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Massively's tour of Dungeons and Dragons Online Update 7

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Last month at PAX, Dungeons and Dragons Online Executive Producer Fernando Paiz said that the development team has plans to start creating more content for higher-level players. Over the past year, the team has focused on constructing plenty of content for the huge influx of new free-to-play players, and now it's time to turn attention back to the +10 half of the playerbase.

Update 7 is our first look at what's to come. The quest series is in the level 12 range, a bit higher than what we've seen in the past months. It's free-to-play, which makes it even more appealing, and heavily features the two new races, the half-elf and the half-orc.

Fernando and Producer Erik Boyer were kind enough to spend some time showing off part of the new content and updates, so follow along after the jump for a first look at Update 7, titled Half Bloods.

Gallery: DDO Update 7 tour | 30 Photos

I started my tour with a closer look at these two new races, including their fun incidentals like emotes. My graceful half-elf charmed passers-by with some pretty ballet moves while the two half-orcs... well, rocked out. These characters seem like the fun-loving type but aren't to be trifled with. They can /taunt with the best of them, with a sassy little booty-spank from the half-elf and some aggressive flexing from the half-orcs.

Once I'd finished cavorting around and giggling madly at the /taunt emotes, it was time to get down to business. The new adventure pack is titled "Droaam" and begins by introducing us to a Droaam ambassador inside Lordsmarch Palace, a Medusa named Hesstess. The story stems from her desire to establish a colony for the residents of her nation, and if you protest this she'll put you in your place pretty effectively. It's nice to see some new races hanging around Xen'drik, as they're almost certain to present some interesting viewpoints along the way.

After our chat with Hesstess, we headed out to Lordsmarch Plaza, a brand-new public area where diplomat Naleen Lassite was waiting with news. As always, nothing is as simple as it seems, and it turns out Hesstess didn't arrive alone. She landed on the Skyfall Coast with several Droaam ships. It's a pretty big party for a simple diplomatic visit, so things are tricky. Naleen wants us to find out what these ships are all about without offending the powerful Droaam, so it's time to be sneaky. We headed to the coast to discover something disturbing -- multiple ships unloading siege weapons, arms, and soldiers.

This set the stage for a quest arc full of full of intrigue, danger, new zones, and new enemies. I was impressed with what I saw of this adventure pack for several reasons. It is well-put-together, carries an intriguing storyline, and sets us on the path to more high-level content. And best of all it's free!

Update 7 brings one more piece of new content that I'm especially excited about. The Chronoscope is a new 12-man raid, but it's level six. This is the first raid below level 10 that Turbine has introduced, and I think it will turn out to be a perfect vehicle for introducing newer players to raids. We've had a year of letting the new players join and settle in, and it feels a little like Turbine is turning an eye toward integrating the newer players with the more experienced ones. This "starter raid" will help with that.

In addition to acting as a "gateway raid," The Chronoscope solves an age-old DDO mystery. Nat Gann disappeared way back when and his fate has been a mystery ever since. The Phiarlan Carnival adventure pack teased us a bit -- we thought we'd find out what happened to poor Nat, but in the end it turned out to be a mere wastebasket. This should solve the mystery once and for all.

The new content and races are great, but some of the other updates are just as exciting. The impending addition of a search string to the auction house is a huge relief to... well, pretty much everyone who has ever used the thing. I spent some time poring over the new UI as well and was pleasantly surprised.

So often it's the little things that make the game a more enjoyable experience. Some minor changes to the UI when you've died, for example, will make the game easier on the eyes. The screen will be a bit brighter, allowing you to see where you are going. In place of a separate button that asks you to release out will be a recall button that simply tranforms when appropriate. A less cluttered UI and the ability to see where you're going when dead seem like little things, but they make for a more pleasant game experience.

I also checked out the general character and inventory windows and enjoyed the new setup immensely. One thing that's always bothered me in DDO is the disorganization of inventory and items. Once Update 7 arrives, your inventory will contain a series of tabs along the top to organize your items by type. There are tabs for weapons, armor, clothing, wands, components and more. It's not a huge game-altering change, but being able to find what we're looking for more easily is something we can all appreciate.

In the end, I was pretty happy with everything Erik and Fernando had to show me. As I stated before, it feels like Turbine is beginning to turn an eye toward higher-level content, and I know a lot of players will appreciate that. The UI and inventory changes make for a cleaner, more organized gameplay experience, something that I think the entire fanbase will enjoy.

I look forward to seeing Update 7 arrive on the live servers. Check out the included gallery for a little tour of some of what's new in DDO -- I think you'll like it as much as I did.

Thanks for your time, Erik and Fernando!

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