Friday, September 11, 2009

Dead as a DDO?

I am a sucker for free.

Dungeons and Dragons Online, the (dare I say it) 'failed' MMO based on the worlds most popular roleplaying game has now been released on free-to-play. Most things I have read have agreed that this is a pretty bold move but definitely one thats worth a look. So I did!

I downloaded the high end graphics version which my PC can handle with some momentary stuttering occassionally. Graphics are on a par with WAR but work nicely enough. They share the same sort of engine as LOTRO including the minute icons (although that might be a product of my 1680x1050 screen!). Movement is WASD and combat is point and click with movement being important as well. The system is pretty hardwired D&D3e with a spell pool system, so naturally I created a dwarf cleric. One nice touch was that the game flagged up which classes were good for soloing and which were not.

The opening is reminiscent of AoC - you are shipwrecked and meet with some strangers and go on a mission. However, this is where the game changes substantially from the standard MMO make-up. There are tricks and traps that have to be negotiated - the game handholds you through the first ones (which are like 'find a key') but later you have to do logic puzzles, a number of 'pipedream' style ones including one in 3-d which took this bear-of-small-head a while and dodge actual traps!

The downside of the game as I saw it was a lack of real levelling content that obviously springs out to you during the start of the game. The quest-givers don't show easily on the map so you have to hunt them down. You can repeat quests to grind some XP which isn't as bad as it sounds. The 'Protect the Crystal' quest, for example, is a 3 minute 15 mob gauntlet that I completed in solo and normal modes but couldn't do in hard. Shucks! Oh yes, the instanced quests are graded in difficulty. Nice touch. And another nice touch is that as you progress through the dungeons, the dislocated voice of the 'Dungeon Master' describes what is happening in a nice voiceover.

"You enter a dank sewer, stinking of fetid refuse. You hear the scittering sound of animals ahead of you and an unearthly low moaning from deeper in the sewer."

And then I ventured out of the village and I was in the wonderful world of Guild Wars again. Personal wilderness instance, loads of dungeoned content which was great fun and lots of exploration achievement-style targets to keep you looking. I'm stuck at a camp with a gnarly trader at the moment.

Its no WoW-killer - I'm not seeing the same depth of involvement there and I am sure that there will be a point where not spending £££ on 'Turbine Points' to get the special items and skill-ups will be killer, but as a FREE game, its pretty awesome.


Metaresearchboi said...

Thats all very interesting. DDO was one of the games I was thinking of trying and certainly the FTP business change I'm sure will get a lot of people giving it a go for the first time.

Been a while ofc since I've even considered what 3.5e rules meant and I'm interested to see how they've translated them to a MMO.

I'm sure any MMO which tries to stick with a franchise based on the rules also has significant balance issues too. Changing damage on an ability up or down by 20% in WoW to balance it isn't an issue.

But DDO is supposed to be "by the 3.5e rules" MMO. if a class is "broken" or overpowered according to the 3.5e rules (and, if I remember rightly, Clerics wheren't too bad at all!) how do they "balance" that... or do they not even try.

And yes, of course, I'm also interested to see when exactly the $$$ becomes something you'd be interested in doing.

In all, something interesting to try though!

Vodkashok said...

Well, the one concrete thing I noticed was that it smoothed the learning curve completely. I totally understood which magic item to get because well, I knew what those +'s were doing to the character. There are some differences - you have action points, which are like talents. Levels are done differently as well with levels and ranks. I'll explore some more and keep you informed!

Oh and the main baddies at the start are Sauhaghin, which makes a nice difference. No kobolds. I've also battled an Ice Mephit and some named ice spider called Kraal. He got mace'd!

Fandomlife said...

DDO was never really an MMO in the sense of WoW - and the attempts to price it as such were always doomed to failure (however good or bad the game).

In truth it offered a dungeon module playing experience, the difficulty was how to charge for it.

Vodkashok said...

Well, so far I have just finished the starter area and moved onto Stormreach. The difficulty in the game isn't the combat (because the cleric is fucking invulnerable! The only time I have died was a drowning and idiot here had a ring of water-breathing as well), its finding things and working out what to do. It gets reasonably epic and there is a dragon! The main problem I can see is that the maps are not perpetual, which is a fucking pain in the ass.

Now, the first little money drain I have encountered is that you are locked to level four at first. You need a Sigil of Levelling (which I believe is £9.99) to get to level 8. Now each level involves 5 ranks, so the game has 100 effective levels, and you have to pay £40 to access them all.

Rob in NC USA said...

Actually, I returned to DDO from playing it about 2 years ago. The leveling sigils you DO NOT have to buy. They are given as a quest reward from the quest givers in the Harbor District of Stormreach, although you CAN buy them, but they also GIVE YOU the Turbine Points to buy them from the DDO store - free.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Vodkashok said...

Oh right? Thats awesome - thanks Rob.

Ustice said...

You don't NEED to buy the level sigils, since you can get them as quest rewards. I hear that they are handed out pretty regularly. (I don't know for sure, since I play VIP).

As for leveling, there are a ton of options when you level. If you chose one of the Paths, then it will just automatically level your character, and you will wind up with a decent character build, but if you want to fine-tune it, and optimize it, you should do it manually. If you know the d20 3.5 system, then you should have no problems. There are plenty of guides on the forums.

@Metaresearchboi: While the system is based on the 3.5e rules-set, it isn't a religiously faithful interpretation. When a pen and paper rule comes in conflict with fun and balance, it is adjusted to fit with the spirit of the rule, if not the letter of it.

@Fandomlife: Comparisons of DDO to WoW are generally not good. While both might call themselves an MMO, DDO is a very different animal. It's really more fair to say that DDO is closer to a combination of a platformer (jumping, solving puzzles, active combat, etc.) and something like Diablo on Battlenet. Since the world is instanced, you really feel a more personal touch to things. DDO really focuses on the group experience, and while you CAN solo, you are missing a lot of the fun. DDO is all about the group cohesion and strategy. They have included some good tools to find a party, so that shouldn't be a problem. Don't think of DDO as WoW, it's DIFFERENT.

@Vodkashok: The difficulty definitely increases. While clerics generally have an easier time soloing some of the early levels, later it is more difficult. Also, as it has been pointed out, the Hard, and Elite settings are a lot more difficult (especially solo).

As for the maps… Well, I have never been impressed with them. Once the level gets to be more than a 2-D layout they can be almost useless. DDO isn't perfect, but it is a really fun game.

Fortuente said...

DDO keeps getting better. I just wanted to chime in that now (a few months after you wrote this) leveling sigils have been taken out of the game. So you don't need them to level up any more!

Ustice said...

Another update is that there are now free quests in the upper levels. F2P goes even farther.