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PAX East 2012: Menace of the Underdark brings big changes to Dungeons and Dragons Online

Dungeons and Dragons Online players are in for a whole new world of adventure when Menace of the Underdark launches this summer. The expansion, due to release on June 25th, will send players into the Forgotten Realms to fight against the Queen of Spiders, Lolth. Executive Producer Fernando Paiz and Senior Producer Eric Boyer welcomed us into their lair... er, Turbine's booth... to talk about the upcoming expansion at this year's PAX East. Read on for our preview!

One of the key features of the Menace of the Underdark expansion is the new areas it'll give players access to: Lolth's domain, the spookily beautiful Demonweb Pits; the still-tightly-under-wraps Underdark; and the landscapes of Faerûn. The transition to these new locations is driven by a storyline revolving around Lolth. After fighting the Spinner of Shadows (Eberron's manifestation of Lolth), players will pursue her through the Demonweb, through the Underdark of Forgotten Realms into Faerûn near a town called Eveningstar. As they're struggling against Lolth's machinations, they will find that strange things are afoot in and around Eveningstar. Forest Hags are spying on the dreams of the townspeople, dryads are becoming indiscriminately violent in response to drow depredations of the forest, and the drow have learned how to sink broad areas into sudden darkness. This tendency of the drow to drop a mini-eclipse over a battlefield, along with adventures in the Underdark, will eventually lead to the inclusion of a new feature called darkvision, which the team is not yet ready to show but is nevertheless very excited about. Darkvision functions pretty much precisely as you'd imagine, and most fans of Dungeons and Dragons and the Forgotten Realms will recognize it as a long-standing part of the mythos.

As they travel through these new areas, players will have access to droves of new mobs: new and improved drow, driders (which differ from the canon driders in that rather than being a punishment from Lolth, they are half-drow, half-spider monstrosities being honored by the chance to be more like the goddess), draegloths (half-demon, half-drow nightmares in possession of a pretty wicked long-distance snare, among other nasty skills), and a host of other appropriately flavored baddies. Along with these garden-variety monsters, some new dragons and other high-powered bosses are being planted in the world. Menace of the Underdark will be introducing green dragons ("Poison is overdue to become scary again," says Fernando, referring to the special attacks of the new green dragons) as well as a new line of red dragons.

Dungeons and Dragons: Menace of the Underdark screenshot
We'll also have exciting gameplay changes to look forward to. Along with updated visuals (grass that waves in reaction to players running through it was one lovely example), DDO on the whole will be experiencing an updated quest style. Certain mobs and quests will have a more randomized appearance in the game world, and some quests may even end differently based on certain circumstances. Fernando gave as an example a group of huntsmen who ask you to dine with them and might either give you perfectly tasty food that'll bestow on you a brief buff... or turn into werewolves totally intent on eating your face. Moreover, players will be able to pursue their Epic Destinies as they take character progression beyond 20 up to 25.

Of course, discussion of this expansion wouldn't be complete without mention of the much-requested new class, the Druid. A long-standing tradition in D&D, the Druid is the last of the core classes to be included in DDO, and it brings a lot of versatility and fun to the table. Druids are a pet class with the ability to level their pets as the characters themselves progress, leading to pet specialization. You can choose, for example, to have a pet that's more tanky than DPS-oriented. More importantly, Druids have natural transformation as a core class mechanic, such that they can follow one of three transformation lines (wolf, bear, and elemental) to customize their style of combat. In addition to those two fun mechanics, Druids have access to one of the richest spellbooks of any class, making them highly effective in many different fighting roles. Druids are a premium class, but they'll be free to VIP players and accessible through expansion bundles.

There's a tremendous amount of story and adventure rolled into the upcoming expansion. Menace of the Underdark will surely bring some long-desired changes and exciting updates to the world of DDO.

Massively's on the ground in Boston during the weekend of April 6-8, bringing you all the best news from PAX East 2012. Whether you're dying to know more about TERA or PlanetSide 2 or any MMO in between, we aim to have it covered!

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