DDO: A ghost of a chance

Adventures in Three Barrel Cove continue apace with Ghost of a Chance, granted to me by the titular ghost who is worried about his trapped brother back in a pirate cave. The cave itself was a normal, if short, little excursion, but it’s in the final room that the meat of this quest happens.

Now DDO has a lot of puzzles — far more than you’d suspect — and some of the puzzle mechanics are reused. One of the developers’ favorite types is what I call the “pathing puzzle,” in which you have to rotate tiles around to create a path for a beam of light to go from the start to the finish (or anywhere else in particular). Ghost of a Chance has one of the largest pathing puzzles I’ve seen in this game, as there are four giant cubes plasted with these tiles in each corner of the room and a prisoner in the middle. Shine the light through the wrong paths, and electricity starts zapping everyone. So the trick here is to use spot to find and avoid the trapped runes first, and then start figuring out the very long, very meandering path.

It took me around 20 minutes, but all things considered, it was just the *right* amount of difficulty for this sort of thing. I don’t like it when puzzles are too frustrating, but one that’s actually fun to watch progress, as these are, can be satisfying. So yes, I finally popped open that cage, and one ghost’s brother was delivered to freedom.

That pretty much wrapped up Three Barrel Cove for me, so it was back to completing missed quests in my adventure compendium. And, hey look — I didn’t finish up the Delara’s Tomb questline for some reason. So off I went to do Thrall of the Necromancer and kill a bajillion skeletons in order to get my Voice of the Master. Yay for bonus XP!

Over in House J, Redwillow’s Ruins proved to be a challenging — and invigorating! — endeavor. A group of misled treasure hunters ended up ambushed and stranded in the deep jungle, and off I was to the rescue.

In an open map like this, I find it best to explore the edges of it first to get an idea of its size before filling in the gaps in the middle. It wasn’t as bad as I initially feared, and the fun of sprinting through relatively wide-open spaces was a nice change of pace from the usual cramped dungeons. There were a couple of pocket instances to conquer, including one with very nasty one-hit-kill traps that took me down (thank goodness for my Cleric!). The ending of this quest surprised me, as I was tossed right into the middle of a herd of rampaging giants and forced to kite for my life.

Going into The Price of Freedom, I knew I was in for a long mission as we had previously done this with our leveling group. It’s not a bad quest; on the contrary, this prison break has a lot of clever design and mechanics behind it. As long as you’re not in a hurry to blast through it, it’s quite fun.

I got a wand early on that let me create these anti-gravity discs that would propel me far up into the air. At the start of the quest, this wand is needed to get up and into the floating prison — and that can be both a fun and frustrating affair. Then it’s a long journey through the innards of a magical prison, freeing the jailed (I got a big kick out of having a crowd of inmates following me — see above), finding secret passages, and ultimately defeating the warden. I love the small details that the designers put into this location, such as the visiting room, the bathroom (with toilet paper!), and a really weird cook who likes ham.

Guest Post: DDO Mists of Ravenloft review (part 3)

Today’s guest post is from DDOCentral’s Matt, who wanted to give Bio Break’s readership a deeper look into Dungeons and Dragons Online’s newest expansion. Thanks Matt!

Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) released its third paid expansion on December 6th, 2017 titled Mists of Ravenloft. The two previous paid expansions for DDO are Shadowfell Conspiracy, released on August 19th, 2013, and Menace of the Underdark, released on June 25th, 2012. These earlier expansions are placed in tabletop Dungeons and Dragons’ most famous campaign setting, Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms.

Mists of Ravenloft explores the popular Gothic horror-themed Ravenloft D&D campaign world created by Tracy and Laura Hickman and the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich’s domain Barovia on the Demiplane of Dread within that world.

This article is the third in a series of three articles on Mists of Ravenloft, the most recent addition to DDO’s growing multiverse. The article reviews the two Legendary-level raids, the first raid placing the party against Strahd von Zarovich’s surrogate “mother” Baba Lysaga, and the second raid pitting the party against Strahd himself at Castle Ravenloft.

Old Baba’s Hut

Adrian Martikov at the Blue Water Inn in the Town of Vallaki is the quest-giver for the ‘Old Baba’s Hut’ raid. Unlike the second Ravenloft raid, ‘The Curse of Strahd,’ this raid requires no flagging quest completion before being attempted by the party.

The party has already visited the witch Baba Lysaga’s magical Hut during the story arc quest ‘Ravens’ Bane’ which takes place deep in the swamps surrounding the Ruins of Berez. Baba Lysaga’s Hut is in its own pocket dimension, being much larger and more expansive within its rudimentary walls than the Hut appears from the outside. The Hut is also “alive” and can attack hostile intruders such as the party.

The bramble growth that once surrounded the Hut as a protective barrier was dispelled by the party upon the completion of the Ravens’ Bane quest, so the party is now free to enter the Hut and deal with the second most dangerous character in the Land of Barovia as a prelude to the final assault on Castle Ravenloft. Baba Lysaga still holds the last of the three charmed gems taken from the Wizard of Wines vineyard, two of which were recovered by the party during the Mists of Ravenloft quest story arc.

Once the party again enters the Ruins of Berez’s marshy enclave and locates the Hut, Baba Lysaga appears before them floating upon the enchanted skull of a Giant. Baba Lysaga cackles, and addresses the party in her thick Barovian accent, “I knew it! I knew you’d come running after the gem if I dangled it in front of you. Just like a fly to a dungheap. Now I just need something to swat you with.” With that, the Hut stands on the spidery legs folded beneath its foundation and attacks the party at Baba Lysaga’s behest, aided by Baba Lysaga. The defeat of the Hut only returns the animated object to its resting place in the swamp, allowing the party to enter the Hut’s front doorway and search for the missing gem. The party must enter the Hut quickly as the droning hum of a gathering swarm of insects can be heard close by…

The party finds a veritable labyrinth within the interior of the Hut and must bypass a series of bone-constructed gates, glowing rune puzzles, Scarecrow guardians, and thaumaturgical force fields to reach the blood-purple gem’s resting place at the center of the Hut. The hallways and rooms of the Hut are actually an elaborate trap, intended to lure the party to their deaths. Baba Lysaga’s speech enters the minds of the party members and she says, “You won’t just hand this gem over to those poxy ravens. I’ve protected it, yes I have, with a good strong spell!” As soon as the magical shield encircling the pulsating gem begins to buckle under the party’s sustained blows, Baba Lysaga suddenly teleports the party back into the swampy grounds at the Hut’s periphery.

Now the party must engage in a second battle with the Hut, but this time with Scarecrow minions, Will-o’-Wisps, and a vast, buzzing insect swarm added to the fray. A second defeat of Baba Lysaga’s assembled forces will teleport the party yet again into the interior of the Hut, now with the opportunity to bring down the blood gem’s shielding and seize the article of the raid’s intent.

With the gem in hand, the party is teleported back outside one last time to face Baba Lysaga, more Scarecrow minions and Will-o’-Wisps, as well as two massive Shambling Mounds. As the party wears her down, the witch cries, “Mother Night, give me strength. I will pay any price!” Once Baba Lysaga is dropped from her floating skull perch and defeated, the raid ends, leaving Count Strahd von Zarovich as the party’s only nemesis.

The Curse of Strahd

The entire Mists of Ravenloft story arc encompassing eleven quests in three acts – In the Shadow of the Castle, The Vampire Hunters, and The Light of the Land – must be completed to attempt ‘The Curse of Strahd’ raid. The party meets the vampire hunter Rudolph Van Richten from earlier in the Ravenloft story at the Blood on the Vine Tavern in the Village of Barovia. Van Richten tells them, “Quickly, my friend. We must return to the Crypts of Castle Ravenloft and put an end to Strahd!”

The party has a rendezvous with Van Richten in the Castle Ravenloft crypts, where he disburses the Icon of Ravenloft, the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, and the Sunsword – all artifacts obtained during the Ravenloft story arc – among the party members to be used against Strahd. Madam Eva is also waiting nearby, ready to tell the fortune of the party and determine the ultimate fate of those who would oppose Strahd’s eternal rule over the Land of Barovia.

The party enters the Crypts and is greeted by Strahd’s chamberlain, the malicious dusk elf Rahadin. Rahadin bows low and growls, “Welcome once again to Ravenloft. We have some unfinished business between us, I believe. And Lord Strahd says I need not spare your lives this time. For his power now grows…while your time comes to an end.” Rahadin and his Greater Shadow summons must be beaten before the party moves forward, deeper into the Crypts and closer to Strahd, the essence of evil permeating the very air.

The party comes upon Count Strahd at the bottom of a long flight of descending stairs, standing over a tomb of dark stone. Strahd murmurs to himself, mentioning the name of his murdered brother, Sergei Von Zarovich. The vampire lord then notices the party, breaking from his reverie, “There you are. But surely you did not think you could defeat me here?

Perhaps I have vastly overestimated you. Do you not know that I hold true power here? That as long as the Heart beats in this castle, I shall never know defeat?” With that, Strahd disappears in a cloud of mist.

The party returns to Van Richten and he councils them: “So, Strahd mentioned the Heart as a protective ward, yes? I suspect it guards both him and many other aspects of the castle…I believe I may be able to get you close to it, but then you’ll be on your own to destroy the Heart. Are you prepared?” The party then steps through a Dimension Door portal conjured by Van Richten, emerging into the tallest tower of Castle Ravenloft. High above is a great, glowing crystal Heart.

The party must transverse many obstacles on the winding path upward the obsidian steps, included animated guardian suits of armor, Greater Shadows, clustered spikes, gusts of wind, and deadly spell wards. At the top, the party member with Sunsword must interact with the Heart to proceed to the next phase. Strahd is there waiting for the party, prepared to fight! The might of the Sunsword shatters the Heart during this altercation, its unholy blood raining down on the tower.

Strahd hisses loudly and disappears. The portal out of the Heart leads the party back to the haunted Crypts and to Strahd once more. Here the party must light the Crypt’s five bracketed torches in the correct sequence, which then dispels the magical wards protecting Strahd’s tomb. Strahd awaits the party in his final resting place, attended by three decaying, elegant figures.

Strahd’s undead brides will fight by their master’s side and must be felled with him. When all three brides are defeated, the wards enringing Strahd’s coffin dissipate. A party member must hastily plunge the Sunsword through Strahd’s chest while he lies vulnerable in this sarcophagus. Strahd’s centuries-long grip on the Land of Barovia has come to an end.

Castle Ravenloft shakes with fury, debris falling from its ancient walls and vaulted ceiling. Strahd’s inert body decays before the very eyes of the party, returning to dust and his soul going to its everlasting rest.

More Expansions to Come

The Mists of Ravenloft expansion was an unqualified success, both financial and artistic, for Dungeons and Dragons Online. The community’s response to the Ravenloft campaign setting merited yet another paid expansion soon after, so Standing Stone Games went to work almost immediately producing a fourth expansion 7for DDO.

Masterminds of Sharn will be released on Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 and will be DDO’s first expansion featured for the Eberron campaign setting. Sharn is the most populous city on the continent of Khorvaire in the world of Eberron, and is a place of high adventure and intrigue. The noble Dragonmarked Houses vie for power here, along with Sharn’s rulers and more shadowy actors behind the scenes. But that is an article for another day…

DDO: Three barrels full of kobolds

With the Necropolis series (mostly) finished, I’ve turned my attention back to completing any incomplete lower level quests. Looking through my adventure compendium, the lowest that sits unanswered is The Stones Run Red, a level 5 jaunt in Three Barrel Cove. Why not?

I had a full kid audience for this one, so I enjoyed running commentary from my boys (“Ohh man, don’t step in the lava, dad! That’ll burn you up!”) and endured a three-year-old on my lap whose sole function was to jam on that spacebar as often as possible to make me jump. At least it was a very easy, very straight-forward run through a “fire mountain” to kill some ogres and desecrate a few dragon shrines. I think this is the first part of a series, so I’ll probably need to follow it up with the sequels. Even on elite, at level 14 I roflstomped this one to dust.

There’s a follow-up to this quest, Brood of Flame, that takes place in the same cavern, only with more fire elementals this time. I got flashbacks of Tangleroot, but fortunately this repeat is only a one-time thing. And that’s good, because it’s not that interesting of an instance for one run, nevermind three.

And since I’m in Three Barrel Cove, I figured I might as well stick around and work on the quests here this week. A pirate kobold (objectively the best kind of kobold!) gave me a task to run a rival pirate gang’s obstacle course in Prove Your Worth. Why not? That actually sounds like fun!

And you know what? It really was a top-notch quest! The dungeon is a series of varied challenges, such as navigating through traps, solving a puzzle room, climbing up a series of broken ladders, and fighting through some ambushes. Plus, I got to choose whether or not to make a poor kobold captive walk the plank after going through a pirate-speak lesson, and that made my day.

For the record, I freed him. I’m a lawful good Gnome. And I do sign autographs to adoring fans.

The Scoundrel’s Run may not have featured Han Solo anywhere, but it still served as a diverting “treasure hunt” through a small but twisty mine. The objective was to find and assemble five pieces to a weird turtle statue, and while there was a bit of backtracking involved, all things considered, it went fairly well. About 20 minutes, just the perfect length for a quick dungeon run session.

Time for another mini quest chain! We all know that in RPGs, there are always secrets behind waterfalls, and in Three Barrel Cove, there’s an entire dungeon tucked back here. This is The Troglodytes’ Get, a romp through a cavern to smash their eggs and try not to think so much about how we’re stomping all over their babies. “PEW PEW,” I said, ignoring my conscience. “MUST COMPLETE QUEST OBJECTIVES NO MATTER HOW ODIOUS.”

Guard Duty shows that one of DDO’s greatest strengths is that it can whip up almost any interesting scenario and thrust players right in the middle of it — such as defending a ship from boarding pirates. Short, breezy, and full of nothing but combat on the open decks, this quest had me in and out in about six minutes.

Hunting down an urban legend sounded fun, so why not? In The Legend of Two-Toed Tobias, I discovered an underwater cavern that turned out to be the final resting place of a notorious pirate — and his level 5 treasure. Even with all of the swimming and skeleton fights, it wasn’t too difficult or convoluted. I even thought that triggering the fire traps to melt an underwater ice dam was pretty ingenious.

DDO’s world of mini-permadeath

There are many strange design differences between Dungeons and Dragons Online and most “regular” MMORPGs — so many, in fact, that it would make for a long article if I were to list them. It’s what makes it such a fascinating and underrated game, in my opinion.

But perhaps one of the most innocuous and most personally fascinating details is the way the game deals with your hit and spell points. DDO isn’t just old school with a much, much slower rate of regeneration — it’s absolutely archaic with a complete lack of regen while players are in instances. You lose hit points, they don’t come back (well, automatically at least). They’re a limited resource, as are spell points (which is especially worrisome for magic-based characters).

Now, there are plenty of exceptions to this format. There are healing spells and items, as well as items that grant back SP. Rest shrines in dungeons refill meters back to full — but once per shrine per instance run only (they’re also a limited resource). And SP does trickle back to about 12 or 13 points if you dip under them. That’s usually good enough for a medium-level spell every 20 or 30 seconds.

Then, on top of this, there’s the decision to institute what I like to think of as “instance permadeath.” It’s not, really, but the idea here is that if you die during a dungeon run, well, that’s it for this run — unless someone else rezzes you, or you can dash to a rez shrine within 10 seconds distance of your body, or you pay using premium currency for a rez. I don’t usually feel that it’s worth paying to rez (that really rankles on principle), so a death while solo usually means a do-over. It’s a bit different in a party, where you have options to run back from a tavern or be rezzed by a teammate.

All of these design choices, for better or for worse, create a much different atmosphere for an MMO. For starters, it adds a greater feeling of danger to dungeon runs, especially the more difficult they are and the longer that you’re in one. Nobody wants to have to repeat an hour’s worth of progress, especially if you die on the last boss. And DDO is notorious for tossing in some really nasty traps and hard-hitting encounters that can often result in near-one-shot deaths.

Another way that this alters the run is that hit point loss isn’t automatic upon attacks and traps. There are a lot of stats running under the hood here — a lot of dice being rolled — and so it’s entirely possible to be in a fight for a good amount of time and only lose a few hit points here and there due to avoidance and resistance and shields and dodge and the like. So losing health actually feels more significant here when it happens.

I won’t lie, I really dislike the crappy position that the game puts you in — especially as a solo player — when you die far into a dungeon. None of the choices feel fair, which is why I always make sure to run with a Cleric henchman (it’s my own portable death insurance machine). But I do appreciate how my own stats turn into limited resources that have more worth and weight. It makes for interesting moment-to-moment choices: How cautious should I be going down this hall? Do I spend SP to throw on a bunch of protection spells or save the SP and risk more HP loss? Do I use the rest shrine now or later? How should I pull this next group of bad guys? How much should I invest in trap detection and disarming?

Those aren’t questions or choices that I normally have to concern myself with in MMOs, and I enjoy having them here. DDO’s adventures may play out a whole heck of a lot faster than in a pen-and-paper setting, but it still retains a lot of the PnP feel because of these design decisions. It’s a good example of how the structure and limits of an IP helped to create a much more interesting MMO than it would be otherwise.

Buried alive in Dungeons and Dragons Online

I’m still hacking away at the never-ending series of Necropolis quests — and the tombs that accompany each one. I started off with Tomb of the Forbidden, which actually turned into a terrific romp. Oh, I wasn’t too pleased at the difficulties of getting hirelings to cooperate to help open doors (it’s A Thing with this quest), but past that, it’s a well-designed instance that has a great theme (bones and ice), new types of ice skeleton mobs that I’ve never seen before, and a flow that’s low on the frustration level. I even got me a teal ring that seriously boosted my open locks skill. It really does pay to have a good lockpicking set in this game.

And even better, this mission pushed me over the edge to level 14! It was just a week or so ago that I hit 13, so I guess I’ve been raking in the XP without realizing it.

Despite being labeled as a long dungeon, Tomb of the Sanguine Heart proved to be a remarkably breezy run. Just a few hallways, killing random mobs, disarming a handful of traps, then fighting the end boss. Easy peasy. It’s nice to get one of these every so often, and now especially as I’m itching to move on from Necropolis.

Tomb of the Bloody Crypt is a big capstone to these Necropolis dungeons and one that I remember from waaaaay back when. It’s a “very long” quest, a note that always makes my stomach sink. But it’s also CR6, so I just took it on normal and absolutely blitzed my way through. I don’t think I stopped at any point or stopped shooting, just ran and pew-pewed my way through the four long paths, unlocked the center door, and took down a very bewildered priest who was shocked at a sprinting, shooting, spitting Gnome.

Am I seriously not done with these Necropolis quests yet? Guess not! Next up was Tomb of the Shadow Lord, and egads, this one took the better part of an evening because I missed a couple of torches and had to backtrack through endlessly respawning areas to find them. Thematically, this dungeon was well-done — all gothic and shadowy and whatnot — but the luster of that wore off about an hour into this slog and left me antsy to finish. Which I did, because I’m awesome like that.

The final Necropolis quest in my log, Tomb of the Tormented, was the one that ended up breaking me. I’m serious. It’s the kind of quest that makes you wonder if a developer was actively feeding his or her sadistic nature by designing.

To get to this tomb’s signature mummy (it’s always a mummy in the Necropolis), you have to clear three rooms out and then guide a rat underneath a grate from point to point to the exit. By stuffing rotten bits of zombie flesh down there, but let’s move past that part here. The first maze isn’t too hard, while the second one introduces moving doors and pressure plates. That was doable, if a little long. But the third… the third is horrid. It has traps for the rat and multiple doors and timing issues. I got so far into it when my rat got skewered, and I just flung my hands up and declared that Fun Was Not Being Had and recalled out of there. I haven’t been giving up on DDO quests, but this one is a real eyesore and far too annoying to complete. So I shall just live with that black mark on my quest log.

DDO: Tomb raider

Lara Croft doesn’t have anything on this Gnome with a repeating crossbow, an energy cannon arm, and a robotic dog who jumps headfirst into danger. Although she does have two guns, so I guess there’s that.

Anyway, lots more Necropolis questing this week — I think there are about 22 in total, with four boasting epic versions. It’s going to keep me busy for the better part of a month, so I’m trying not to waste any time. Next up was Tomb of the Immortal Heart, a library-themed dungeon with lots of hidden alcoves and ridiculously easy to slay bad guys.

The CR level keeps jumping up and down on me depending on the quest, and I’m not always the best in figuring out if I should select epic difficulty level or keep it at normal. I didn’t see that this was was just level 5, so of course I blitzed through it. Still, that’s one more that’s down and buried, pardon the pun.

Tomb of the Shadow Guard is another one of those DDO quests that I’ll be more than happy to never repeat. Basically, it’s Swimming: The Quest. What we have here is a very, very long dungeon in which large parts are entirely underwater and require traversing. The twisty passages, Z axis, and murky water all contribute to a disorienting effect, and it’s only the largely linear nature of the dungeon and the advice to “follow the light plants” that kept me from being lost there forever. Just felt like a lot of pointless swimming, and I’m not a big fan of swimming in MMOs.

I was initially frustrated by Tomb of the Blighted, as all of its water is filled with this horrible blight rot debuff that continually lowers stats until you’re powerless and dead. But then I figured out the chief mechanic at play here, which was to use vials of blessed water to de-corrupt strengthened roots, cleanse myself, and cleanse a series of urns around this large square hallway. It was slow going, especially with the zombies who die and spew out an even nastier skeleton to fight, but once I got the pace down, it went very smoothly. And I give the quest designers props for a clever mechanic, so all in all, it’s one of the better dungeons that I’ve run in the Necropolis.

If we were to grade dungeons on atmosphere, Tomb of the Crimson Heart would get high marks. The hazy red miasma lends a gooshy Halloween feel to this fairly straight-forward instance. The goal here is to find three runes (embedded into random decorative skulls), open a final door, defeat a mummy boss. I probably took this dungeon at too low a level, because everything was dying if I just glared at them hard enough. At least now I have a month’s supply of toilet paper on hand.

Tomb of the Shadow Lord clearly discriminates against solo players, because it’s one of those instances where a party member or two needs to stay behind to activate certain levers. The workaround for soloing is using pets and hirelings as stand-ins — you have to drag them over to a spot, command them in a firm tone to “STAY!”, run to the door, and then click their “use” buttons at the same time and hope you got it right.

Fun fact: It is ENTIRELY possible to lock yourself in a room in this instance from which there is no escape. Not that I did this and had to exit out and restart the dungeon. Nope. Not at all.

DDO: Enter the Necropolis

After being beaten up and bruised by The Pit, I was eager to put a cap on House D quests and move onward — but there was one little teensy quest left, and I figured I should do it before heading back to the marketplace to take a level. Unfortunately for me, the quest turned out to be an (ahem) EXTREME CHALLENGE DUNGEON called Spies in the House.

Every time I see “extreme challenge dungeon” mentioned in this game, I get nasty Mountain Dew commercial flashbacks from the ’90s. DO THE DEW! CRUSH THAT DUNGEON! WOO!

Anyway. I wasn’t too keen on taking this on, but I figured that if I survived the Pit and lived to tell the tale, I could do anything — including this. Onward I went! And boy, let me tell you, if you have a healthy appetite for both traps and platforming, this is the dungeon for you. That isn’t me, by the way. At least not the “platforming” part.

After dropping down the world’s longest sewer access ladder, I started my quest back up again. This quest takes place in a large vertical space where the object is to go from the bottom to the top. While there are fewer enemies than you might expect, the traps, falls, and perilous jumps make up for the danger quotient. At some points, the entire floor is electrified, which had me frantically reapplying my elemental armor (which is one of the most useful spells that I’ve found in the game so far) to keep me shielded while I dashed across it. My dumb metal dog wasn’t so forward-thinking.

I have to say that while I was anticipating a lot worse of an experience, this one wasn’t too bad. Long, yes, but not terrible. I didn’t even have to consult a walkthrough to get through it — and I even found all of the prisoners. Go me!

Toward the end are a pair of arguing gargoyles, and I enjoyed the brief respite of humor that they provided. Naturally, they’re there to distract you from all of the traps on both sides, but still, I love it when quests throw in this sort of thing.

The quest and House D done, I returned to the Marketplace and finally grabbed that 13th level. The big reward this time around was a transformation spell that would let me hulk out with increased stats if I needed a fighting power boost. I also leveled up my dog, who had been lacking enhancements so far. Whoops.

With House D done, I checked my adventure compendium for the next quest up in level, and it turned out that I had a rash of them to do in the Necropolis. This is actually an area that I can’t ever recall visiting, and from the name alone, I figured it would be a run-of-the-mill graveyard. So imagine my surprise when it turns out that it’s this gorgeous landscape full of pretty trees, still ponds, and ornate structures.

There are just a TON of quests here, so I figure I’ll be working on these for a while. First up was Tomb of the Shadow Knight, starring the Mummy up there. I thought I could do it on hard, and while I managed to make it through, I think I learned my lesson about artificially jacking up the difficulty level when I don’t need to. It was a long, long slog through countless mobs who would phase in and out of reality (thanks, ghosts), really nasty traps, and at least two deaths and resurrections (thanks, cleric).

Difficulty level aside, I like this quest thematically. It was a really gloomy crypt full of mobs I hadn’t seen before (including my new nemesis, the Phase Spider) and a couple of secret passages.

I also dashed through Tomb of the Burning Heart, which was horrible for picture taking due to the whole place being in a sort of hazy infrared, so I’ll spare you that. The only big trick here was trying to figure out how a solo player could stand on four pressure plates at once to open a gate (the solution? Me, a dead corpse, a cleric hireling, and my pet).

Tomb of the Unhallowed was a much longer trip, although fairly straightforward in terms of progress (I like not being confused as to where to go next). While it was fight after fight after fight in this one, I didn’t mind so much for two reasons: first, the designers brought out pretty much every spooky creature type to play, so it felt like a Halloween party, and second, the place was a new tileset to me. I enjoyed the semi-castle look of it and carefully made my way through four minibosses and one nail-biting final showdown with a very ticked-off mummy.