entire district was covered in a red-orange haze, the sky blotted out by the thick smoke of burning buildings. We made our way up to the top of the gate and met with Captain Markus, before facing off against Droaam forces that make their way up through portals directly onto the wall.
When we've defended the gate - for the time being - we are sent down into the district proper to both defeat Droaam forces and to rescue wounded soldiers. As before, the Droaam army is made up of many familiar monsters, including kobolds and ogres, but wearing new gear unique to the Droaam. It seems in this district, very little is not on fire, except for perhaps the still-running fountain. The city itself offers several vantage points atop buildings, which can be used to snipe enemies - if the players aren't themselves sniped first.
Having pushed back the invasion to the bridge, and saved the lost soldiers, we return to Lordsmarch. The team describes the second quest in the series, "Blockade Buster," to me as "James Bond in wet suits blowing up navy ships." More specifically, the quest - which we skipped - sends players on a stealth mission to utilize mines to blast away the Droaam armada, which has blocked Stormreach Harbor.
Instead, the team fast forwards me to the third quest, "Undermine," possibly one of the most explosive missions to be released in DDO. We find ourselves back in the Lordsmarch plaza courtyard, only to find ourselves assaulted as the Droaam army blasts out of a corner from the underground. After defeating the attackers that come through the new entrance - including the impressive Assault Captain Blitz - we enter the tunnel beneath Lordsmarch. The dark underground halls reveal at first the forces of dozens of kobolds, equipped with explosives and ready to blast their way into Stormreach.
Eventually, we find ourselves giving chase to the master demolitionist, Kaboom. Along the way, we encounter kobolds demanding better working privileges ("Paid egg-laying leave!" exclaimed one), and deep piles of rubble which had to be destroyed with massive detonation charges. Earth elementals woke from their slumber as we took a side shortcut, and the closer we got on Kaboom's trail, the more quick footwork we had to make as sonic mines riddled our paths.
Finding the end of the tunnel - and where it leads - is not the last task in the adventure pack, however. A fourth quest also awaits, and while I didn't get a chance to sneak a peek, the team told me that players would encounter a new boss enemy at the end - Sora Katra, the Green Hag.
While the team assured me that the Adventure Pack has been the highest rated by DDO's player testers in a while, my own experience left me a little unconvinced. Each of the adventure packs released since DDO's free-to-play re-launch has always incorporated something new, unique, or just plain exciting from previous adventures; "Attack on Stormreach" merely felt like an extension from the previous adventure pack released in Update 7. Still, having only seen half of the quests, there's good reason to believe that there's plenty of excitement packed in, and the adventure pack does deliver on the kind of action found more typically in summer blockbuster films than MMORPGs.
Also coming in the update are two new types of highly demanded items, found only in the DDO Store. For players who are concerned with how they look, Armor Appearance Kits will be available in eight patterns (two different colors in four different styles). The kits are generic to armor type; application of a kit will change to the appropriate armor type (applied to a robe, a kit will change to a new robe style; applied to heavy armor, a heavy armor style). These kits apply to a special cosmetic slot, and may be shown, hidden, or changed at any time. The DDO Store will also offer Rogue Hirelings, which are, like player rogues, capable of searching for and disarming traps and unlocking doors and chests.
Of course, the holidays are also coming to Stormreach. Players will be able to find coins around Stormreach, and turn them in for goodies. These goodies will include Abishai-themed cookies, and a new cookie jar to store them in year-round for those who have a hard time saving their cookies. In all, the update should offer a fair way to round the year up and lead into new adventures for 2011.