DDO Update 12: Challenge Dungeons

Tirelessly defending kobolds. Huh?

Turbine pushed its "Vault of the Artificers" update live today. As well as enabling the new Artificer class to be unlocked through gameplay, the update brings a new "Challenge" dungeon system.

Whether this is similar to World of Warcraft's upcoming Challenge dungeon system is unknown. DDO's version is a first person real time strategy system. We've seen adventure-themed tower defense games such as "Orcs Must Die", now we get resource gathering and management in an RPG context.

The objective of a challenge dungeon is to enter the endless Lava Caves and to guide a group of Kobold Workers to crystals, which they then collect and return to the Kobold Foreman at the entrance. Simple enough.

Standing in the way are monsters guarding the crystals which must be killed, and occasional invasions by normal and named-level monsters who aim to kill the workers, foreman and you. Also arrayed against you are the few workers you have (who die so very easily), the extreme distance the kobolds must travel, and the enormous number of crystals you must deliver to the Foreman within the time limit — 15 to 20 minutes. In the two I played, I managed to get 75-85 crystals deposited.

Once the kobolds have started depositing crystals, you can spend some of them with the Foreman to buy more torches — necessary to lead the kobolds to the crystals (these eventually burn out). You may also buy healing torches, more kobold workers, larger crystal barrels so the kobolds can carry more, and kobold teleporters.

The teleporters are key to getting kobolds where they need to be. A teleporter, placed in one of the glowing Circles of Power scattered around the dungeon, is a direct route back to the Foreman for kobolds, monsters, and you.

While the challenge dungeons are theoretically possible, the many roles needed filling demand more people. Players must carry Kobold Teleporters to new crystal areas, place torches from the Circles of Power thus connected to area crystal outbreaks, protect kobold workers and the Foreman from mobs, relight sputtering torches… Two players with hirelings could probably do it, with one player defending one Circle of Power and the kobolds while the other player moves a teleporter to a new place and clears the monsters in that new area.

How many new workers and larger barrels to buy, I don't know. My gut feeling is to get the maximum number of workers and largest barrels in play as soon as possible, as the invading monsters get considerably tougher as the timer ticks down.

As we get experience with the Challenge dungeons, it may become possible to solo these, but for my own group, I'd suggest doing a Challenge dungeon or two on the way to a more traditional fight.

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