R.A. Salvatore’s “The Dwarven King” quest line is the story addition of Neverwinter’s Module 8: Underdark and I was finally able to play through it. Since bringing in the Forgotten Realms bestselling author was a major selling point of the Module, I decided to review and rate different aspects.
1. Story (Rating: B)
I felt entertained playing through the nine Chapters. The story of loyal Pwent, who lost control of his Drow minions in his task to defeat Gauntlgrym and Bruenor Battlehammer, who eventually is able to reclaim the throne, is charming and not entirely obvious. For maybe the first time ever I read through all dialogues and Dwarfs are a perfect race to provoke the occasional laugh. The audio did its part as well. The only reason I can’t go higher than a B is the ending. It almost feels like R.A. wrote the story completely independent to the Underdark content additions and they needed to connect them. That you get from Regis over Drizzt to being instantly recruited to help in Mantol-Derith is too forced in my eyes. A storyline that leads into the Underdark campaign should actually feature more events that led to the current situation in the Underdark campaign.
2. Challenge (Rating: B-)
For most 70s this should be a walkthrough. My lowbie actually died once to a boss, but that more a matter of me being surprised it can hit so hard and I had to put out a tanking pet to counter it. Otherwise the difficulty fits the rest of the solo campaigns: It’s not challenging. This was about to be expected however and rating represents that as well.
3. Length (Rating: C)
I kind of remember one dev stating that the quests should fill six hours of gameplay and I’m not sure whether it’s just me not recalling it correctly or the dev being delusional or greatly exaggerating. You can probably stretch it a bit, but two hours is absolutely tops for the content. There’s not really much to explore, because you are adventuring known maps, and while the dialogues are funny and not just a click-through, it’s not like you have to read for minutes in each Chapter. This is a bit low for a major feature in the Mod. Higher geared players can probably rush through it in less than 60 minutes.
4. Scenery And Map Design (Rating: C)
Maybe my anticipation was a bit too high going into the quest-line, ending up in Rothe Valley however for Chapter I was a major letdown. Not sure what I did expect. After all this is a one-time feature that most players won’t be repeating. Creating new maps for roughly two hours of gameplay is silly, but running through the Dwarf King Crypt a gazillion times and re-using other content just takes away from the atmosphere of an otherwise great story. At least they redesigned the boss rooms and some parts of Vellosk to give it a unique feeling. The overrun village also seemed to be a new map.
5. Rewards (Rating: A)
I actually though about starting it after the Elemental Evil campaign to make it a separate experience, but am kinda glad I didn’t. The XP really helped on my way to 70, you get a free Artifact and RPs are always needed and appreciated. The quest-line rewards everything you would want from such a solo-player adventure.
In the end it comes down to expectations and perspective. If you think about this as one of the cornerstones of the Module, which I honestly think PWE was trying to sell it for, you are probably slightly disappointed. Two hours of story is not really that much especially if you consider that the rest of the Module once again consists of innovative stuff like Dailes, Heroic Encounters and farming the same group content over and over again.
In case you expected a nice little quest-line to sweeten your way to Mantol-Derith though, there’s not really a lot to bitch about other than the recycling of too many maps. I for myself had a good time with Pwent and Bruenor and one or two more of these little side adventures could also help to fill the lack of content that haunts the post 60 progression.