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Creating the DDO: Shadowfell Conspiracy character of your dreams


Last week, we sat down with Turbine to look at Dungeons and Dragons Online: Shadowfell Conspiracy's new adventure hub of Wheloon. But running through these special missions and dungeons are only part of the expansion, as your character's growth and build are always at the core of DDO. So for our second sit-down session covering the upcoming expansion, Turbine chose to focus on the three new iconic classes coming to the game and the overhaul to the enhancement system that should make building the character of your dreams a lot easier.

Prior to adding new enhancements, reincarnations, or epic destinies, DDO had only a meager 250,000,000,000,000 possible builds to choose from. No, we didn't fall asleep pressing the "0" key. But now the choices are even greater, which is why it's of increasing importance that players understand what their characters are capable of doing and how to best build a functional toon. After all, even Turbine admits that many of the 250 trillion builds "are not really great to play with."

So what will be fun to play? And why should players be interested in rolling one of the new iconic classes instead of sticking with their tried-and-true Bards?

Creating the DDO Shadowfell Conspiracy character of your dreams
Iconic classes

The first of the four so-called iconic classes, the Bladeforged, came to the game in Update 18. The remaining three, however, are waiting for their grand debut in Shadowfell Conspiracy. Each of these classes is like a beefed-up version of a traditional class while offering a few fun twists that haven't been seen yet.

Iconic classes begin at level 15 and in the Forgotten Realms, allowing players to skip low-level Eberron content and pretend that it doesn't even exist. Eberron? What's that? We just want our owlbears! Each of these new classes will begin in a special area where they'll have a chat with some dude named Elminster and get a little bit of backstory before heading out into Wheloon.

We predict that the Shadar-Kai will be immensely popular with the DDO set. Not only are they based on the Rogue class, but they have an emo-punk look that is unlike anything else in the game. Let's just say that players who pick a Shadar-Kai will spend a lot of time on the character creation screen, fiddling with special hairstyles, scars, blind eyes, tattoos, piercings, and makeup.

The Shadar-Kai are not the nicest of folks when you meet them in the game, but player characters are the exception: They've thrown off the yoke of their oppressors and rejected the Shadowfell in coming to the Forgotten Realms to do some good. Between whipping a weapon in circles to do massive AoE chain attacks and disappearing into a puff of purple smoke, Shadar-Kai have the tactical option to meet the enemy head-on or via stealthy backstabbing.

Creating the DDO Shadowfell Conspiracy character of your dreams
Do you like Clerics but want a little more oomph in your diet? Then you'll want to pick a Morninglord. These characters have the best of all worlds: good armor, good healing, defensive capabilities, and plenty of offensive attacks. Their natural light-based damage is put to good use against undead and shadows, and you'll be seeing plenty of both in the expansion.

Turbine knows that not every Cleric player wants to be a buff/healbot, which is why Morninglords have several great options to branch out. One of the most interesting is the Divine Disciple build that allows players to choose whether their character is specializing in light or dark spells. Want to shoot off sun bolts? Go light. Want to mimic a Pale Master? Go dark.

Finally, we got a look at the grape-flavored Purple Dragon Knight. This advanced Fighter class is a wrongfully accused soldier who is looking to restore his honor. The defining ability of the Purple Dragon Knight is that he can choose to draw upon charisma instead of strength as a primary stat, allowing him to synergize well with charisma-based classes. Want to multi-spec into a Purple Dragon Knight/Paladin/Sorcerer that wields a broadsword while tossing out burning hands spells? Nobody's stopping you!

The Purple Dragon Knight has a wide array of talents to make him a fearsome opponent on the battlefield. He can buff his entire party with rallying cry, giving a good boost to movement and attack speed. Spec him right and the PDK gets a hefty emergency heal that can fill up your red bar even if there are no gas stations in sight.

Creating the DDO Shadowfell Conspiracy character of your dreams
Enhancement system overhaul

The old enhancement system was seen as far too confusing and "too esoteric" by players and the dev team, and any effort to organize those enhancements into a grid or talent tree created a mess. So Turbine decided to scrap the old system and create a new one from scratch, cannibalizing select enhancements from the past while building up a much more clear UI.

The new enhancement screen organizes things into different trees for your race and class (one of the former and three of the latter), allowing you to easily choose a specialty or generalize if you wish with your action points. At the bottom of each of these trees is a row of the most iconic enhancements for that build; they can be accessed immediately. Other enhancements have to be worked up to by investing points into the tree as with other MMO talent UIs. For example, the Shadar-Kai has a racial screen that includes enhancements for her chain attack.

Each tree has a specific focus that can radically change your character's role. It's the difference between a Fighter going the full-on tank route or specializing in a single weapon. You can spread out your points between trees as much as you like, although you'll be allowed access to the capstone abilities of only one class tree at a time. Respeccing is pretty simple now; players can do it by refunding either a tree's points or all enhancement points.

You can have up to three different classes, each with three different talent trees. That will spread your points pretty thinly. You will have 80 enhancement points at level 20, after which you'll move on to your epic destinies, which were introduced in an earlier update. In fact, it was the strong reception of epic destinies that further prompted Turbine to reconsider its UI for enhancements.

Turbine is proud of the sheer number of build combinations and flexiblity that it's created for DDO. Whether you're a min-maxer or just want to create a character that fits your style and is fun to play, the studio says that it's happy when you're happy.

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?

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