Wheloon was a former boomtown in the Forgotten Realms that gradually became infested with nasty Shar worshippers. Rather than deal with the cult head-on, the king ordered that the town be walled up and repurposed as a jail. Unfortunately, many of the innocent townsfolk were forced to stay there alongside the cultists and newly added criminals.
Wheloon is also the starting point for Shadowfell Conspiracy's
story, and players will need to break into the sizable prison to find out what exactly is going on. This may be the easiest part of the whole ordeal, since all you need to do is a swan dive over the wall. Don't forget to grab a few NPC henchmen first!
The new inhabitants of the town haven't been kind to the place, as Wheloon is trashed six ways from Sunday. It's not a huge area but it does have a lot of great platforming touches, including rooftop escapades and destructible statues.
Flying gargoyles swoop down to attack, so be on your guard. Wheloon is stuffed with random events, so it's fun to just run around with a group and trigger them. You could be ambushed by rooftop archers one minute and then be tasked with breaking up a recruiting rally the next. While relatively small, Wheloon has identifiable sections populated by different factions: the townsfolk, the criminals, the Shar, the Netherese, and the monsters.
There are plenty of dungeons to explore, too. The first one that will advance your story is the Drainage Culverts. It's here that many of the innocent folk have holed up out of fear. Unfortunately for them, the criminals have discovered their secret and started to invade the place. Better warn and protect the good guys!
Turbine hasn't done many sewers since Stormreach and wanted to give the Culverts a distinct look. So rather than reuse old tiles, the team created new sewer graphics from scratch. To our eye, these sewers are large and airy, although they reek of age.
There are also plenty of new enemies in Wheloon, including the Shadar-kai. Players will have to deal with Trapsmiths (hint: attack them from behind), powerful Shades, and Shadow Puppeteers. The latter have a wicked ability to enslave nice people and use them against your party.
Our next instance amped up the Escape from New York connection by tasking us with the rescue of a kidnapped magistrate. The boss fight here is particularly tricky, as your team must deal with an enraged jailor, howler dogs that debuff you, and a series of traps that will kill the magistrate if you can't disarm them fast enough.
As you get closer to the conspiracy (Turbine didn't want to spoil the plot too much, so much of this story was kept veiled from our prying eyes), you'll need to barge into the Netherese Recruitment Center. It's here that the Netherese are organizing the Shar into an army for some purpose or other. You can choose to "sign up" with your mace if you like.
If you thought the enemies were difficult before, just wait until you start fighting Shadows. These creatures are virtually invisible in a dimly lit room, so it's advisable to light any nearby braziers on fire before attempting to fight. Shadows also take extra damage from light-based spells, so keep that in mind.
At the end of this instance you'll fall into the Shadowfell, a place of eerie stillness, shadows, and the color purple. "You can see it's dark and purple, as it should be. We decided that there wasn't enough purple in the game," the devs said.
Oh hey, is that a monstrous crawler worm that wants to eat your face? It totally is.
All of this leads you to the center of town, where Oldstone Hall awaits. This is where life gets far more tricky for you. Since Oldstone has come under the sway of the Netherese, it exists in both the material plane and the Shadowfell. You'll need to master both to survive and make progress. You can do this with the help of a magical mirror that allows you to flip between the real world and the Shadowfell.
Where a barricade might exist in one dimension, the hall will be free and clear in the other. Where a room might be empty in one realm, it could be full of bad guys in the next. To make matters even more interesting, your party can split up between realms.
The last stop on our tour is a Netherese tavern, where merriment is not to be found but magical mischief is. This is where you'll begin to encounter new types of traps that will animate local objects -- tables, chairs, crates -- and send them against you as enemies. You can preemptively smash them to bits, disarm the traps, or just deal with the consequences. There's even a boss that's constructed of various flotsam and jetsam: Hunkajunk. He's fun to fight, because you'll see parts of him fly off when his health goes down.
That's it for today's Shadowfell Conspiracy
tour! Tip your writers with compliments and discussion below.
Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?