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Monday, January 16, 2006

Dungeons & Dragons Online (Beta) Review: C-




The grade should actually be a bit lower but giving it a "D" like I wanted to would have been too corny. D&D gets a D! No thanks. Here's the review:

Disclaimer

I think I approached this game with an open mind. I was cautiously optimistic but not in fanboi mode. After fiddling with the character creator for hours, I even sent e-mails to some friends telling them they had to check this game out. But after a few days, I was telling them not to bother.

I only played the beta, and, though I did put some time into it, I honestly couldn't stand playing it extensively. So, take this review with a grain of salt. Perhaps the game has improved incredibly in the last few weeks. So, I make this offer:

If anyone plays the game after release for a decent amount of time and likes it, feel free to write up a review and e-mail it to me. As long as it is decently written and readable, I promise to post it (or the best one I receive) in the interests of fairness.

Also, Ethic has some
impressions and links up over at Kill Ten Rats so be sure to check that out.

Graphics

The graphics are not terrible. They're average. That's about it though. I think they're worse than WoW or EQII. But graphics are somewhat subjective and may depend on the particular person's tastes or even the system being used to run the game. Do not expect anything inspiring. I did like the climbing and jumping animations, which I thought were the best I had seen in a fantasy MMO.

Character Creator

It's fun to have so many choices. Creating a character is a large part of the fun of the PnP game and I think that system (carried over pretty much wholesale here) is an excellent one. I enjoyed considering different spells, feats and skills. I was excited to try all of the various races, classes and to multi-class (which is possible). The system has a lot of potential and it is fun to tinker around with it.

Graphically, the character creator is maybe marginally better than WoW or EQII in terms of physical customization. That's not saying it's great, by any means. It reminded me a bit of Eve.

Setting

I admit I was hoping for a more classic setting from the PnP game for DDO. But okay, I like the Eberron setting too and I read up on it before playing. Unfortunately, I shouldn't have bothered. DDO has nothing more than a very generic fantasy setting with a few Eberron elements just tacked on with little thought.

Depth

This game is very heavily instanced. All of the actual gameplay takes place in instances. You will never feel that you are part of an actual world. There is no real exploration. It's more reminiscent of Guild Wars than WoW or EQII in this respect.

The outdoor zones are good for this:

Looking for group (and if you don't have other friends playing this can be a real nightmare).
Selling and buying items.
Running around and getting every quest in the zone.
Sitting in a tavern with a large number of other people waiting for your health and magic to regen (you can buy food or drink to speed this).

I also found the location of the tavern on the map to be extremely annoying (not the newbie tavern, the second one).

The non-instanced outdoor zones are just a chore to get through as quickly as possible. There's nothing fun or interesting about them. Grab your quests, your groupmates, your items and go. I don't think they have a good grasp on the economy either and I see future problems there.

Quests

This is the heart of the game and part of it is good. The DM flavor text that you get during quests is great. I think some of the individual backstories and twists are better than or at least equal to EQII and WoW. I like that you only get xp from completing quests. I like some of the traps that you have to physically avoid by using actual player skill to dodge or time them.

But then things go downhill fast. What does it matter if you only get quest xp for completing quests when you end up having to kill every monster in the zone by engaging in poorly implemented combat (see below)? Yes, there are a few alternative solutions to quests, but the vast majority of gameplay seems to involve breaking 82 barrels to find some item. If you think I'm kidding about the barrels, try it for yourself and see.

Combat

I admit that I think D&D is more suited to strategic, tactical combat. I love the PnP combat where it feels like every decision is important. But okay, I accept that DDO decided to go for a semi-twitch combat system.

I am not against twitch combat in fantasy games. I play
Mount & Blade for hours every week and if that combat was ever implemented in an MMO, I would never leave my apartment.

But this twitch combat is badly implemented. It's a click-fest that gets boring very quickly. Many of the spells and skills I mentioned in the character creator feel pretty meaningless. It's just right-click, left-click and maybe cast a damage spell or a heal. A lot of people compare it to Diablo, but I think that's being generous. The combat in Diablo is fun. The best way to describe DDO combat is annoying. They slowed it down at some point during the beta but now it is just annoying over a longer period of time.

Another failing is that there's really no group dynamic in combat. If you are grouped with five people it is more like five individuals each doing their own thing (besides a few heals or buffs) in the same area. It lacks the feeling of fighting in a cohesive group that I've come to expect from an MMORPG.

To me the combat is the weakest point of the game. And since combat is really the core mechanic of any MMORPG, that's not a good thing.

Soloability

Do not buy this game if you like to solo. I'm not saying it's impossible, just that it is very frustrating (after the initial quests) and that the game clearly was not designed for soloing. Now, let me say something loud and clear. I do not mind a game company putting out a game that focuses only on grouping. But don't buy this game and then complain when you can't solo. I am not holding this against them...just a warning.

PvP

Nope. I'm not holding this against them either, just informing you.

Content

The content appears to be quite limited. There is absolutely nothing to do besides the quests and there are not even close to enough of them. Players that have to run the same quest repeatedly in order to level will soon become annoyed. And from what I can tell, Turbine is completely underestimating the speed at which MMO players burn through content. I would not be surprised if some experienced players work through all the available content in a month or less.

Summary

To me D&D was always an amazing game that sparked imagination, creativity, social bonding and a sense of adventure. I'll never forget the feeling of wonder I felt when I first played. DDO is the antithesis of this. To see the license turn into a bland mix of Guild Wars and Diablo is just sad. And even putting any preconceptions about the license to the side, it's just not a fun game.

Watching people try to roleplay while they're smashing barrel after barrel and madly clicking on mobs is painful.

I truly don't understand why anyone would subscribe to this game. Since I may be accused of EQII favoritism, I'll compare it to WoW instead. WoW is such a better game it's like it's not even in the same class. WoW is not twice the game DDO is, it's ten times the game. Heck, Guild Wars is clearly superior.

I suppose some people who are bored with WoW may try this for a while, and I guess it can pass the time for a month or two. I suppose PnP players might go for the license and enjoy playing an MMO for the first time. But I don't see how this game can last. Charging a subscription for it seems almost absurd unless they are going to add a tremendous amount of content on a monthly basis.

It's still better than
the movie though. But not the cartoon. That rocked.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Nazeroth said...

I've read a few other reviews before this and your pretty much spot on with the others. Either your plagiarising them or DnD really sucks. I'm placing my bet on the latter.
I guess its just another MMORPG title that'll be thrown in amongst the other mediocre titles.

4:00 AM  
Anonymous Wargut said...

Somehow I have a feeling that Aggro was twitching after he wrote that review, holding in all the flames/hate/frustration he accumulated :)

DDO sounds like the office printer that always gets a paper jam... Smashing it to pieces is a great sense of relief. (okay bad joke I know)

10:36 AM  
Blogger Anskiere said...

Have you seen the second D&D movie? It's more dungeons and dragons and less "omgz geeks!"

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no not plagiarising just really really sucks, bows in shame as i pre ordered this. will make a nice coffee table coaster

2:31 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

i just cancelled my preorder, if guild wars is better i want nothing to do with D&DO..i am so disapointede

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where to begin with this mess of a review:

The graphics are not the greatest, EQII is far better then anything out there. These could be placed comfortably second. To compare them with WoW is impossible since the style is completly different.

Can't say much about the character creation. If anything, you were too generous.

Now from here things get murky. Sounds to me like you were expecting an MMO like all the others. This game is ment to get across the feeling of pnp. I never felt like I was playing with thousands of people when I was playing pnp, maybe that was just my lack of imagination? Of course its going to be all instanced, see above for explination of why this works for this game.

Combat is just find, the smashing of barrels is just a little something for bonus xp, you don't have to if you don't want to. There are however only 4 or 5 animations for each weapon, I think that could have been more.

I have to go, but I could have said more.

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You say you took some time playing this game, but didnt even find the second tavern in the harbor area?

hrmm, then you could not have taken more than a few days to try it out.

It definitelly is NOT a game for soloing, since after the first 6 or 7 quests you get, it gets more and more dificult to solo, even impossible.

But that is exactlly what D&D is about, its about grouping! So if you dont like grouping and you want to run solo through all the content, definitelly dont buy this game.

Grafix are good, like the last poster said, not like EQ2, but what game has better grafix than EQ2 atm??

To finish up, i like this game a lot and i will be playing it for a while. To those who cancelled pre order based on this review, you made a big mistake in just swallowing what one person said after trying the game out for a few hours, cause thats what the author did.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you be so stupid!!!DnD is the funest RPG made by any game company.Sure some people say its really geeky but thats just a stupid rumor.I think you just don't want to be labeled as a geek!!!

9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are a stupid ugly faget

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This game has some great flaws and some great features. Obviously you didn't make it out of the harbor and now you have missed all the great features that have been implimented. DDO was never trying to be a classic MMO like EQ or WOW, it was trying to recreat the feeling of being in a basement with your friends rolling dice. If you want to kill 100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 boars to level stick to WOW. If you want to have fun Play ddo

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DO YOU EVEN LIKE DnD? Ist a computer representation of the TABLE TOP 3.0 not ment for kids who like warcraft.

1:58 PM  

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