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Hands-on with Dungeons and Dragons Online's Update 12: Vaults of the Artificers

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Turbine has kept to a regular schedule of updates for Dungeons and Dragons Online for a long time now, which means that it's time for us to start preparing for Update 12. The updates have been pretty exciting, rolling out new adventure packs, bringing new races and classes, and introducing a detailed crafting system.

The focus on Update 12 is the new adventure pack, one that is a sharp departure from the previous packs. While earlier adventure packs have been story-driven, some even serving as a continuing story arc from their predecessors, this one serves as pure fun for players to challenge themselves with. DDO devs Eric Boyer and Ian Currie were kind enough to invite me on a tour of the new content, so follow along after the jump to see all the details!

The guys were quick to point out that this new content is very similar to Crystal Cove, so if you liked that challenge you're going to love this adventure pack. I happened to be one of the players who couldn't get enough of Crystal Cove, so I was excited and eager to start the first challenge. Before diving in, however, we took a moment to talk over the details of the adventure pack. It turns out that the gameplay isn't the only thing different about this content. Where previous adventure packs took an all-or-nothing approach to access, Update 12, titled Vaults of the Artificers, takes a slightly more liberal approach. VIP players will automatically receive the adventure pack free of charge, and anyone else can purchase it with Turbine Points, but there will be one free challenge for all players each day.

Kariya Ir'Vannis, the Daily Challenge Tokens NPC, will grant five Challenge Tokens daily. The challenge offered changes each day, so even completely free-to-play fans will have a nice variety of play available with a little patience.

What are Challenge Tokens, you ask? This handy little addition to DDO gives access to the relevant challenge as well as some goodies from the Cannith Supply Vault, a sort of vending machine for buffs. The vaults are located just inside each challenge and will spit out a random buff if you insert a token. For example, on my first try the machine said "Universal aggravator released," and I was granted "Hate Magnet," which gave me +80 to my Intimidate skill for 60 seconds. Enemies loved (well, hated) me, charging past everyone else in the party to take me on. (As an amusing side note, the vault's description said "Eats Challenge Tokens for Stuff" when I hovered over it. Ian and Eric assured me that was just a placeholder description, but I voted that it was perfect just the way it was.) Kariya's five daily tokens are enough for players to enjoy challenges more than once a day and pick up a few boosts along the way. Extra tokens will also be available in the DDO Store.

Once we covered how the content is to be distributed, it was time to check out our first challenge: Moving Targets. Moving Targets took us into the mansion of outlaw Wizard Dr. Rushmore, where he was holed up with some of his fellow outlaws. Of course the primary objective was to find Rushmore, but it got more complicated than that almost right away -- and I mean that in the best way. The mansion was huge and imposing, full of twists, turns, and doors, and nothing was quite what it seemed. I learned this the hard way when I noticed a large portrait of a Warforged hanging on a nearby wall. Being a sucker for environmental details, I hurried over to snap a screenshot.

Whoops. The eyes in the portrait glowed red, as did the gem at the top of the picture frame, and the thing started spewing enemies at me. Of course I still had Hate Magnet on me, so they gleefully ran right past Ian and Eric to start pounding on me. This little surprise came with my first optional of the challenge: to activate every portrait of Warforged, with a note that I had "35 left." Whoa, 35 of those big paintings? A lot of space is needed to have room for that many paintings. I was immediately impressed with how big the mansion was, especially considering that this was just one one 12 different challenge instances.

Of course, there was much more than just finding a bunch of paintings. We were also racing against time trying to track down Rushmore and his buddies before time ran out, and more optional challenges popped up as we ran around looking for him. There were also checkpoints here and there that awarded extra time. On top of all that, Rushmore would occasionally give us hints as to his location, shouting things like "I can't abide these ruffians in my mansion, I'm heading back to the hidden sanctum for now!" If you can get to the hidden sanctum quickly enough, you can confront him early on, but after my tour of this challenge, I don't recommend doing that at the first opportunity, not because it's too hard but because you'll miss so much! Like I said, I'm a sucker for environments, and the ones I saw in this new adventure pack are well worth the exploration. There's also the allure of the optional challenges, racing against the clock, strategizing with your teammates, and the ever-changing core of these challenges. There are rewards aplenty as well, more than just XP, gold, and cool loot. As with Crystal Cove, you'll accumulate various items that can be given to challenge traders in exchange for gear of all levels.

Moving Targets, as well as another challenge I toured briefly, gave me a great feel for how the new adventure pack will play out, and I was extremely impressed by both the volume and quality. There are a dozen different challenges in the pack, which is an impressive number on its own. Each challenge offers a large map and several optionals, and when you take into consideration that each challenge has incredibly generous scaling options as well, you start to get an idea of how much is on offer here.

I'm anxiously waiting for Update 12 to go live. If you are too, you can pass the time by checking out the information page and the brand-new dev diary on the DDO site. Thanks to Ian and Eric for their hospitality in introducing me to DDO Update 12!

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