ZAM learns the dirty details of DDO's 13th update... and more!
Come Monday the 27th, Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) will release its newest content update. Titled “Web of Chaos,” the free update will set the stage for the expansion pack that is to be released later this year. We had the chance to chat with Fernando Paiz, the Executive Producer of DDO, who gave us the inside scoop not only of what to expect this week… but also what will be unveiled in the expansion pack! That information is under embargo until later this week so, for now, we’ll focus on update 13.
“The main dish,” Fernando began, “is a collection of new quests in a free content update called ‘Web of Chaos.’ It serves as a prologue to the expansion coming later this summer.” While logging into the “super-secret test server,” Fernando gave me a quick run-down of what to expect. “The quests are the set up for the story of how the world of Eberron gets connected to the universe of the Forgotten Realms. There are three quests at base level 16, meaning that players as low as 14 or 15 should be able to complete them on casual mode. The quests will also have elite and epic modes for players at level 20; we wanted players of all levels to feel like they can enjoy the new story.”
Know what are funny? Spiders. They have us cracking up!... like the walls in Stormreach...
Upon entering the server, I was told to check my inventory for a piece of six-year old birthday cake (mmm, yummy). To celebrate the 6th anniversary of DDO this year, all players created before the 27th will receive the cake. “When you try to eat your cake, a genie will appear and say ‘Don’t eat that cake!’ as it’s probably not a very healthy thing to do!” Instead, he’ll trade you for any of a selection of goods. Most players will take a +2 ability tome, but others might be tempted by the pork barrel, which Fernando recommends. “This is a continuation of our second birthday, which had a genie who would grant wishes. One of those wishes was a rain of ham. This is a demystified version of that; you can collect your tasty ham, which acts as a heal-over-time effect.” In addition to the birthday cake, Fernando said several events and perks such as experience boosts, guild renown boosts, and the pirate festival will be reappearing.
Aside from the birthday celebrations, the DDO store is being updated with new weapons (from levels 1 to 5) and accessories (from levels 1 to 9). “Another cool introduction to the DDO store is Omni Spelldust. It’s a general purpose spell component, and it’ll work for any component you are missing.” Furthermore, for long-time players or by unlocking it through purchase in the store, a new tier of veteran status is being added to the game. “Right now you can start a new character at level 4 instead of level 1. This new version is Veteran Status level 7, so you can skip three more levels.” If a player does not wish to purchase this status, it is unlocked with total favor at 3000.
Onto the tour itself! I logged into Stormreach, where the first change is a giant crack in the wall near the harbor (kind of like a spider web… hint hint). Nearby, members of the Silver Flame were investigating. Fernando directed me to the alleyway behind the Wayward Lobster to find a new quest giver who warns of a faction that worships the demon princes of Eberron. The quest itself is to investigate a base of operations that has been set up in the city. Inside the dungeon, players reunite with Investigator Gnomon. “Gnomon is an agent of the silver flame that we actually met before back around level 6,” said Fernando, “He’s not really a very nice guy. He’s merciless and players don’t really like him. So this is a moment in time when we’ll get to know more about him and why he’s cranky all the time.”
After fighting through cultists, Gnomon and his novice split off from the players. Upon skipping forward a bit, we discovered the novice dead and Gnomon nowhere to be found. Further on, we came across Gnomon revealing his true colors; he’s actually in league with the cultists. The end of the dungeon reveals Gnomon as a Rakshasa necromancer working with a drow elf attempting to open the way to Khyber. The Rakshasa have invaded the Silver Flame as part of a faction called “The Lords of the Dust,” and the spirit of Lolth has called out to the Drow in Eberron to help release her. When the drow dies in this fight, the ritual to open the way to Khyber is completed and the crack in the wall of Stormreach grows accordingly.
At least I was invincible. Best of luck to all of you heroes!
Fernando had us skip the second quest and head straight to the third. This involves going into the prison where the Spinner of Shadows is being guarded by the Silver Flame. About the Spinner, Fernando said, “It’s technically correct to say they (Eberron’s Spinner and Forgotten Realm’s Lolth) are both Lolth. But the Spinner of Shadows is a very different being than the deity Lolth. She is a demon, and not a full goddess. She’s weakened from being trapped for so long and doesn’t have a lot of followers; whereas in the Forgotten Realms the entire Drow civilization worships Lolth and does her bidding.” Upon finding the Silver Flame Guardian and protecting it from an attacking Rakshasa, we were transported into the Spinner’s prison just in time to see her break free. However, when the Rakshasas who freed her demand her help in freeing the other demon overlords, the Spinner has other plans; opening a portal to the Forgotten Realms and uniting with the other universe’s Lolth! The fight against the Spinner of Shadows involves killing spider adds and using the crystals they drop to relight the braziers that constitute the prison; but the fight is in vain. When all the braziers are lit, the portal is opened and Lolth pokes her head through and begins sucking Eberron into the other universe. “The Silver Flame will be calling in a faction of druids called the Gatekeepers later this summer,” Fernando confided in us, “so expect to see a lot of druids in Stormreach in the near future!”
The one final feature, not relating directly to the expansion pack, is the introduction of creature companions. “This will be released with update 13, but initially companions are exclusively available by pre-purchasing the expansion, ‘Menace of the Underdark.’” I had all three available on my test character; a Demon Web Spiderling, a druid wolf pup, and an onyx panther cub. All of them can have their names changed, and will have equipment such as collars and new tricks available in the DDO Store. Also, the creature companions are shared account-wide on the same game server! “These are non-combat; they don’t give boosts or buffs or anything like that. They’re just fun and cute things to collect.” Fernando made sure to emphasize that come update 13, only these three will be initially available; but in the future, more creature companions will be available through in-game means and in the DDO Store.