It's obvious that Turbine's a little Forgotten-Realms-mad right now, although that's not a bad thing. The setting is a favorite among D&D fans, and while Eberron has its supporters, the studio obviously sees the Forgotten Realms as the future of this long-running MMO. While the expansion is still a couple of months away, today's Update 18: Disciples of Shadow update will serve as a prologue so that players can get started on their journey through this fresh land.
We sat down with DDO's team to talk about Update 18, the new races coming with Shadowfell Conspiracy, and the pre-purchase program that promises to give you head start. Read on, or else the wrath of the owl bear will be upon thee!
Update 18 is divided into two portions: free-for-all content and content accessible only to those who pre-purchase the expansion pack. Fortunately, the free content is quite generous. Turbine is giving two new missions for all players to experience in the Forgotten Realms. Think of it as a taste of the expansion, a temptation to pull you into snagging a copy. Or think of it as a couple of missions you don't have to pay a dime for.
The two level-15 missions are cyclical, meaning that they can be done in either order as they lead into each other. The first mission, Disciples of Shar, tasks your party with hunting through caves for Shar cultists, while the second mission, Escape Plan, puts you in the role of a guard who's watching over a famous prisoner on board a river barge. If you do Disciples first, then the story for you will be that you hunt through the caves, find the prisoner, and take him down the river. If you do Escape Plan first, then you'll guard the prisoner, see him escape, and track him down in the caves. Don't let it hurt your head too much.
The missions take place near Wheloon city, which is effectively a town-turned-prison fortress. This city will turn into an explorable area with the expansion, but with Update 18 you'll only be able to see the outside of it. Wheloon is in the area of the Stormhorns, a beautifully forested area that has issues with the Netherese and cultists.
What else is free with Update 18? Turbine's creating dedicated cosmetic outfit slots that will appear on your inventory screen so that players will have an easier time making their character look as good as possible. Skill tomes will be added to the game as well. These are similar to ability tomes, but they boost skills such as diplomacy and jump. While you can pay for them, you should be able to find a rare skill tome drop or two in your adventures.
If you want the full Update 18 experience, however, then you'll need to take advantage of the Shadowfell Conspiracy pre-purchasing program that goes live today. Turbine's offering a number of incentives to plunk down cash for the expansion, not the least of which is an additional quest and a new prestige race for you to experience.
The new mission is called Shadow of a Doubt, and it takes place at the docks of Wheloon. You'll be investigating a suspected plot, and in the course of your investigation, you'll be fighting new creatures that arise from shadows (in actuality, come in from another plane of existence).
This mission might be easier with the help of a Bladeforged: the first of the new prestige races coming to DDO with the expansion. The Bladeforged are decked-out Warforged that worship the Lord of Blades and have a look that reflects their worship. Think of spikes, blade mohawks, chin blades, and plenty of switches. These more menacing-looking creatures won't just be a cosmetic variation on the Warforged, but will have different abilities and skills to set them apart.
When you roll a Bladeforged, it will start out as a Paladin, although you're not forced to pursue this path. You can simply speak to the Lord of Blades and pick a different class during your introduction. You might want to stick with the Paladin, however, as the Bladeforged was made to fit that class perfectly. The Bladeforged has a stronger Paladin aura, the ability to heal themselves, bonuses to greatsword abilities, and extra points in Charisma that standard Warforged lack. One of the hallmarks of the race is that it is more resistant to slashing damage, so much so that it builds up a damage-boosting buff when taking that type of hurt.
As with the other prestige races, the Bladeforged will begin at level 15, allowing players to directly start in the Forgotten Realms. It'll be a good way for new players or slowly leveling players to hop right into the new content without feeling as though they are being excluded.
The Bladeforged will join a full party roster of new races when the expansion hits. Turbine didn't go into as much detail about the other races, although the devs did open up a bit about the other options coming this summer.
If you like Rogues, then you'll want to check out the Shadar-kai. This is a humanoid assassin race that is married to the Rogue class (but can divorce and flirt with other classes if so desired). The Shadar-kai have a greyish skin and a punk/goth look that will set them apart visually from other characters. Since these people have to be feeling emotions constantly in order to stay alive, they are big into self-mutilation and self-harm so that they don't fade out of existence. To reflect that, Turbine's added a ton of customization options, including scars, piercings, and an array of colorful tattoos. The Shadar-kai are masters of stealth moves and have special chain attacks. Both standard Rogues and Shadar-kai Rogues will enjoy an upgrade to the stealth system that Turbine is preparing for the expansion.
Other prestige races include Cormyreans, purple dragon knights, and Sun Elves, which are healer Clerics. With all four prestige races in hand, players could create a full balanced party with just the new race/class combos.
The Shadowfell Conspiracy down-low
Today we've learned further details about the expansion, including its August 19th release date. Shadowfell Conspiracy will release with two new adventure packs featuring the aforementioned Wheloon and the snowy hills of the Stormhorns. The level cap will push higher to reach the epic level of 28 as well.
There are two pre-purchase packs available as of today, and both get you the extra content from Update 18. The $29.99 standard edition of Shadowfell Conspiracy comes with the expansion content, the Bladeforged Paladin and a special cosmetic outfit for it, the Purple Dragon Knight hero, cosmetic goggles, a Calico Tressym creature companion, an additional character slot, a lesser tome of epic learning, a +1 skill tome, and 1,000 Turbine Points.
If you want to splurge, you can pre-purchase the $49.99 collector's edition instead, which comes with all of the standard edition goodies as well as the Shadar-kai race, a Shadar-kai cosmetic costume, an additional Bladeforged costume, a Tawny Owlbear creature companion, a second pair of cosmetic goggles, three character slots, a greater tome of epic learning (this replaces the lesser tome from the standard edition), a +2 skill tome (this replaces the +1 skill tome), and a total of 2,000 Turbine Points.
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