DDO's Menace of the Underdark releasing June 25th, opens up pre-orders

DDO Menace of the Underdark
Speaking of Guinness World Records for video games, I wonder whether Dungeons and Dragons Online would be eligible for "Longest time between game release and launch of its first expansion?" Six years may just be the longest we've ever witnessed, as DDO released in 2006, and it wasn't until 2012 that Menace of the Underdark was revealed. The good news is that come June 25th, the drought will be over.

We asked Turbine why now seemed like a good time for an expansion. The devs said that Atari had made some noise back in the day about one, but it never came to fruition. With the success of free-to-play, Turbine wanted to see whether the expansion model was still viable, so Lord of the Rings Online was chosen as a test subject. When Rise of Isengard became the best-selling expansion for the company, the company felt secure letting DDO have a chance, although there was quite a lot of wrangling with Wizards of the Coast about the details and permissions.

Record or no, it's an exciting event for DDO players, and the today, Turbine has announced the two biggest details for the expansion's schedule. The first is that Menace of the Underdark has a release date, and the second is the opening of pre-orders. Read on to get all of the juicy infos.

Wizard
The best of both worlds

Other than the reality that there will be an expansion for DDO, the most eyebrow-raising fact about Menace of the Underdark is that it will branch out into the Forgotten Realms setting. For D&D neophytes out there, the franchise has numerous campaign settings (think "worlds"), each with its own theme, rules, and flavor. DDO was set in the high adventure world of Eberron, where magic, technology, and steampunk co-existed. This is in stark contrast to the more traditional fantasy setting of the Forgotten Realms, where nary a Warforged is to be seen.

Turbine said that it isn't walking away from Eberron but still wanted to fulfill one of the playerbase's greatest wishes. Forgotten Realms is one of the most popular settings in D&D, with games like Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, not to mention R.A. Salvatore's popular novels, taking place on the continent of Faerûn.

We previously talked about how Turbine had to work hand-in-hand with Wizards of the Coast to come up with a logical way to connect the settings without breaking any established D&D rules. Fortunately, there have always been ways in the rulebooks for players to traverse worlds, and a solution was found using the Demonweb as a bridge.

The cool thing is that during this collaboration, Wizards allowed Turbine to tie the game into the main storyline that Wizards is currently developing for the franchise, which includes the rise of the spider-demon Lolth. "It's great we get to tell our own side of that same story," Executive Producer Fernando Paiz told us.

The expansion will feature the city of Eveningstar, the surrounding area of King's Forest, the Underdark, and the Drow city of Sschindlyryn (say that three times fast!). This is only the first few steps into the Forgotten Realms, Turbine told us, as Update 14 in August will continue to expand the world. This update will contain the game's second full-scale raid, by the way.

Mask girl
Druids: No one knows who they were or what they were doing...

If venturing into the Forgotten Realms was one of two top player requests for DDO, a Druid class was the other one. Turbine's been working on Druids for a while, and the team is quite excited to show you the end result.

Druids are an insanely versitile class, able to tackle a wide range of situations with a large toolbox. Their signature ability allows them to assume animal forms, which will disable some skills while enabling special ones. Right now we know about the wolf form (DPS) and bear (tank), although Turbine promises that more forms are in the works as well. These forms all have their own animations and emotes, from running to dancing and even crying.

When not tapping into their animalistic sides, Druids can wield one of the most complete spellbooks in the game. Druid spells range from combat pet summons to fire magic to healing spells.

Spider graveyard
Expanding content waistlines

The core of Menace of the Underdark will be three adventure packs -- The King's Forest, The Underdark, and The Demonweb -- each with its own explorable wilderness area and set of quests (we weren't told how many quests will be in the final product). In addition, Turbine's creating special challenge quests for Eveningstar, similar (but in smaller numbers) than those released with Update 12.

Considering that all of this new content will be doling out XP like there's no tomorrow, Turbine is raising the level cap for players from 20 to 25.

With the expansion also comes something called Epic Destinies. This is a new advancement system that's meant to run parallel with regular leveling past 20. While we weren't privy to the nitty-gritty details, we were told that part of a player's post-20 power comes from these Epic Destinies, so to create a well-rounded character, you'll need to partake in both leveling and EDs.

Preorder chart
Pre-orders and the Chamber of Secrets

For its first DDO expansion, Turbine is pulling out all the stops to create a wide variety of options for pre-order purchases. The base edition is $30 and comes with the adventure packs and Epic Destinies; the standard edition is $50 and includes the packs, Destinies, Druid class, and Eveningstar Challenge pack; and the collector's edition is $80 and includes the above with a whole bunch of other in-game goodies.

First things first: If you're a VIP (subscribing) player, you will get both the Druid class and Eveningstar Challenge for free. Also, Turbine wanted to make it clear that with Update 14, you will be able to buy the adventure packs, challenge pack, Druid class, and Epic Destinies separately with Turbine Points if that's your desire.

However, it might behoove you to get in on the pre-order deal, as all three of the editions come with several bonuses and items that will go away once the expansion launches on the 25th of June.

Perhaps the coolest pre-order bonus is the Tome of Learning. This allows you to bestow a permanent buff on your character that grants an XP boost up until level 20. Greater Tomes grant a +20% XP buff (which stacks with other in-game bonuses), but that goes up to +50% if it's your first time through a dungeon. Lesser Tomes offer +10/+25% buffs instead. Base edition purchasers get one Lesser Tome per server, standard edition purchasers get one Greater Tome per server, and CE holders get one Greater Tome per world and one Lesser Tome per character. The Tomes are designed to help speed up leveling so that players can experience the expansion content sooner than they would otherwise.

There's a wide range of other pre-order bonuses, including veteran status, Turbine Points, adventure pack bundles, cosmetic gear, and the first exclusive customizable in-game creature companions. The good news is that if you choose to pre-order any of these editions, you'll get all the non-expansion bonuses and items right away!

Turbine did mention that all expansion purchases -- pre-order or otherwise -- are strictly digital, with no physical box copies planned for retail outlets.

Menace of the Underdark is obviously a huge play on Turbine's part to bolster DDO, and from the looks of its content and pre-order details, the company is not doing things in half-measures. Fernando Paiz says that this is exactly the expansion that the team wanted to deliver for a while now: "Turbine is gamers too. Everyone's excited to go there and deliver a different kind of experience and different kind of world that we've seen in DDO up till now."
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This article was originally published on Massively.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.