Jul 032014

Haunted Halls Victory
It says something about a quest, that when you finally beat it,
you are so pleased with yourselves that
you feel the need to pose for a screenshot

I have to be upfront here and admit that I was getting a little depressed about the direction of the game. “Depressed” is too strong of a word. Dismayed? I still cannot find the right word to describe the state. I even started a forum thread describing the source of my angst, titled “Drifting further from Dungeons & Dragons“.

But then I entered the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. Suddenly, just that quickly, all is right with the world again.

My sadness, however you want to describe it, was brought about by a series of things that culminated with two posts by new DDO developer Severlin. Don’t get me wrong, having a developer posting about big changes before they are designed is good – it was the changes themselves. Big changes to melee, and lesser but still big changes to the Paladin class. The proposed changes are video game balance changes. They have nothing to do with Dungeons & Dragons at all, just some crap we are going to make up and add to the game because Turbine believes more people need to melee and more people need to play Paladins. Video game balance changes.

It saddened me to see how fast the game was running away from it’s D&D roots. I am only here because of the D&D, and every little bit of it that gets removed from DDO lessens the game for me.

I’ve actually run the Haunted Halls once before, right after Update 21 was released, but it was in a group that already knew the quest and was in a hurry. Run here, run there, fight fight fight, run some more, finish out, the quest is over. All a blur. I vaguely remembered that there was an encounter that involved a spear but nothing else. And not much about the spear either.

Then last weekend, my Gamer Girl and I decided to give the Haunted Halls a try. It was all fresh to me, as if I’d never played it at all.

Gradually, it dawned on me: oh, right, Dungeons & Dragons!

This quest proves that it is possible to play Dungeons & Dragons using the DDO system. Even with all of the changes that have pulled us away from D&D core rules, even though we are level 28 godlings with weapons and stats far more advanced than anything one could find in Deities & Demigods, even with all that, Dungeons & Dragons lives on in DDO in the form of the Haunted Halls. Consider:

  • Traps that you can use intelligence to avoid but will otherwise kill you? Yup
  • Use of “intelligence in the player’s brain” rather than “intelligence the character stat”? Yup
  • Fights that you can avoid by being clever? Yup
  • Fights that you simply have to avoid? Yup
  • A series of encounters that work together as a group, with a theme, as opposed to a series of warm ups before a boss fight? Yup
  • Interesting magic items that feel hand-crafted by the DM? Yup
  • Puzzles? Yup
  • Monsters with unusual abilities you have to figure out? Yup
  • Traps and more traps and empty chests and false leads and dead ends? Yup, yup, yup, and yup

Not only is it Dungeons & Dragons, it is a classic dungeon crawl. Early D&D. Old school.

And awesome through and through.

Can you tell that I enjoyed it? I hope that this is coming through clearly. Because Haunted Halls of Eveningstar is the single most D&D-like experience I’ve had while playing this game. Well, maybe other than the original character generation, I suppose that is at least as D&D-like. But that’s it.

This quest fulfills the D&D promise that DDO made back in 2006. 8-and-a-half years, 8 modules, 22 updates, 1 entire game relaunch, and now, finally, they get it right.

Even my Gamer Girl (who is not an old-school D&D player) was knocked out. “That was fun”, she said after we defeated the quest the first time. “What a fun and different quest”.

And it is. Thoroughly fun, and thoroughly D&D.

We can only hope that this is the new direction of the game, and that more classic D&D modules and material will be coming in the future.

Because that is a future that I can totally get behind. Fighting pirate ships is fun, and feels completely epic. But this, this is what DDO is all about. Dungeons & Dragons is one of the world’s most popular games, and now it has been brought to the MMO world in a way that retains the essence of the original.

I wrote most of this article earlier in the week, before Producer Vyvyanne’s state of the game letter was published. Here is my favorite part from her letter:

We’ll be continuing our work on the Anauroch Desert (in the Forgotten Realms), planning for Sentient Weapons, and developing another Classic Dungeon like the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar.

Yes ma’am, may I have some more please? Because now that I’ve see it first-hand, the Haunted Halls is my favorite quest in the game. By far.

More? Please?

πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚

  7 Responses to “The Haunted Halls Put the D&D Back In DDO”

Comments (7)
  1. Dissatisfied?

  2. “Haunted Halls” was also quite fun for me, too, completing it recently. I found one of those death traps; there was a certain sense of, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that,” where you didn’t get an option. I liked it. I’ll be smarter next time. It’s a game. A little randomness is what greatly differs D&D from DDO as an automated adventure can become quickly predictable. Save-scrumming shouldn’t be an option.

    You have completed the Storm Horns chain, right? It’s got a similar verve, especially with “What Goes’ Up.” It’s my favorite quest in the whole game because it takes me back to my NWN days. Oh yeah, I found my NWN installation codes…I need to reinstall an old friend this holiday weekend.

  3. Now you can go back in for the “proper” version – the extended edition! πŸ˜€ And i’d say it’s definitely worth a 3rd run through on casual with the dev commentary so you can stop & listen to the interview too. And then some more runs, on EH, with the extended version again, just because.

    • I usually do EH extended, but sometimes I solo to listen to the commentary version, just because I like hearing it as I play.

  4. i was also very happy to hear about Turbine’s work on another classic adventure. That got my mind a-whirling with all the possibilities. There’s so many awesome D&D modules they could adapt. How about the World’s Largest Dungeon? Barrier Peaks. Temple of Elemental Evil. Keep on the Borderlands!
    That forum thread you started turned out pretty interesting. In the end it seems like most people were of a mind that it’s the classic monsters and classes that evoke D&D but for individuals it’s a lot about the edition you’re most familiar with. DDO is certainly much different than any of the PnP versions, but there’s still plenty of times, even little moments, that tell me “this is D&D.” I’d definitely like more of those moments, and quests like Haunted Halls go a long way towards that.
    What’s the extended edition though? Might have to spend some more time in epics this life instead of TR’ing right away.

    • Haunted halls comes in 3 versions – the basic one, the extended “directors cut” version which includes a load of bits that never even made it into the published module (including a new completion objective & potential for loads of XPs & loots), and the commentary version which is the extended one but also includes a voice-over commentary by Ed Greenwood, which triggers at specific locations within the quest.

      it’s a great quest, and will almost certainly cause you to die horribly if you’re not careful.. but there are also some nice spots where you can use tactical decisions to boost your chances (am being careful to avoid spoilers), a balanced party is definitely recommended, including a skilled trapper πŸ™‚

  5. The translation of PnP D&D to a live action video game such as DDO definitely has it challenges. I can understand the dilemma the producers have been in and I definitely understand many players who are disheartened by the ever creeping divergence between DDO and PnP. However, there are still a lot of underlying D&D aspects to DDO that definitely make the game still feel D&D to me.

    I’m looking forward to seeing this new classic dungeon being converted over. I wouldn’t mind seeing Keep on the Borderlands being converted over but I still have yet to run The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. I’ll get there, still working on getting some guys high enough to do it :).

What do you think?

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