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.
🙂 😀 🙂