Since I’d already gone into the Iconics released with the Shadowfell Conspiracy expansion for Dungeons and Dragons Online, the Shadar-Kai, the Morninglord and the Purple Dragon Knight, along with the pre-order bonus Bladeforged, it’s time to start going into the actual quests of the new expansion. Wheloon is the first area I decided to tackle, especially since it starts at level twenty-five for the explorer area and level twenty-six for the quests if you’re doing epic levels. The actual quest line is referred to as Shadow Over Wheloon, and you have two options when you pick it up, the heroic level sixteen version or the epic level twenty-six version.
Wheloon itself is a walled off prison-city in Cormyr. Designed to contain the Shar worshippers, it’s also a dumping ground for criminals and innocent natives that were caught there when the city was sealed off magically. Any new found worshipers in Cormyr, as well as unwanted criminals, are tossed over the walls to survive on their own in this prison nightmare. If this sounds like Escape From NY or Escape From LA, you’d be right on the nose. The idea is definitely just that, only post-spellplague Forgotten Realms style.
To get to the quests you have to go over the wall off a ramp they’ve built up to a guard post and ‘drop’ into the prison-city. Wheloon Prison is treated as an explorer area, much like the King’s Forest, Underdark and Sschindylryn. There are magical and non-magical traps in different areas, and they’ve gone the missive route again. If you’re in on heroic, you’ll be looking for pages to Oriphaun’s journal, and epic it’s Tyvrus’s missives. There is a slayer count for the area, but you also get a count for saving innocents as well. There are also rares to get more experience on than just slayer counts, and also the rare encounters that pop up like in the King’s Forest. The actual area for the prison itself isn’t overly large, but there are enough blocked routes and over and under passages through the crumbling buildings that it can be pretty complicated to get around. It very much has the crumbling feel like Escape From NY had to it, and it’s a nice change from the look and feel of Eberron while keeping with what they’d already established with the Menace of the Underdark look for the Forgotten Realms.
Shadow Over Wheloon, as I mentioned, has you going into the prison-city itself for five quests on top of the explorer area. There is an overall chain reward for simply talking to an NPC on the Wheloon Docks, who guides you in the preferred order for completing the quest chain, and it’s generally pretty decent. If you do them out of order, which you can and not get dinged for it, there are four you have to complete before the fifth either way. I’m just going to go through these as they give them to you, as that’s how I’m pretty sure we ran them anyway.
Friends in Low Places takes place in the drainage culverts that run under Wheloon Prison. You’re being sent in to let some natives who are living in the drainage culverts know that there is a plan being put into motion to get them out of the prison, as they were innocent and wrongly trapped inside. It has a very different look to it than the sewers in Eberron, and a variety of enemies and traps to get through, including Shar worshipers and some Lizardfolk who are out to kill you and the natives. The Shar invaders who are going after the natives are fairly overwhelming in sheer numbers, and will actually spread out to try and flank a party. The archers use poison arrows in many instances and deal an insane amount of damage. Some form of crowd control in this quest is amazingly helpful to try and complete it.
A Lesson in Deception has the Cormyr authorities sending you into the Warehouse District of the prison posing as new recruits for what is supposed to become one united gang throughout the prison. Obviously, they won’t want that forming, so you’re going in to stop it. You go in to meet with the agents and a mysterious voice demands that you make your way to it or he’ll kill the allies you were to meet with. There are lots of obstacles in your path and a few optional shrines along with rest, but if you try to save anyone by doing the optionals on the way, the mysterious voice says it will kill an ally, which it will. The map is fairly large and long, and if you’re trying to save everyone and get the optional, bring a dimension door spell caster along to go back for those and some spell point potions to keep moving along should you need them.
The Thrill of the Hunt takes place in an abandoned house the Netherese are using to move people to the Shadowfell. The person in charge of the outpost also enjoys hunting prisoners for sport. Two magistrates were taken by the Shadar-kai, a man named Karleth, and you’re sent in to kill him and help the magistrates, if they’re alive. There are a lot of Shadar-Kai in this quest, including the nasty assassins with their chain whips, which I recommend avoiding. The player version isn’t nearly as deadly as these unfortunately. There are also Howlers and Shadows all leading up to a throwdown with Karleth. This ends up being a fairly standard go in and kill everything quest when it could have been a little more interesting story-wise.
Army of Shadow finds the Netherese on a massive recruiting spree in Wheloon and something needs to be done about it. No one wants a massive Netherese army ready to go in the heart of Cormyr, so the players have to head in to take out the Shade General who’s in charge of the recruiting effort. Like Thrill of the Hunt, there isn’t much variety to the monsters in this quest, but it is built on multiple levels, which makes the map a bit more interesting. With a few obstacles to get around to get to the General, this mission isn’t simply killing everyone and everything along the way. There is a mimic in this quest, which raises the variety a little bit, but he’s optional. The layout and the objective is kind of a prelude to the last quest in this chain.
Through a Mirror Darkly is the last quest in the Shadow Over Wheloon chain, and probably the most inventive of the five, even though it’s borrowing a similar mechanic from a quest in the Orchard of the Macabre called Inferno of the Damned, where the players have to complete the quest by making their way through two realms by using a portal. This time, however, each player is given a hand mirror they can activate at any time to flip between the light and shadow side of the quest, which opens up the strategies a bit more. The plot thread has you dealing with Oriphaun, as he’s found out the Netherese have got their hands on a Nether Scroll, an old bit of magical scroll that they could use to wreak havoc, and he wants to get it away from them. The quest has you moving through several levels looking for shadow and light orbs to get access to the Netherese who has the scroll. The orbs are on either side of the light or shadow, and you have to use the mirror to pop between the two realms inside Oldstone Hall, which has different doorways blocked in the different sides, so there’s a bit of puzzle-solving as well. There are a few hidden areas within, flipping between the two sides doesn’t feel sluggish and I had a blast playing through to the end of this one despite the length. The end fight where you have to swap between sides to go after the Netherese was a nice change-up as well.
Overall I really like the quest chain. There are some nice guaranteed end rewards for each quest line, and the end quest more than makes up for the mundane run-throughs of two of the four flagging quests. It is much harder than the previous epics we’ve gotten, mileage varying on the difficulty, part of that being my character being under-leveled for the content, another being the new enhancement changes this update brought with it, and then, of course, unfamiliarity with the quests themselves. I’m used to running these with my wife, and a few times we seriously considered getting some friends to help beyond us and two hirelings. Good times. They are a challenge though, and this is kind of end-game content you’re dealing with. Like the King’s Forest quest chain, I have a feeling I’ll be doing these a lot.