Aggro Me: Dungeons & Dragons Online (Beta) Review: C-
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nope. I'm not holding this against them either, just informing you.
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.
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.