When the first anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach ticked by in February, our own JR Sutich decided to take a second look at the game. While it had launched originally to less than rave reviews, after a year, many MMOs hit their stride. Find out if DDO is one of them in our review.
Developed by Turbine, Published by Atari
Review by JR Sutich
Dungeons and Dragons Online is a game that I have really not been interested in playing since it launched. Part of that had to do with some of the changes that were made to the game right at the end of the Beta. I see now that I may have been denying myself what could end up being an enjoyable gameplay experience.
I started out by installing the client and patching up to the latest version, which went smoothly. After that, I created an Elf Paladin on the Argonnessen server, and saw DDO for the first time since Beta. Thankfully, it was familiar enough for me to navigate easily through the Tutorial, and get into Stormreach Harbor.
The first thing that became evident was the fact that in order to accomplish many of the quests, grouping is necessary. Sure there is a Solo option, but taking a 50% XP hit just isn't worth it. After finding a good group and running some of the quests, I had managed to gain Level 2. That's when I ran into a problem. The Paladin build I had found and decided to use was out of date by a few updates. I had managed to gimp myself right off.
I deleted my character and re-rolled, and started out again. At the lower levels, the game can be fun, but it all depends on whether or not you can find a group. Soloing in DDO is a tedious and frustrating experience. Sadly, most of my play style centers on soloing, but I managed to get into a good groove of running the quests that I could by myself. I managed to gain a good amount of experience and Faction with the Drow. Paladin seems to be a good class choice for this, and I think that choosing a Cleric would be good as well.
One thing that I don't like is the having to grind Faction to unlock the Drow as a playable race and also unlocking the 32-point characters. The Drow race and 32-point characters should have been made available freely when Module 2 went live, either straight out or rewarded for having an active account for a certain number of months. Having to make a character just to grind up Faction in order to make a better character is the kind of catass hijinks that one would expect from Everquest or Vanguard. This gives me serious concerns as to how Half-Orcs, Druids and Monks will be handled when they are added to the game in later months.
My first weekend in DDO turned out to be more fun than I expected, and I look forward to getting to the point where I can check out some of the new features and areas introduced with Module 4. Now onto the stuff that reviews are for.
The graphic quality of the game is great. I was running it at 1280x1024 and was able to turn up most of the settings without seeing any performance problems. The character animations seemed to be smooth as well. The amount of detail shown in the environment was good too. Most of the environments I saw were sewers, but they looked like high quality sewers and the city itself and indoor locations were nice to look at as well.
Sound effects were good, with plenty of sword hits and monster growling. I gave the game music a short listen, then turned if off, as per my usual. One thing I did leave on was the Dungeon Master voice-over done by Gary Gygax. I liked the feel that the narration gave the whole experience, although it would have been more awesome if Morgan Freeman had done the narration. The sound effects are also varied enough as to not make them seem too repetitive, which is good because repetitive is where we are headed next.
One of the detractions from DDO that I found was the necessity of repeating quests. The quests are fun and interesting the first time, but after the fifth or sixth time I ran through them, I began to lose my sense of fun. It became even more evident when I found groups and they were just running straight through them without pause and I didn't get a chance to really enjoy much of the discovery elements from being in them for the first time.
Fighting in DDO can be fun, but it takes some getting used to since combat isn't like other MMOs. Auto-attack is your main focus, and Special Attacks don't do much that I can tell. Sundering Armor and Tripping didn't seem to have any effect at all. I was also a little surprised at how long some fights could go if you and your target got low die rolls. I don't think I had ever missed 10 straight times in an MMO before.
I was honestly surprised by my reaction to playing Dungeons and Dragons Online. Sure there are still many issues that I do not agree with, but after spending some time in the game I can say that it's not as terrible as I may have made it sound in the past. I don't think that I would become the number one game where I spend most of my time, but I can see myself playing 5-10 hours a week and still feeling like it was worthwhile.
Pros and Cons
- Stable client and servers
- Repetitive quests/content
- Graphics look good
- Necessity to grind Faction to get best characters
- Graphics can be scaled back for older machines
- Gimped solo experience