Dungeons & Dragons Online: Menace of the Underdark Previews

With Dungeons & Dragons Online's Update 13: Web of Chaos patch introducing us to Lolth's reasons for bridging the gap to Eberron, it's time to start looking ahead at what to expect from Menace of the Underdark this summer. And to do that, we have a handful of previews to share with you.

IGN UK (with added commentary from executive producer Fernando Paiz):
Players of D&D may have already recognised the Spinner of Chaos as an aspect of Lloth, the Forgotten Realms Dark Elven goddess. Lloth has gradually risen to eclipse the other evil gods of that world - indeed, it appears she might be the main antagonist in the plot reveals of the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition, AKA D&D Next.

Lloth is a goddess obsessed with power, and values followers like her competitive and cutthroat. In Faerun, Lloth is working towards becoming Goddess of Magic, as the previous Goddess, Mystra, is missing presumed dead (a recurring trope of Forgotten Realms stories). "Lloth's forces are coming out of the Underdark and attacking," says Paiz "and when they come to the surface, they sometimes bring the darkness with them. We're working closely with Wizards of the Coast to make sure our storyline fits with the storyline they're going to be telling in this universe."

The core of Menace of the Underdark will be three adventure packs -- The King's Forest, The Underdark, and The Demonweb -- each with its own explorable wilderness area and set of quests (we weren't told how many quests will be in the final product). In addition, Turbine's creating special challenge quests for Eveningstar, similar (but in smaller numbers) than those released with Update 12.

Considering that all of this new content will be doling out XP like there's no tomorrow, Turbine is raising the level cap for players from 20 to 25.

With the expansion also comes something called Epic Destinies. This is a new advancement system that's meant to run parallel with regular leveling past 20. While we weren't privy to the nitty-gritty details, we were told that part of a player's post-20 power comes from these Epic Destinies, so to create a well-rounded character, you'll need to partake in both leveling and EDs.

Even if you aren't completely hot on all the new storylines, Underdark's introduction of the fan-favorite Druid class will offer players the opportunity to experience Dungeons & Dragons Online's existing breadth of content in an entirely new way. The Druid is a shape-shifting class with access to a number of new and unique spells, as well as arcane and healing magic. Currently, Turbine is confirming Druids will be able to take on the wolf and bear forms, though there may be more by launch. I was able to play around in wolf form briefly as part of our tour, and I can say it looks to be a promising change of pace. You'll gain access to a number of new abilities while in animal form... However, if you'd rather stay in your own skin, you'll also be able to command a variety of animal companions that you can level up and customize.

While we didn't see too much of the Underdark expansion on our tour, we were able to mess around with the new creature companions, which are basically non-combat vanity pets that you can dress up with gear and equip with a variety of tricks for them to act out. For example, I was able to place a collar on my wolf pup and get him to play dead (quite convincingly, I might add!). The first three creature companions will be available exclusively to those who pre-order the Underdark expansion. All pre-order customers will have access to the Demonweb Spiderling companion, regardless of which of the bundles they pick up (more on this later), but if you want access to the Wolf Pup or Onyx Panther cub, you'll have to pony up the extra cash for the pricier bundles. While the initial set of creature companions will only be available as part of these pre-order bundles, Turbine plans to add many more new creature companions to the DDO store in the future.

And Ten Ton Hammer:
After running through the contents of Update 13, Fernando talked to me about the eagerly anticipated Menace of the Underdark expansion. He showed me one of the shapeshifting abilities of the upcoming Druid class by turning me into a wolf. When a Druid shapeshifts into an animal form, additional abilities become available to them, but certain normal abilities are unusable while in wolf form. The player's size changes with the shapeshift. Players will be able to perform most actions while in animal form, even though a dancing wolf looks pretty hilarious to me. The Druid class and the Eveningstar Challenge Pack are free for all VIPs.

The coolest part of the Faerun tidbits fed me was the look at some new dragons. Sadly, I wasn't allowed to take any screenshots. However, Turbine has new models and new technology to make some really awesome custom dragons. They will be introducing a new dragon, the Green Dragon, and the sizes of the dragons run the gamut from what we're accustomed to right now in DDO to truly huge dragons. The dragons we've been fighting so far are essentially teenage dragons, but now we get to rumble with some big boys!