I got into the beta a few days ago for Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited and thought I’d give you guys a few impressions. I never played the original Dungeons and Dragons Online so these impressions will be ‘pure’ and only from the game now that they have transformed it into a Free to Play game.
Graphics / Performance
The original game released in 2006, so how are the graphics today? They’re okay, but nothing to get excited about. A message popped up when I launched for the first time telling me that they detected my rig could handle Dx10 graphics, yada yada. I cranked everything up as high as it would go. Nothing really ‘popped’ for me in the world. It had this washed-out look that was perpetuated by the bloom.
I could tell immediately that this was a Turbine game. Character models look very similar to Lord of the Rings Online. Character animations are a tad worse though. It lacked a lot of polish in this department, evident by my character doing a lot of sliding around and awkward jolting. It’s bad enough that I feel bothered by it.
There was a lag present, but I’m not sure how much to attribute to the game and how much of it was due to this being a beta. Perhaps this falls under the animations and their wonkiness, but the jittery lag was the worst. Just like the other things though, I could live with it.
DDO Unlimited is a MIMORPG (Massively Instances Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). When you’re in town it’s like a lobby where all the others players hang out. This is where you’ll interact with other players and the only sense of “massively multiplayer” I ever felt while playing. Once you leave the town you’re in your own instance. Quests are all instanced. Traveling outside of the first town was instanced just for me. The only buildings you can enter are the ones with glowing doors and those require you to do a short load. It was all instanced and truncated. There is no sense of connection with the world.
I often felt like I was playing some hybrid between LOTRO and Neverwinter Nights 2 as I played. Much of the itemization, questing, and overall ‘feel’ was similar to NWN. Crushing a crate to find a scroll of enfeeblement gave me this feeling of “what do I do with this?”. Lots of stuff you have no clue what to do with or plan to never use will drop for you. Nothing ever dropped from mobs. When they died they just disappeared a few seconds after falling down. The only real gear I ever received was from chests and quest rewards which disappointed me since it made the mobs nothing more than trash to wade through to get to the prize. In other dungeon crawling type games I always enjoyed that random chance to find a rare from a monster.
It has a very distinct action feel to it. Although the game allows you to click or click and hold to attack monsters, I found myself holding the right mouse button to free look and using the left to attack; it gave the game a straight action feel to it and I felt more connected to my character. Shooting arrows and swinging weapons was more of a “general area” thing than it was precision, but that made it work (especially with the jitters).
As a Barbarian my character was all about the big two-handed axe. I had little trouble mowing things down in a few swings. I was able to skip the “solo” difficulty of quests and move on to the “normal” – oh yeah, all these instances have different difficulties and allow you to replay them, thus unlocking the next difficulty.
Lots of D&D as you might expect. Creating your character and then progressing him/her offers a lot of customization. You get to set your own stats, choose your own feats, enhancements, spells, and do everything you can in D&D. This also means that there will be choices you make that you regret. To correct any mistakes or change anything about your character requires you to obtain expensive in-game items or buy one with Turbine Points (More on this later).
Leveling up takes a while. You can do all of the quests and instances in the first area and still be level 1. Like D&D, leveling up means your character gets much stronger. Levels are supposed to be big milestones and a real big step up. That feeling translates well into the game.
DDO Store – Microtransactions
This is where the game sorta falls apart for me entirely. There is an in-game tab that opens a store window offering you all sorts of things from potions to increase exp to hirelings that act as party members to entire adventures. All of these things cost you points. Like all microtransaction system this one will nickel and dime you to death. If you want to play a Monk you’re going to have to pay for that class. If you want your character to be a Drow then you’ll have to pay for that race. Like many other MT systems, this one will claim not to give you any major advantage that you can’t earn in-game on your own. Whether or not thats really true I’m not sure. one thing is for sure: Spending money gives you an advantage and you’re going to need to spend money to get the most out of this game.
Buying content is where I’m torn. I buy content all the time in the form of paid expansions for MMORPGs. I’ve even purchased the $10-15 expansions for EQ2 and never once regretted it. These “adventure packs” for DDO are little jaunts you can go off on. Theres one to go to go off and fight undead in some storyline with 44 quests and 4 hand-crafted adventures. I can’t really put my finger on why this bothers me… maybe it’s that I’m so used to downloading modules for NWN2 and playing them for free that this bothers me or maybe it’s that all the content in DDO so far feels so quick and really unimmersive that I couldn’t justify spending money for something to play and throw-away.
Although I’m not impressed by the instancing, the lack of polish, and the microtransactions, the overall game here isn’t bad. I’m a D&D fan and this, by design, is full of many of the things that make D&D great. You’ll crunch numbers over whether or not taking +1 to a stat will be worth -1 to some modifier and going through dungeons and adventures through dungeons in a group is really where the game shines. Watching your character progress will feel like leveling one up in the pen and paper game.
Where I lose interest in the game is in the reason to feel committed. Just like the pen and paper game, this feels more like a game I would play once a week with some friends and not one that I would dedicate large amounts of time and effort. I don’t feel connected to the world and I don’t feel connected to my character; I feel connected to each little adventure I set out on and whether or not I’ll be able to accomplish it. For those wanting quick adventures of get in / get out action will probably really enjoy DDO. The fact that it’s free, and of decent quality, will make this a really good addition to that list of games you want to play with friends.
In the end, for me, I’d just as soon play Neverwinter Nights 2 for a better D&D, RPG, and dungeon crawl experience. Nothing in DDO grabbed me and gave me that “I have to play this game!” feeling. There’s something there though and I do suggest you give it a try once it’s released.