Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach - Replay

Arep | 29 May 2008 | Comments off

I just want to say for the record that Turbine is my favorite MMO developer with probably Cryptic Studios coming in second. When it comes to any game Sony Online Entertainment is attached to I have to force myself to give it a try. Turbine is a different story. So, when it was suggested that someone write and article about Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach the question wasn’t if I was going to give it a try but what class to choose.

I had originally passed on the game because I had read that it was not very solo-friendly. Things have apparently changed since launch and it is now merely difficult to solo (depending on your class) instead of impossible. Now, I want to stress the fact that this game is meant to be played in a group of various classes that work together to compliment each others’ skills. I also want to make it clear that, so far, I am playing using the 10 day trial so I am going to try and maximize my time in the game in order to write this review. I will be playing mostly (if not entirely) solo due to the time constraints of the trial and the weird hours I tend to keep in general.

I rolled a sorcerer character and threw myself into the land of Xen’drik. Character customization is fairly deep. There are a good amount of race and appearance choices. The races consist of the usual D&D player character staples with the addition of the Warforged, a kind of sentient construct. Subscribers get an additional choice of the Drow. There’s a healthy number of classes to choose from and they actually suggest which ones are appropriate for solo play. Once you’ve chosen a class you move on to attributes and skills. Unless you know what you are doing, stick with the suggested load out. Neverwinter Nights experience will actually help you a bit, though. You can customize your character if you desire. Later on, you’ll earn feats and enhancements that give you the opportunity to specialize your character.

The introductory tutorial is very helpful and I was able to pick up and play without any further assistance. The game seems very instance heavy. Pick up a quest, go to the correct door and choose a difficulty level (if applicable). So far, the instance entrances have usually been right next to the quest giver. Upon entering the instance you are greeted by the dulcet tones of the Dungeon Master who provides the narrative at key moments of the quest.

The sorcerer was difficult to play solo, the game told me it would be when I created him. He was a lot of fun to play though. My one gripe is that leveling is pretty slow. As in other MMO’s you watch your experience bar fill up as you go, but in DDO it has to fill up multiple times in order to gain a level! It’s a long time to sit at level one and, since sorcerer’s can only gain new spells as they level up, it was a little boring. Level progression is purposely slow since there are only 16 levels in the game. It will be hard to get used to at first unless you come from Guild Wars. Each time you fill up your experience bar you are awarded an action point to spend on character enhancements so there is something to look forward to between levels. My next character was a paladin because, after the squishy sorcerer, I just felt the need to wade in and slice things to pieces.

I’d love to go into more detail about what happens beyond level two but I just can’t, I did not make it further than that during the ten day trial. There is a new crafting system that is taking shape as of the beginning of this year. After earning a certain amount of favor with various factions you can get a number of rewards including being able to play as a Drow Elf, creating a character with more attribute points available and additional character slots. A new class, the Monk, should be available by the time you read this. This game is definitely not dead by any means.

So, what is wrong with Stormreach? Turbine promised that DDO would be different than other MMOs out there. For one thing, there was supposed to be a reduction in the old experience grind. As fellow Togger DaBang pointed out, “Unfortunately, due to the requirement to build environments for each quests, the number of quests is simply not high enough to prevent the need to repeat them. In fact, now the game forces repetition even more than it did before. To access one of the Raids you must gain a collection of 20 of 3 different relics. You obtain generally around 2 relics by running a reasonably long quest in the same adventure area. There are approximately 6-7 quests in that area, and specific quests give specific relics. So, you are pretty much forced to run the three main quests 10 times each to get the three sets of 20 relics.”

Initially, DDO was very solo-unfriendly. You had to group and each class had their own role in the party. As the game progressed, Turbine changed things to make a lot of things soloable. Another former member of the TOG DDO guild, Hicks, mentioned, “they did bring in solo content which is great but for me it’s a game where you want your friends involved performing their roles.” Soloing took much of the need to group out of the equation and, unfortunately, the heart of the game revolves around group dynamics. If any of you have ever played a game like the pen and paper D&D, how much fun was it to sit at the table by yourself running your own campaign? Probably not much…

I have reached the end of my trial period and I will not be subscribing. I feel really bad writing that because DDO is not a bad game, not by a long shot. The reason I will not be subscribing is that, frankly, there are games coming out soon that will be captivating my interest more than DDO has the capacity to. I am a lifetime subscriber of Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online and whatever else I choose to play has to compete with that first and foremost. Maybe that is at the heart of why activity in ToG’s DDO forum has dried up? Too many MMOs and too little time.

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