Okay, I’ll admit that I enjoyed Beyond the Rift. It was interesting to run through Demonweb/Underdark scenery for about 15-20 minutes. But that’s just it. It was fun for about 15-20 minutes. I ran through the quest and though, “hmm, that was kind of neat,” but I never once thought that it’d be enjoyable to run through an entire fucking wilderness zone full of more of the same. And that’s exactly what The Underdark/Sschindylryn are, only worse.
Five quests here, only two of which is passable experience/minute, but even then, it’s counterbalanced by the long walk out to the quest. Yes, there are wilderness zones in this pack, but why on earth would anyone want to explore and slay here? My mentality is that I want to get out of there as soon as possible because they’re fucking dreadful and I want to avoid them like the plague.
Even if overall, there are two quests which provide alright experience, and even if all of these quests are part of multiple sagas, I’m still not going to run these because they’re some of the most boring and monotonous to run, and some of the most frustrating to even find. People give Restless Isles lots of shit, but compared to the Underdark, that place is heaven.
So for me, this pack gets a firm 0/5 in the experience department (I’m sure as hell never going to run these quests again), and the only reason I’m raising it to 1/5 is because other people seem to run it.
There are some rings here which are decent, although they’re not tremendous upgrades from heroic items. Seal of House Avithoul is a slightly better Ring of Lies, for instance. Even so, I’m not rating the loot here that high because it’s easy enough to just buy any of it on the auction house. These quests have been out for 3 years, and people seem to have run them plenty of times, so there’s naturally a lot more loot in circulation than what people know what to do with. So really, even if any of the loot here is semi-decent, you can easily get any of it without setting foot in the Underdark. And that’s a path I’d much rather take.
Fun Factor: 0/5
Without a doubt the worst wilderness areas in the game. There’s absolutely nothing likable about the Underdark or the Drow City which I can’t type out because it’s spelled so damn weird. I hate all of the quests here and the repetitive, overtly-dark, labyrinthine setting of the wilderness here absolutely kills any potential enjoyment I would’ve had.
If you read my Sands review, you’d know that I have a tendency to get lost in the Sands of Menechtarun. I don’t know why, but I can’t seem to help it. But at least the Sands have the courtesy of being brightly lit up. At least the Sands aren’t half the size of the Underdark. The Underdark took everything I hated about Sands and amplified it times ten. And yeah, I get that this is supposed to be “oh cool, a new setting,” and that it was supposed to be inventive and different from the rest of the game. But for one thing, just because an idea is unique does not mean that it was a good idea to begin with (this is what I call Necro 3 syndrome), and for another thing, we already have Beyond the Rift, which takes the strength of a new, different setting and combines it with a compact and enjoyable quest design.
Instead of feeling the compulsive need to design the Underdark and the Demonweb, why couldn’t Turbine instead focus on Cormyrean geography instead? There’s no shortage of potential ideas for content that they could use, and if they had spent half of the effort that they spent on the Underdark and the Demonweb on expanding Cormyr, we’d have a great adventure pack. You have settings with huge amounts of potential, like swamps, rivers, lakes, strongholds, and all sorts of other things. Maybe Turbine could even focus on expanding the High Road, since the High Road according to Forgotten Realms lore is dozens of degrees larger than the pitiful little incarnation that Turbine brought us. There are just so many ideas which just ooze potential, and what does Turbine do instead…
The Underdark is the most labyrinthine, annoying-to-navigate wilderness area in the game. It’s huge, it’s dark (even when you put on the goggles intended to make it bright, it’s still pretty dark), all of it looks the same, and it’s multi-leveled like Shan-to-Kor is. All of these factors make it incredibly easy to get lost. The Drow City is somewhat easier to navigate, but it’s still unnecessarily large and it feels like Turbine could’ve easily combined the two wilderness areas into one. After all, it’s the exact same scenery with the exact same textures, and lore-wise, it goes together as well. I don’t see the point in separating the two. Or better yet, why couldn’t Turbine simply never done these wilderness areas in the first place, instead opting to focus on better-conceived potential ideas?
I’m of the opinion that the quests themselves aren’t markedly better than the wildernesses, either. There’s one standalone quest, In the Belly of the Beast, which is incidentally the only quest in the Underdark. (Of course, it’s a nightmare to find, as you might expect.) The central gimmick is, as the title suggests, that you’re eaten by a giant purple worm named Sineater, and you have to fight your way back out.
Wait a second, where have I seen this before? A giant purple worm with the suffix -eater attached to it, whose belly you must explore? Oh yeah, that’s right.
The Zone Eater from Final Fantasy 6. It even looks exactly the same and shares a similar name as DDO’s inferior rip off (Zone Eater… Sin Eater…?). You know, I was surprised that when going through Sin Eater’s belly, I didn’t find a mime who would join my party. Seems like Turbine ripping off everything else about the Zone Eater, so why wouldn’t there be?
And yeah, I know that simply being a ripoff of another game’s mechanic doesn’t automatically make the quest a bad one, but here’s the rub: DDO already did a “belly of the beast” mechanic in the way of Acute Delirium, and you’re not hearing about me criticizing that one because it was comparatively original, and the beast itself wasn’t a blatant ripoff of the Zone Eater. There is a way to take inspiration from another franchise without being completely derivative. All in all, this quest is unoriginal on every level, and you could tell that Turbine was running out of ideas, being that they recycled a mechanic from an earlier quest and slapped in a monster ripped straight from FF6.
Aside from that quest, there are three quests which take place in the Drow City, all of them being boring and derivative. You must complete them in any order to flag for the final quest, which by comparison, seems underwhelming and short, despite it being the final quest to end the chain. I don’t like any of the quests except for maybe House of Rusted Blades, and that’s only because the experience is good. House of Broken Chains recycles the slave collar mechanic from The Lost Thread and aside from that, is nothing noteworthy.
The House of Death Undone is easily the most detestable of the bunch, since it takes place in a large drow mansion where everything looks the same. The goal is to find a laboratory, pick up explosives, and then find the head drow’s chamber and blow up cauldrons there. Even if it sounds easy enough, it isn’t. There are several doors in the central chamber, some of them being locked and others being unlocked, and you are given absolutely no indication whatsoever on where to go. It can take a good ten minutes of wandering around to figure out where the hell the explosives are, and another ten minutes to end the quest. Most of the quest is spent wandering about aimlessly than actually doing anything.
Possibly the only somewhat redeeming factor of this pack. People seem to love to do these quests, even if they’re far from optimal as far as experience goes. Maybe they’re operating under the misguided notion that the saga experience will make up for it? In reality, however, it’s a better expenditure of time to simply do the big three quests every day if you really want epic experience.
Thoroughly unlikable pack which is far from worth 2495 TP, even if it comes with the King’s Forest.
The setting kills everything about this pack. With subpar experience (what with all the running around), thoroughly mediocre loot which you can simply buy off the auction house, the worst wilderness in the entire game, and boring, uninspired quests, the Underdark is a place you will want to avoid like the plague.