We’ve continued our party-of-three adventures in Dungeons & Dragons Online this weekend with two sessions running the instances accessible from the Red Fens wilderness adventure area. This swampy area has a lot of details to it apart from the dungeons it gives access to, but with limited time for play we chose to focus mainly on the quests given by the friendly Drow in the area – a series of four different instanced dungeons.
Swamp zones can be rather one-note in character, flora and fauna. If you’ve fought a dozen crocodiles and giant spiders already you can get bored pretty quickly. Although Red Fens certainly has its share of giant spiders (ick!), it has some pretty fantastical opponents too, true to the games Dungeons & Dragons roots.
Some of them are actually quite vicious as well, the will-o’-wisps in particular with their lighting bolt attacks can surprise a party with spikey damage. The dungeons accessed from the fens echo my previous DDO post’s sentiment that past the starter zones this game has some really varied and creative locations to visit.
The four zones in question span a partially flooded ziggurat, a fire giant cavern complex, a Drow village under assault and a sprawling undersea zone. All of them are interesting with their own quirks and specific dangers from the lava in the cavern, the threat of drowning in the ziggurat and the need to protect NPCs in the village.
I could write quite an essay if I did blow by blow accounts of these dungeons, all but the village are long adventures with many different challenges, traps and objectives that require some exploration and back-tracking. We had an absolute blast on this content, not least because it was in places very challenging even on normal. We are a trio of level 9 characters, the specified level for this content pack.
I’d say we are experienced MMORPG players and we work very well as a team – we’ve been playing MMOs together for 13 or so years now. But we are much less experienced at DDO and the game has its own challenges, almost unique to the genre. The prominence and potential dangers represented by traps is a level above most games. Traps can kill your character if you’re caught unawares – which is exactly how we like it. Discovering new content has been the biggest enjoyment out of this free content access period for me, and I dare say the others too.
As ever my favourite thing of these sessions is exploring new zones and facing new challenges. The artistry of the zones continues to delight me, the underwater Sahuagin Stronghold really blew me away with its size, ethereal beauty and majesty. The choice for this longest of the dungeons to not have free 3-D movement was probably a very sensible one. Shorter sections of free swimming in the Ziggurat can feel novel from a gameplay perspective, but an entire zone of it could be annoying. Unlike in other MMOs featuring underwater zones, DDO keeps to the pen and paper rules in terms of the restrictions such environments impose on a character, e.g. no casting fire spells. Blocking those for the whole long quest in the Stronghold could seriously negate a player’s character development decisions, but it isn’t such an issue as much of the action takes place in dry indoor buildings.
All in all another really great quest arc, one we may even repeat for more of the lovely set bonus magical treasures that can be found in these various quest zones. We’re tantalising close to level 10 now, just a rank or so to go. Push onwards to Ravenloft!