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.