Chatting with Scott Shicoff, Lead Designer for Neverwinter, is always fun. Say what you will about the game itself if you aren’t a fan but Scott’s passion for the IP is incredible. I had a chance to catch up with Scott and chat about the upcoming Underdark module for the free-to-play MMORPG and what exactly this iconic location has in store for Neverwinter players.
Magicman (MM): As with many of Neverwinter’s updates, Underdark brings yet another D&D iconic location to life in game. How does the team plan to implement this area in a way that fans will enjoy?
Scott Shicoff (SS): The Underdark is going through a bit of a rough patch right now, what with demons from the Abyss being unleashed at a frightening rate. All of the well-known races of the Underdark are being driven out or killed, not just the Drow. This will be immediately reflected when players journey to Mantol-Derith and see shopkeepers leaving their establishments. For those who don’t know, Mantol-Derith is a secret marketplace where Drow, Duergar, Mindflayers, and others (you might even see a Beholder) can trade safely. With demons flooding the Underdark, no one is safe.
MM: This technically isn’t our first experience in game with the Underdark though, is it?
SS: True, you can currently journey to other locations of the Underdark in Neverwinter. One of the major concepts of the Underdark is that of mystery. The Underdark is massive and largely unexplored. Players will be able to visit a few familiar places (Gauntlgrym), while also seeing new locations like Mantol-Derith.
MM: Speaking of icons, Drizzt Do’Urden makes an appearance here. Will players be questing with Drizzt? How exactly will we be interacting with this icon?
SS: There are a number of iconic characters making appearances in a series of special quests written by Drizzt’s creator himself, R.A. Salvatore. We are really excited about this collaboration and can’t wait for players to see these famous personalities. I don’t want to give anything away, but once you’re done questing with these characters, you’ll be able to find them down in Mantol-Derith, as they plot against Demogorgon. They might even lend a hand against the Prince of Demons.
MM: Let’s talk map size. To date, the recently released Strongholds map was the largest map added to Neverwinter. Where does the Underdark and all of its caves and tunnels rank as far as map size?
SS: We are trying to achieve different goals in this update, and are not pushing the size boundaries like we did with Strongholds. For Underdark, we want to enhance the endgame experience. As such, we have built replayable content, like scaling demonic heroic encounters (difficulty and rewards increase with more participants), variable demonic skirmishes that reward based on how well your group does, and a large-group battle against Demogorgon himself. Following the theme of variation, you’ll need to pay attention during the Demogorgon fight to make sure you’re playing as strategically as possible. This fight also rewards based on how well you do phase-over-phase, so you can’t just sit back and watch the event happen.
MM: We have all the usual denizens of the Underdark being added to the game but THEN we have creatures pulled to the Underdark from the Abyss thanks to Gromph Baenre, drow Archmage of Menzoberranzan’s portals. What the hell is going down in this zone as players arrive?
SS: Chaos! Madness! Demons are everywhere and wreaking havoc! The inhabitants of the Underdark need everyone’s help to stop the demonic hordes that have already begun to make their way up to the surface. Using the new Underdark campaign to track their progress, players will need to drive back these Abyssal creatures as they work towards the biggest threat of the module: the Prince of Demons, Demogorgon.
MM: The Loremaster reveal says that a lot of these races have their own issues with other races in the Underdark independent of players. Will we actually see this type of conflict on the map in our travels?
SS: Players will be visiting Mantol-Derith, which is neutral ground, so this conflict will not really be present in this module.
MM: PC Players obviously get the expansion first later this year. Any estimate on when console players get this content yet?
SS: We don’t have a release date yet for Underdark on Xbox One. We’ll let everyone know when a date is announced.
MM: Any word on when we can expect a new class in Neverwinter? Shaman anyone?
SS: We’re brainstorming ideas for the next class in Neverwinter, but I can’t say any more than that just yet.
Our thanks to Scott for taking some time to chat with me and if you wnat to learn more about the Underdark check out the official Neverwinter site.