On the next stop of our journey through Shadowfell, we look at Iconics
Following on from last week’s look at the dangerous streets of Wheloon, I attended a dev tour for another aspect of Shadowfell Conspiracy, the upcoming expansion for Dungeons & Dragons Online.
The topics of the tour were the new Iconic Heroes Class system and the changes that have been wrought on the enhancement system to open up character customization in a dramatic way.
Greg Yungman, Turbine senior systems designer and John Cataldo, systems designer, began by showing one of the new Iconics, the Shadar-kai. Former residents of the Shadowfell realm—an alternative plane of existence, not big on tourism—the Shadar-kai are a people who have defied harrowing oppression and a horrific environment to eke out their own autonomy.
They’re not a people known for their sunny dispositions.
Character creation for the Shadar-kai quickly lets you know that these are not the poster-children for the boy scouts. You can choose different scars, piercings and tattoos as well as the usual hair options to make your Shadar-kai as intimidating and wild as you want.
All the different presets and a rainbow of color options for them help individualize each character enough, while ensuring an overall impression of the attitude built from living in a hellscape.
The Shadar-kai lend themselves to Rogue abilities; their affinity to the Shadowfell plane allowing them to flit between dimensions, appearing and disappearing—a handy skill to have.
Another racial ability is the Spiked Chain attack, wherein a chain is whirled and whipped around, causing damage to all within its vicinity. The animations convey the physicality of the attack well and it viciousness seems appropriate for this new Iconic.
For those DDO fans with an urge to play out their darker sides, the Shadar-kai won’t disappoint.
The Morninglord Iconic option is about as antithetical to the Shadar-kai as you can get. These noble, graceful individuals are imbued with the light, unleashing powers that are devastating to those tied to shadow.
If you want to walk into Shadowfell itself and wreak some indignant wrath upon the local inhabitants, the Morninglord is a great companion to have. The Morninglord produces an orb of light in its left hand while wielding a weapon in its right, but it’s the blast of shadow destroying energy from some of the Hero Class’ abilities that are its trademark.
If you focus on the damage aspect of the class, you can expect to dish out similar damage to pure casters, such as a Wizard. If you take that route though you might be missing out on some powerful utility, through buffs, heals and shields that the Morninglord can deliver with gusto.
The third of the Iconic Hero Class options is the Purple Dragonknight. Lending itself to the Fighter class, the Purple Dragonknight has been seen in game since last year, but players have not been able to take control of these dangerous combatants until Shadowfell Conspiracy.
An interesting Tier 1 ability for the Iconic is Cormyrean Knight Training, which allows the player to use Charisma instead of Strength as a prime stat—in fact, it chooses whichever of the two is higher.
By doing this it gives the Purple Dragonknight excellent synergy with a variety of other classes. The abilities for the class are designed with a focus on using them in the right situation at the right time, because good game design resides in interesting choices.
Speaking of interesting choices—oh yes, West Midlands Segue Champion 1992—the extent to which the enhancement system has been changed is quite mind-boggling.
The UI itself has undergone extensive redesign; all seven classes are available and can be reordered so that the options that are most likely to be revisited are closer to hand. The team has come up with new abilities and the new enhancement UI puts a huge number of options on the table.
The team did the math and said there are a potential 250,000,000,000,000 ability combinations available. Though they wouldn’t recommend using some of the combinations, the player can go with whatever fits their fancy.
With so many options it’s easy to see a lot of respeccing going on and the Turbine developers have tried to ensure that is as intuitive as possible. If you wish you can respec one particular tree rather than all of your points across the board.
I think that’s a very smart move which allows for more focused experimentation without the rigmarole of respeccing your entire build.
Shadowfell Conspiracy is shaping up to be quite a startling and important change to DDO and we’ll continue to look at what to expect as we close on its release date, August 19.
Scott "Jarimor" Hawkes, Editor in Chief
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