We spoke with Boyer on the phone about DDO's second post-expansion update, which is loosely scheduled to hit the game in a couple of weeks. Update 16: The Netherese Legacy will continue the Forgotten Realms storyline that began with Menace of the Underdark and Update 15. It's an update that takes us down a famous path, introduces a new enemy faction, and gives additional love to the fledgling Druid class.
The core of Update 16 is an adventure pack containing a new wilderness area called the High Road and five instances that branch off from there. The good news is that players have the option to access this content even if they haven't purchased the expansion; an NPC will offer players a cart ride around expansion-exclusive content to the High Road if needed.
Adventurers need a reason to boldly go forth, and the excuse this time around is that a thief has stolen a very potent scroll that can do unthinkable magic. He's gone down the High Road, and the players set out to catch him and retrieve the artifact. It's more tricky than that, however; the scroll is a relic of the Netherese Empire, and its legions are out searching for it as well. Over the course of the journey, players will encounter the Netherese and find out just how formidable these new enemies can be. These soldiers and wizards from the dark empire have several servants at their command, including a wide variety of Umbral creatures: rats, gargoyles, and shadow monsters.
The thief's path will take players to several notable locations. These include a ruined castle filled with NPC adventurers (and optional objectives), an inn, a swamp, and a fortress. It's at this last stage where the thief will be confronted, the scroll's magic will be unleashed, and a massive three-way battle will erupt. To say any more would be to spoil the fun.
If the scroll is recovered and quest completed, players should expect to find some nice named level 24 gear. And of course, if the adventure pack is run on higher difficulty, the rewards will be even better. Turbine's made several of the named items bind-to-account-on-equip, meaning that they can be sold and traded as long as they haven't been used.
The adventure pack will be included with a VIP subscription but should cost somewhere between 250 and 600 TP for free players.
The adventure pack isn't the only thing coming with Update 16, however. Turbine's also adding a completely new epic destiny line: Primal Avatar. This is the Druid line, with many abilities that play to that class' strength. Of course, since any epic-level character can dip into the line, it offers a lot of potential for synergy with fighters and casters. There is even the ability to shapeshift into a woodwoad plant creature, so if you're jealous of Druids and their animalistic ways, you can get a taste of the wild life.
Boyer feels that this is the final piece of the puzzle that the game's classes needed. "We've landed in a good spot in update 16," he said. Boyer noted that players are pleased with the diverse and powerful nature of epic destiny builds, and now that Druids are represented, it feels complete.
Also coming with Update 16 is a positive change to tome drops. Namely, there will be more of them. Can't complain about that, can we?
While Turbine's focus in 2012 has been on DDO's Forgotten Realms setting, 2013 will signal a more balanced shift between the two campaigns. Eberron will receive a new story come Update 17, as the devs seek to finish up some stories in the Gianthold region. The team is also working on bringing the new graphical flourishes from the expansion back to Eberron.
So with two campaign settings under its belt, will Turbine add another one of Dungeons & Dragons worlds -- or more? Boyer was noncommittal on that front. While he admitted there were opportunities and possibilities, he told me, "We are not making plans in that area because there is so much to do in the regions we have now."
We asked whether the recent Turbine layoffs had affected the DDO team, but we were treated to zipped lips on the subject. "It was Turbine-wide, but we can't comment past the official statement," we were told.
Finally, we broached the subject of DDO's upcoming IP competition: Cryptic's Neverwinter. Is that a major concern for the team? After all, there's a bit of overlap -- and Neverwinter will be the new kid on the D&D block.
Boyer said it wasn't a concern since the DDO's Forgotten Realms adventures are in a different part of the world and the two games are quite different in their makeup. He did note that DDO would continue to work closely with Wizards of the Coast to keep its storyline parallel with what Wizards is doing in 2013.
"Definitely the fantasy MMO market has a lot of competition," Boyer said. "Our goal is to keep innovating and giving people a reason to come back."
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