Posted by BuckGB at 5:25 pm on 10.15.2010 (2 years ago)
To give you a little background information, Update 7: Half-Bloods represents Turbine's largest update to the game to date. Among the additions it'll bring to the table are two new playable races (the Half-Orc and the Half-Elf), a brand new level 12-oriented adventure pack that spans three quests, a new twelve-man raid that'll be playable by low or epic level parties, full DirectX 11 support, a significant renovation to the game's UI panels and auction house, a handful of new character spells and prestige enhancements, and an ambitious live event that introduces a couple of new technologies that Turbine is experimenting with (more on those later).
When Turbine added the auction house to DDO, it was a huge boon to the game. Over the years, though, its current presentation has really started to show its age. As anyone who plays the game on a regular basis can attest to, finding an epic scroll, a particular suit of mithral armor, or a specific weapon effect takes quite a bit of legwork. With Update 7, the auction house will see two major advancements - the ability to search for an exact item name string ("Green Steel", for example) and the ability to sort all item results by name, duration, current price, and buyout price. These advancements aren't going to make things perfect (you still can't search by specific imbued spells or effects not listed in the item's name like you can in our equipment database), but they're going to be very nice additions nonetheless. The sorting feature should help keep prices in line, too, as you'll be able to search for Large Devil Scales and then purchase the one that shows up with the lowest price rather than buying out the first one you stumble upon.
The UI enhancements don't end with the auction house, though. Character inventories have been given a facelift, starting with the paper doll. Now you can simply click on the helmet slot to toggle its display on or off, and my two tour guides pointed out that this will eventually evolve to the point where we can toggle the display of clothing items while hiding away the protective but less-than-attractive armor we're actually wearing (as some of you might be familiar with from The Lord of the Rings Online and other MMOs). The standard five-bag inventory layout is still present, but if you choose to do so, you can switch it over to a more informative item listing layout with a text search box for tracking down the stack of Remove Curse Potions you could swear you purchased a few days ago.
Before I could check out more of the UI refinements, we headed off to Delera's Graveyard, where Adam and Ian gave me a sneak peek at the "Mabar Endless Night" event they're planning for Halloween this year. Delera's Graveyard will be crawling with all manner of undead during the event, and will officially be opened up to all players (minus its embedded quests) whether they're free-to-play or not. Casters can now cast in the area, too, as I quickly realized when I started dropping Walls of Fire to clean up a small army of ghouls. As the creatures died, various ingredients (Cursed Fingerbones, Black Opals, and Chipped Skulls) were automatically added to my backpack with a quick on-screen notification of what was being placed there. I realized the efficiency of such a system rather than forcing players to run around clicking on treasure bags, so I quizzed Adam and Ian about whether a similar system would be used in the future for epic scrolls, antique bronze tokens, and other collectibles. Their general consensus was that other collectibles will indeed use "a similar tech" down the road, but it won't be made available in Update 7. They assured me that they're "committed to improving" the ninja-favoring system used for epic scrolls at the moment, so hopefully we won't have to wait too much longer.
Once I had a pile of ingredients gathered up, we proceeded to a device called "The Night Trader" that allowed me to turn in my undead treasures for "Motes of Night". The motes are something of a currency and can be used at another device called the "Mote of Night Collector" to barter for all sorts of new magic items. I didn't have enough to actually purchase anything, but I did take notice of how it all works. As an example, one of the items listed on the device was a Cloak of Night. The baseline level 4 cloak required a certain number of Motes of Night to acquire, but then you could upgrade it further to a level 8, 12, 16, and 20 version by turning in ever-increasing amounts of ingredients. The most powerful versions of each item require a Spectral Dragon Scale, which can only be obtained during a 24-man battle with such a beast during the event. In order to face the dragon, there's a particular server-wide ingredient count that must be fulfilled. According to Adam and Ian, the team has balanced the ingredient requirement to take about 2 hours for the first Spectral Dragon battle, and then 45 minutes to an hour for each encounter after that. Successfully defeating the dragon will automatically reward all 24 participants with a single dragon scale each.
From there, we moved on to the new three-quest series that begins in the newly opened Lordsmarch Plaza area accessed via a gate just south of the marketplace bank. All of these quests are intended for level 12 characters, which finally gives us an alternative to Gianthold while advancing characters in the level 10-13 range. As it turns out, a medusa by the name of Hesstess has shown up as an ambassador to the Droaam kingdom, and she's managed to convince the Coin Lords that they're here simply to establish a colony of the "unrecognized Khorvairian nation". Further investigation during the first quest, "Diplomatic Impunity", reveals that an army of heavily armed Droaam soldiers is being assembled in order to invade Stormreach.
Things get quite a bit more interesting during the second quest, which is aptly named "Frame Work". During this adventure, the party must infiltrate a village of minotaurs and carry out a specific set of objectives that will frame Hesstess for a number of minotaur casualties - therefore making it much easier to recruit the minotaur tribe to your cause. Your first task is to repair a damaged ballista so that you can literally use it to catapult your party over the village's walls. Next, you must use a specially designed non-caster wand of Flesh to Stone to turn a handful of the village's minotaurs into statues (which, of course, must be Hesstess' work). The final objective sees you killing the minotaur chieftain himself.
With Hesstess successfully framed, your party will return to Lordsmarch Plaza for "Eyes of Stone", the final quest in the series. The idea is that you're here during the evening hours to arrest the medusa, but you'll soon discover that many of the palace guards have been turned to stone, the Coin Lords themselves have been taken captive, and Droaam skirmishers and soldiers are ready to ambush you when you arrive. After you've cut your way through a small army of Hesstess' henchmen, you'll have to do battle with the medusa herself. As you'll no doubt have expected, she uses her gaze attack on a regular basis, so anyone caught in its cone-shaped area of effect will be in need of a Stone to Flesh spell or a special Stone to Flesh salve that you can obtain during the quest. Powerful parties will be able to take Hesstess out without needing any extra help, but for those parties that aren't quite ready to defeat a medusa, there's a switch on one side of the room that can be used to reveal a large mirror. Coax Hesstess over to it while she's using her gaze attack and she'll turn into a statue herself for a short period of time. The only drawback to the switch is that each pull also calls in more Droaam minions to deal with.
When the medusa was finally beaten, I was able to get a closer look at some of the loot that can be acquired from the series' end chest. There are three items in particular that look to be great additions for level 11 characters, and they're all part of the same set - Katra's Wit, Maenya's Fists, and Teraza's Sight. I wasn't able to coax any information about how to unlock the items' full "battle-scarred" potential, but one would assume it will require some legwork elsewhere in the game.
With the main adventure pack finished up, we headed over to a guy by the name of Nolan Gann in the marketplace. Apparently Nolan is the father of one Nat Gann, who he tells you disappeared during the infamous devil invasion that some of you will remember wreaking havoc on the marketplace during a live event a couple of years ago. In order to find Nat, Nolan sends you to an ancient device called The Chronoscope, which will ultimately send you back in time for Update 7's 12-man raid. This raid is designed to introduce level 6 characters to raiding, so no flagging is required. That's good news to veteran players, too, as the raid can be played on epic, too. Adam, Ian, and I moved quickly through the early raid areas, so about all I can tell you is that you and your raid party will find themselves back in the marketplace just before it was blown up by the Shavarath invaders. Passing through the Rusty Nail tavern (which now houses vendors selling Flametouched weapons for newer players who may not have the proper weaponry), we took a dimension door that led us to the main battle against a green (poison) abishai, a red (fire) abishai, a gold (frost) abishai, a black (acid) abishai, and a silver (electricity) abishai.
As the abishai are defeated, they retreat to the skies high above you. When the fifth abishai falls, a cutscene takes place during which all five of the devils combine to form a single (and much more potent) devil. Throughout this Voltron-inspired stage of the battle, the newly formed creature will periodically change color and utilize a breath weapon charged with the element related to its current shade (for example, in its black form, the devil sprays a cone of acid just as you'd expect from the black dragon in Gianthold Tor). As one of the neatest effects I've seen in DDO to date, a silhouette of the associated dragon will appear around the creature as it prepares to shower any unlucky adventurers standing in front of it. Thanks to the invincibility buff the three of us were sporting, though, it wasn't long before the creature was lifeless and the raid was successfully completed.
Of course, with any new raid comes new loot. But what sort of items drop from a level 6 raid? And what sort of statistics should you expect when you manage to craft the epic versions? It took a little convincing, but eventually Adam and Ian provided me with the details on four such items - the Scorched Bracers, the Epic Goggles of Time-Sensing, the Epic Hellfire Crossbow, and the Epic Staff of Nat Gann. Coupled with the vast assortment of items that can be bartered for in the Mabar Endless Night event, there should be plenty of new must-have equipment for us to strive when Update 7 launches on October 20th for VIPs and October 22nd for free-to-play players.