We began our tour by chatting with Ormar, the new NPC in House Kundarak. He kindly agreed to transport us to Red Fens, and I got my first look at the new wilderness area. It's a swamp area, as far removed from the cliffs and jungles of Mammoth Valley as you can get. Although the word "swamp" wouldn't make you think so, the Red Fens area has its own particular visual charm, and I spent a fair amount of time exploring short side-trails in an effort to get a better view.
We encountered a small encampment of Drow right away, where we chatted with a few of the locals regarding the storyline. This encampment is essentially a refugee camp for the Drow, who have been driven away from their previous location in the Red Fens by our old friends the Sahuagin. They've grown a little bolder lately, venturing inland and invading the area for some unknown purpose. Of course, our job is to make things right.
The first order of business in this case was to check out the ziggurat off to the north. The Drow refugees said we'd find more information and some prisoners there, so off we went. Along the way, we began encountering some of the local flora and fauna, as well as some residents that were markedly less friendly than the Drow. We lucked into a rare for our very first encounter: Fencreeper the Swamp Stalker. Swamp Stalker is evidently another name for "horrible huge spider," but we took him down handily and got a sneak peek at one of the rares in the bargain before moving on.
Our trip through the swamp introduced quite a few new creatures besides the horrible huge spider, such as the will-o-wisps, which are nice to look at until you get too close. Then they start dispensing fear and lightning damage. Mud men are another new treat too -- giant creatures composed of mud who will -- surprise -- throw mud at you. Stalkers are pretty common and have a nasty tendency to mire you in a large pile of brambles (Spike Growth), so if you stumble upon a group of those, plan on being stationary for at least a little bit. Finally, you'll encounter fen cats, pantherlike creatures that roam in packs.
The wilderness area is both a treat for the eye and a challenge. It contains the usual batch of slayer, explorer, and rare encounter goals, and is someplace I'll enjoy exploring next week. My time during the tour was limited, because we had to go check out the exciting new feature of this update: underwater combat. For the sake of saving time, we were already flagged for The Sahuagin Stronghold, the final quest in the series.
This quest led us to a group of Sahuagin rebels who were ready and willing to help us kill off their high priestess, which seemed a bit unusual at best until they explained themselves. The Sahuagin invasion that had driven the Drow from their homes was a result of the high priestess and her new religious leanings. She had abandoned The Devourer and focused her attention on a creature from another plane. The Sahuagin rebels are adamant that she die for this betrayal, but "it is not fitting for any Sahuagin to do this deed," and that's where you come in.
This quest takes place at the bottom of the ocean, inside the high priestess's palace. Since we are what the Deep Water Sahuagin call "surfacers," they're prepared to cast a spell to protect us from the water pressure and lack of air that is a part of hanging out on the ocean floor. It's an interesting effect, because you can breathe fine, and combat speed is unaffected. But there is still an extreme amount of water pressure outside of your protective bubble, so you can't swim about freely -- you're restricted to the ocean floor. Moving about is a bit slower as well, but you will build momentum and move more quickly if you keep walking. The Sahuagin, being natives of the area, have a bit of an advantage over you in this respect. They'll swim down from above to attack, so keep an eye out in all directions. This has a fairly amusing side effect; when you kill them, they'll float toward the surface belly up, much like a dearly departed pet goldfish.
The underwater environment gave the artists a chance to really explore a different look and feel, and the area holds plenty of visual interest, both for its unusual look and its overall beauty. There are a handful of optionals that give you a chance to explore and give you some extra allies in the bargain, so be sure you chat with the locals as you move around. Eventually you'll make your way to the inner sanctum, where the high priestess awaits. This area, while damp, isn't fully submerged, so you'll find that you've got full freedom of movement here. In traditional evil-nemesis-style, the high priestess will hang out on a high ledge out of harm's way, shouting about how you'll never defeat her evil plans, while sending waves of minions in to deal with you.
Eventually you'll take them all out, and she'll grow bored with taunting and leap down to deal with you herself. Obviously I've avoided giving everything away throughout the tour, but I'll give one hint: remember that bonus enemy after you looted the end chest in Partycrashers? The really tough one? The Turbine team seems to have liked the idea of bonus end monsters quite a bit.
Update 6 and the Red Fens Adventure Pack are scheduled for release next week. The pack will be available for VIP players Tuesday and in the DDO
store for all other players at a cost of 450 TP on Thursday. For now, check out the gallery below for a look at the Red Fens Adventure Pack.
Thanks for your time, Ian and Eric!