DDO: Menace of the Underdark and Turbine's Incredible Staying Power

Dungeons & Dragons Online will get its first full expansion--six years after its original release.

Blizzard and BioWare seem to get all the attention from the press anymore. But there was a time when all eyes were on a trio of massively multiplayer games called "The Big Three:" Ultima Online, EverQuest, and developer Turbine's Asheron's Call.

Then came the so-called second-generation massively multiplayer online games. And leading the charge was Turbine's Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings, a gorgeous, inviting, and streamlined game that sadly didn't achieve great success--even though it blazed trails that other games cheerily barreled through later.

Before World of Warcraft, Turbine had already created a similarly accessible game of its own.

And though Asheron's Call 2 is no longer active, it appears we needn't worry about Turbine's other two prominent projects, Dungeons & Dragons Online and The Lord of the Rings Online. For years, Turbine has been quietly setting standards for every aspect of MMOG design. Before Star Wars: The Old Republic was lauded for its storytelling, Turbine had already proven its own masterful narrative techniques. Before World of Warcraft was lauded for its welcoming design, Turbine had already created a similarly accessible game of its own.

So don't look so shocked that Turbine has announced the first full expansion for Dungeons & Dragons Online, called Menace of the Underdark. You may not have seen it coming, but the announcement isn't so bizarre when you consider the source. Since 2006, the game has seen plenty of growth, including that seen in 2011. In fact, let's run down a few of the milestones Dungeons & Dragons achieved in 2011:

Bonjour: The game went free-to-play in Europe and was released in French- and German-language versions.

Happy Anniversary!: Dungeons & Dragons Online celebrated its fifth anniversary with an event introducing new challenge quests. (Not that major content updates are anything new: a major update is implemented every few months in DDO.)

Piling On the Riches: The game saw an entirely new crafting system, new level-15 to level-20 content, two new raid dungeons, new challenges, leaderboards, and a new class: the artificer. (For the uninitiated, this is a ranged combat/pet class iconic of the game's Eberron setting.)

Could you possibly question Turbine's commitment to Dungeons & Dragons Online, all things considered? Suddenly, Menace of the Underdark doesn't sound so implausible. As for the expansion itself, executive producer Fernando Paiz and senior producer Erik Boyer gave us a rundown of what to expect in Menace of the Underdark, which is due to launch sometime in the summer of 2012. What's the most noteworthy addition, you wonder?

The Forgotten Realms.

Indeed, fans will be delighted to finally get the chance to inhabit The Forgotten Realms. The new adventure begins in Eveningstar, but it won't be long before you discover the threat that Lolth poses to the Realms. Who is Lolth? She's queen of the spiders, goddess of the drow--or to a novice, an enormous spider-lady with a webbed bodice, flowing white tresses, and fingernails long enough to rip giant gashes in your pitiful, shivering flesh. Menace of the Underdark shall certainly provide the right tools to face Lolth, however, whether you prefer to stick with your current class or start over as (hooray!) a druid, the newest class to come to Dungeons & Dragons Online. And it's about time, too: who hasn't loved playing previous D&D games as a nature-loving, shape-shifting druid? (Author's note: I profess a great affinity with the druid class and am pleased as can be that it's finally making a belated appearance.)

Who is Lolth? She's queen of the spiders, goddess of the drow.

Menace of the Underdark also introduces a new level cap: 25. This may not sound that high, but in DDO, you earn rewards at mid-level thresholds, so don't assume you will be rewarded at a sluggishly dull rate. Most of the expansion's content will be for such epic-level players, though 2012 will bring more updates outside of the expansion. Turbine will celebrate the game's sixth anniversary with a free adventure pack featuring a new storyline. Additionally, you'll be able to collect cosmetic pets--that is, creatures from D&D lore that you can earn and buy. They won't be helping you in combat, but you can outfit them in cute gear and show them and their adorable animations off to your friends. Sound like sugar overload? Turbine thinks you'll be pleasantly surprised at just how much fun these pets really are.

And so Turbine appears to still be leading the way. Without fanfare, without hype--just always doing cool stuff. Maybe Dungeons & Dragons Online: Menace of the Underdark isn't really your thing. But given Turbine's depth and breadth of development know-how, there's a very good chance that something else it's doing is. As for the DDO faithful, they should be rightly pleased with the chance to explore the Forgotten Realms as a druid--a dream many of them have shared for some time.

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Discussion

24 comments
Satan666HellDie
Satan666HellDie

Lotros F2P model is good. You can easily earn alot of points (which you can use to purhcase content etc) without opening your wallet, just by playing the game. I havent played this game that much lately so I cant say about DDo F2P tho.

sandmanccl
sandmanccl

Sigh. They couldn't have started with Forgotten Realms? It'd certainly have generated more initial fanfare.

Jestersmiles
Jestersmiles

free to play my pale white bhind, more like an extended demo, don't waste your time with this or LOTRO ,just wait for GW2.

shnull
shnull

@nyran125, yea spent way too much on this myself, but given the hours played it's not that bad ... about the only mmo i still fire up once or twice a year for now, its different from the others, not for noobs, that's the least you can say, but they could do with a little more innovation than just more of the same and trust the fanbase to buy

nyran125
nyran125

They should change free to play to:>:>:>:> Free to Pay

madman23
madman23

SWEET!! Best MMORPG ever.

floydshayvious
floydshayvious

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

highlandervii
highlandervii

Glad to see an update, especially one outside of the current theme. I would just think they should try to attract new players by offering the content to non-epic characters...

FoeCrusher
FoeCrusher

I do love DDO and generally Turbine has implemented new content very well. DDO has drifted away from traditional D&D though. Basically they have nerfed the pervasive nature of things like curses, or monster immunities and instead added HP to Monsters. I dont particularly approve of those decisions but it doesnt break the game. Rather it changes your strategy. For those of you who have not played the free to try DDO. It does things that other MMO's that I have played do not. There are not any large areas to wander through to get to the quest. It is totally party focused, you can solo but that takes forever. Groups have a strong incentive to play together well as a dungeon is an all or nothing proposition. For most quests you do not have to wait to long to form a party. All dungeons and raids are instanced. Dont beleive it is free though. You will either have to get a subcription or buy content such as classes or dungeon packs. There are minor aids that you can buy but otherwise everything you can buy doesnt really give you an advantage over other players. I was wondering aloud last night how the game was doing in terms of players and this announcement says that it is doing very well.

jhonel83
jhonel83

@666NightsInHell, did you actually play the game? I have, went up to level 6 as a mage. Never had to pay a dime. Uh - in regards to your "no multiplayer" concept, let me tell you my friend, EVERY quest I've done out of the "newbie" area was in a party or a group, eventually at "hard" level. The only obvious restriction I saw was you were not able to post more then 1 item in the auction house, while those who paid $ we able to post 3 (i think?). I eventually quit because it ate too much of my time and I really should have gone for the pale master career, instead of archmage :))

Rafass
Rafass

@Kevin-V nice news Kevin, thanks a lot for sharing with us. I would really love to explore Faerun specially Turmish and The Shaar areas, but I didn't really understand if this expansion will be like one of WoW expansions. I mean will it have the same graphics engine?Cause if yes, boy is it outdated. If its a new engine with nice graphics and mechanics Ill be really happy to try it :D Also Eberron is a sucky fan-created terrible universe to play D&D IMHO, thank god they are doing it in Forgotten Realms.

Booshon
Booshon

@Kevin-V Looks like you are sharing your paid thoughts :P

gk_of_berea
gk_of_berea

Both LotRO and DDO are great games. Sometimes a little too nuanced if you are going the F2P route, but for what they are, they are actually pretty great. you can generally earn the unlockable content, but the rate at which you do so generally makes it worthwhile to just pay for it.

Jimi_13
Jimi_13

it's an alright game, I spent 50 bucks on content of levels and enjoyed them. I feel the free content is better than the crap blizzard put out for WoW, you can't add parties in that game and communicating is garbage. At least on this free to play you can talk to people and play to about lvl 10-12 in content. I just never liked monthly based games, I change games every so often so the constant content that I could return to whenever was nice. I think the game is fine, even though it gets a bit repetitive and same old grind feel after a while, I'll have to see what the new content has to offer.

Targzissian
Targzissian

I played it for a month when it first came out, and I think I returned maybe a year later when they had a free weekend. I think it had the best dungeons of any game back in the day. Even though there's now a free to play version, I doubt I'll be going back. Too much other stuff to play these days.

jutetrea
jutetrea

Well, this is just terrible. Finally quit the habit and they go and open up Faerun somehow. DDO was awesome at the level 10 cap. Left for a few years and it was great again to level 20. Tons of new content, mechanics, and options since I played in '06. Jumped in again and played for another year and finally quit in Oct. Since then they've released a major content/upgrade pack and then this - so 2 new classes. $6/mo wasn't bad for veteran status either. Oi. Maybe I'll have to revisit.

jojocomeand
jojocomeand

@666NightsInHell I agree. I played it when it first went f2p and up to a certen lvl it's ok but then if u don't pay ur pretty much fu*ked. Could be it changed since then.. I hope it did..

666NightsInHell
666NightsInHell

FAKE FREE TO PLAY GAME, game is very LIMITED for free players so no point to waste time, just hate when companies LIE, a;lso game is for sick DD addicts. too much need to learn and read to play for realmm,also hard to say its multplayer game, like in LOTRO all the time you play solo, only multiplayer thing is chat and 1% mmo

cboak29
cboak29

I've played a little bit of DDO. I found it to be fun, but having other MMOs to play I never got into it too much. I have also been a little disappointed it was not based on Faerun, so this new direction is quite interesting to me.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@makryu -- Pardon? I took the opportunity to share my thoughts about a developer I respect, as well as to provide information about a newly announced expansion. My job is to share my thoughts. If saying something nice makes something sound like an advertisement, well, I could have just listed a bunch of facts. But that would have been terribly boring.

evilross
evilross

DDO is a pretty darn good game. I used to play it a lot, but have been away for a few years. If I find the time it may be a good time to go back and see how the game has progressed.

makryu
makryu

Sorry, smells like advertisement...

Raeldor
Raeldor

I think LOTRO is THE best MMO out there right now. I may have to have a dip into D&D Online too, if it's by the same makers, especially since SWTOR was such a disappointment.