Heading to Wintertide

We take a tour through Dragon's Prophet's new snow-themed zone.

It’s time to pull out those thick coats and strong boots, as winter is heading to Auratia.  Earlier this week, Dragon’s Prophet was hit with Game Update 0.2, bringing the new zone of Wintertide, raising the level cap to 70, and more besides.

To show off everything arriving in the latest patch, SoE senior producer Todd Carson took me on a whistle-stop tour of Wintertide and the new features it brings – quite literally, as we arrived there by train. Carson also revealed that he’ll be announcing a release date at SOE Live next month, although there’s more to come as open beta continues.

There was a definite arctic feel in the air as everything, from rocky mountains to ruined forts, was covered in a blanket of snow.  Even the dragons in this area have taken on a wintry feel, with the ones we saw being a mix of light greys, blues and pale browns. Wintertide is also host to a number of other creatures, including fearsome Ice Giants, Blood Rage Trolls and a particularly brutal type of penguin. As project manager Merv Lee Kwai took the controls of a sorcerer, he described how their snowball attack can go from amusing to overwhelming as more of them gang up on you.

For fans of the emerging lore, Wintertide contains 12 new public quests that extend the central storyline, although the incredible landscapes almost seemed to shout their histories at me. Kwai showed me the skeleton of a massive elder dragon on the edge of a frozen lake, and within those bleached bones a small town had grown.

As we travelled further into Wintertide, more draconic remains punctuated the scenery. Carson explained that the area was where the second Elder Dragon war took place some 500 years earlier. Despite the bitter weather, the signs of that brutal conflict were still clearly visible.

Speaking of exploration, Wintertide brings 4 new dungeons to Dragon’s Prophet, including one in a new ‘Legendary’ mode. Ironfang Fortress is a former Osiran stronghold that had been destroyed by Methus the Flame Dragon during the second war. Deserted, Ice Giants moved in to claim the decaying ruins for themselves.

Ironfang Fortress contains five Ice Giant bosses, each with a different style of attack. One will randomly charge a player, dazing himself when he collides with a wall. Another smashes an axe made of dragon bone into the ground, striking down anyone nearby. But by far the most impressive was Kabbal the Insatiable, King of the Ice Giants. Riding into battle on the back of a chariot, players will have to unseat him first before they can hope to take him down.

Each dungeon has three difficulty modes, although Kwai added that there were originally plans for a fourth “survival mode.” He went on to describe how characters would die from a single hit, requiring a near-flawless run to complete. Needless to say, it wasn’t very popular.

In order to make the dungeon-running experience more interesting, all dungeons have been fitted out with additional quests. These quests also act as a gating mechanism—players will need to complete the earlier parts before being able to progress deeper into the dungeon.

Besides the region of Wintertide and its many delights, Game Update 0.2 also includes a whole bunch of quality of life improvements.  Character emotes have made it into the game, making it possible to laugh, sit down, cheer others and more. The level cap has been raised to 70 for both adventuring and crafting skills, unlocking that final tier of talents.

More excitingly though, you can finally keep more dragons – 96 more to be precise! The Dragon Chamber acts as an offshoot for your Dragon Lair, providing a home for those scaly friends that are no longer useful but you can’t bear to part with. It also means that you can collect several dragons of the same species until you find one with the perfect combination of stats and skills. This is pretty important when you consider that the only healing spells in the game are earned from dragons.

Guilds also get some love, with the creation of the Draconic Sanctuary. Since guilds work cross-server, the only way players could meet up previously was in a dungeon. The Sanctuary works as a guild-wide instance, providing an open meeting place and access to Guild Storage.

Carson mentioned that the team plan to develop the Draconic Sanctuary even further, by adding the ability for guilds to summon dragons that can then be battled against for loot. Some will require an Altar of Summoning, looted in the open world, while others will use the skills of an NPC to lure them in.

With much more still to come before launch, Wintertide isn’t the only update we’ll see in beta. According to Carson a further update will land in August, with the team planning to announce a launch date beforehand at SOE Live.

Before that can happen, the final parts of player housing need to be added. Citadels are fortresses built on the floating islands that hold a cluster of player homes. Whoever controls the citadel can set the tax rate for everyone on the island. Claiming ownership will be no cinch though, with guilds having to form unlikely alliances in order to succeed. Carson stated that Citadels need to be in before Dragon’s Prophet can launch, echoing his comments from E3 earlier this year.

Whatever appears in future updates, there’s one thing we can always be sure of in Dragon’s Prophet. Plenty of dragons.

Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer, Senior Contributing Editor.

Follow me on Twitter @Gazimoff




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