This is a comprehensive review of the brand new adventure pack for Update 8. This quest series is for level 13 characters and is available to VIPs on December 13th and Free to Play or Premium players who purchase the adventure pack with Turbine Points after December 15th. First of all, I will explain the review process. A description of each adventure, spoiler free, is first presented and then each is rated in four categories: content, challenge, audio, and visuals. Content regards what many players consider the "flavor" of an adventure, its originality, dialogue, and interesting features. Challenge indicates how difficult the quest is compared to others of its level, including appropriateness of challenge. Audio is concerned with the sound track, aural effects, and voice-overs. Visual is the graphics, special effects and anything else that makes the adventure pack visually appealing. Each category is rated from 1 to 5, 1 being uninspired and 5 being exceptional. An average of scores is presented at the end. At the very end, two extra values, Loot and XP, are included for the final evaluation.
This adventure pack is a follow up to the very well done prelude quests available in the Lordsmarch Plaza for Update 7 (Diplomatic Immunity, Frame Work, and Eyes of Stone). While it is not necessary to complete these quests to participate in the Attack on Stormreach, it does help give you a better sense of what is going on in Stormreach these days.
If you wish to do the chain in order, you begin by speaking with Darmon Kosh, a brutish half-orc working for the Coin Lords who can be found in the middle of the Lordsmarch Plaza. After each chapter of the chain you may return to Kosh for more details and he will explain the next quest. However the actual quest givers can all be found in the Lordsmarch Palace. After the completion of the final quest, Siegebreaker, you return to Darmon Kosh for a special end reward that includes some of the unique items you might have looted in chests along the way, as well as a chance at a special item you can use in crafting.
Assault on Summerfield
We begin the adventure pack with news that Stormreach is under attack (again). This time, the troops of the monster nation of Droaam have invaded in the lightly guarded district of Summerfield, an area of Stormreach previously inaccessible to adventurers. The various monsters that make up the fighting forces of Droaam are looting and pillaging and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Countless Stormreach soldiers and militia members are down and Captain Markus, the official in charge of keeping order over the area is in over his head. Your mission is simple, repel the invaders and slay their general, the ogre Tagherist.
I found the adventure enjoyable, but short and not too demanding on resources. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this adventure was the fact that it is not a linear quest of the type where you follow a dungeon room by room with basically one direction to go. You can travel about the district in any order you see fit, and you don't have to go everywhere to complete the objectives. While this might sound attractive to those who like to rush through quests for the completion XP, the many optionals are quite worthwhile for the rewards, both in terms of experience and bonus chests, however it was my experience that the optionals must be completed before the main objectives to earn these bonus chests.
The visuals were the best part about this adventure. The fire and smoke looked quite realistic, and I really love the new models for the enemies in this quest. Their motions are fluid and their designs are very inspired. The directions given in the quest could have been better, given the non-linear nature, but they were adequate, and it gets much easier to understand upon repetition. Some of the monsters have entertaining quips as they run about, which was a fun portion of the quest. Overall, it was a satisfying way to start the pack. But like an appetizer, I was left thirsting for more.
Ships from Droaam have begun to lay mines in the bay surrounding the Harbor of Stormreach. This has created a blockade of the city, and without trade, the city of Stormreach will soon wither and die, allowing the Droaamites total control of the area. The ships must be taken down and the blockade ended.
This quest was hands-down my favorite of the bunch. It provided clear and evident objectives, a good challenge that rewarded a balanced party without requiring it, and plenty of well-done environmental effects to make the quest an excellent and enjoyable experience.
You begin on a raft in the middle of the Harbor and sneak out to the bay at night to take the blockading Droaam ships by surprise. This element was very unique in its presentation. You can take the ships one on one if you like or split the group to complete the quest more quickly if all your party members are capable enough to handle themselves. The reflection of the moon upon the water, the sounds of the waves, and alarm bells of the ships once the Droaamites discovered your presence really added a lot to the experience.
I found the adventure suitably challenging, particularly when facing some of the ship captains. You will encounter a few original effects here that you haven't seen before so look out! Also the ships were laid out in a clean logistical manner, but still made "dungeon-like" enough to present a clear route of objectives. There were plenty of opportunities for bonus chests as well, compared to the length and difficulty of the quest. Overall it was very fun and exciting, with lots of explosions to marvel at towards the end.
In a surprise assault on Stormreach, the monsters of Droaam have actually burrowed underneath the city. And now they are pouring into the Lordsmarch Plaza itself! You must fight off their initial assault and brave the tunnels beneath the city to discover what lies at the end.
This quest begins simply with a fight against wave after wave of monsters. These sorts of fights don't present a lot of challenges for parties at level 13, so I wasn't particularly impressed at this point. However, this was only the beginning. As you head into the tunnels created by the Droaamites, you discover a mischievous little kobold named Kaboom who is the explosives master of the mission. As you chase him through the tunnels, you encounter a number of new monsters and wicked challenges.
I believe this is by far the most challenging of the quests. It presents at least two new scenarios that DDO players have never quite encountered before, and although there are a few ways to deal with these challenges, they will tax your intelligence as you struggle to find the best way to deal with them. On elite, some of them can be absolutely devastating. It definitely requires some teamwork to avoid disaster.
The most fun of this quest comes from using unique items found in the quest, explosive charges that can clear a wall of rock away or be used to blast monsters away. There are a number of creative uses for them that might be apparent, and I'm sure players will discover even more as time goes on. The visual effects are quite good, and the tremors they create on screen add a lot to the experience.
The end of the tunnel under the Lordsmarch Plaza leads to a cavern where the leaders of the Droaam assault have taken lair. It is time to take the fight to them and end the siege once and for all. And when you get to the end, you won't believe who is leading the assault!
The area for this quest is relatively small, but the objectives make it seem much bigger than it really is. There are a good number of orange-named bosses to fight along the way which helps keep the challenge up plus a couple of cleverly designed "traps" to lure curious party members. I found the quest quite entertaining as my groups bumbled through, as if stubbing our toes on the proverbial steps of the adventure.
The final fight of this adventure is really the best part, if only because it introduces you to one of the main villains in Eberron lore. You'll have to get there yourself to find out who, but a lot of hints have been left along the way. There is a fun puzzle to the final part that might seem challenging to some, but is actually much easier than puzzles found in raids like the Shroud. It adds a good bit of ingenuity to the final fight, which is very refreshing. It's no fun these days to get to the end boss only to encounter a beat-fest.
The visuals are nice, but nothing unique to the quest. The audio is actually pretty well done, particularly for the final boss. Overall, this was a very fitting end to the chain.
Something I have noticed more and more as time has gone on is the ever-improving ability of the writing staff to produce immersing adventures that do more than provide a wall of bad-guy "dominoes" to knock over. In this regard, this chain excels. The content is absolutely some of the best Turbine has to offer and shows a lot of care and consideration to plot. This isn't the best adventure pack Turbine has to show for this year, but it is definitely an achievement for an accomplished narrative.
Turbine is also keeping up with the game by providing innovative new ways to challenge players that don't depend on sheer DPS or hit points. Many of the unique challenges provided in this adventure pack rely on player wit as much as character endurance, and that is a strong testament to Turbine's game design.
The producers also continue to provide very dramatic audio to the new adventures. The Dungeon Master voice over is one of the things that makes this game unique and relatable to D&D players who have made the progression from tabletop to digital entertainment, and they have proven time and again this year to provide very engaging narration.
I don't think this quest holds a candle to the most fascinating visual effects this year that were in the Phiarlan Carnival pack, but comparisons aside, this pack contains a number of remarkably well done and well drawn visuals. The art department has consistently provided a fresh face to their adventure packs and is always surprising me with their attention to realism. DDO has become a much grittier game because of it, and I like it.
Finally, special attention is deserved to the loot. A number of the named items are impressive in their own right, but what really caught my attention is the crafting system, wherein players can essentially combine the best function of some of the named items with the function of other named items. There is a veritable trove of new items that can be created this way. It is a fun incentive for players to continue to repeat the quest series with the hope of real tangible rewards for doing so. I am also quite happy that the developers continue to provide a chance for named loot in the final end reward even if you weren't lucky enough to pull what you wanted from the quests themselves. It reduces grind and makes the game more fun. No one wants to run a quest a hundred times to get one specific item.
This adventure pack serves as an excellent capstone to an excellent year. It provided a balanced challenge with great effects and lots of entertainment. I can't wait to see what Turbine has to offer us for next year.