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Dungeons and Dragons Online allies with Ed Greenwood to revive Haunted Halls of Eveningstar


Along with the names Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, Ed Greenwood is a keystone figure in the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. It was from his mind that the Forgotten Realms and Elminster sprang, and it's to his mind that Turbine has turned to make DDO's next update something truly memorable. So to celebrate D&D's 40th anniversary, Turbine and Greenwood have collaborated to bring the players an online version of the classic Haunted Halls of Eveningstar module.

Even if you've played Haunted Halls as a pen-and-paper adventurer, you'll be in for a new treat this time around. Turbine's created two versions of the dungeon, one that mimics the original module and an extended version that uses Greenwood's unpublished notes. Plus, for the first time in DDO, Greenwood himself will provide the narration and optional commentary as the module's DM.

We sat down with Turbine to take a look at how Update 21: The Legendary Halls is shaping up and what players will be in for when the past of pen-and-paper meets the present of online gaming.

The Haunted Halls

This 2nd Edition D&D module will be one of the most sizable adventures added to the game to date. The team said that it's easily three times the size of a typical DDO dungeon, so the devs fully expect players to tackle it over a series of nights instead of in one go. The fact that its difficulty level is CR28 means that it, like most of Update 21, will be for experienced veterans only.

Turbine said that it tried its utmost to create the definitive Haunted Halls of Eveningstar based on Greenwood's guidance and the original module art. It might not be something every player will recognize, but those who take a look around and see formerly static images come to life should be impressed.

Once players run through and finish the dungeon, they'll unlock the optional extended mode. It's here that a brand-new encounter will take place with Whisper, a rather devious wizard. He's just one in a line of Whispers who tend to get knocked off and replaced by their apprentices. Whisper will use a variety of wands and apprentice summons to bewilder and overwhelm players during a difficult fight.

They dug too deep

Cribbing Lord of the Rings' Moria in more than one way, Thunderholme is serious fun even so. Thunderholme consists of two raids and an adventure area that spans six undermountain levels. It's here that Dwarves created an impressive city but then dug too deep and found a balrog shadow dragon that schemed to massacre the Dwarves and replace them with skeleton servants. Now the dragon's become a dracolich and being worshiped by the Cult of the Dragon.

The idea here is that players will start at the bottom level and gradually work their way up through the inside of the mountain. The foundation is the staging ground for the first raid, an old Dwarven Temple that's now a monument to the dracolich's might.

In this 12-person raid, teams will have their hands full just trying to make it to the dracolich encounter. For starters, they'll have to fiddle with a brand-new puzzle that uses light and mirrors to unlock the way. Then it's a trip through a couple of levels where players can choose between six paths (three per floor) that present specific challenges. These include jumping puzzles, logic puzzles, mob fights, a trap room, and a rather cool red-light-green-light room where moving at the wrong time (and under constant duress by enemy forces) will get you fried.

If a raid can make it to the dracolich, the members will have to contend with her attacks while trying to find her true phylactery among many fakes. Pick the wrong one and you'll be in for a world of pain!

Sneak peek peak preview

The second raid is all of the way at the top of the mountain, where players will stumble out blinking into the bitter daylight to face off with two mighty (and very much alive) dragons. There's also a glowing artifact in this battleground, and the fight becomes immensely tricky depending on the dragons' locations compared to each other and the artifact. Raids will need to be on the ball with positioning or else they'll find themselves in an unwinnable scenario.

Past Update 21 are a few other treats in store for players, including new epic destinies and a level cap increase to 30. Because the update will coincide with the game's anniversary later this month, Turbine's come up with a new way to hand out presents. Players will get to collect cards with nostalgic artwork; the cards can be combined into pairs to create a prize. Figuring out the right card combinations and trading between players should keep the community busy and buzzing for the celebration. Ten new items have been created as rewards in addition to other goodies, and the team is quite excited to see how players take the update as a whole.

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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