50 MMOs in 50 Days #14: Dungeons & Dragons Online

Last played: 2009
Experience: Extensive

People take issue all the time when an MMO isn’t like some other game it’s based on. The Elder Scrolls Online isn’t enough like Skyrim. Star Wars: The Old Republic isn’t enough like the Old Republic single-player games. Guild Wars 2 isn’t enough like Guild Wars.

Well, Dungeons & Dragons Online is like Dungeons & Dragons – for better or worse.

Even a first-level character in D&D has a goodly number of options. Spellcasters have a half-dozen or so spells to pick from, fighters have a few feats and other combat options, and so on. As the game goes on and your character gains levels, you get even more spells and a list of abilities and items a mile long.

The thing is, when you’re seated around your dinner table eating pizza and rolling dice, you’ve got all the time you need. My wizard has 31 spells? Hang on, let me grab the Player’s Handbook and look up exactly how this one works. My fighter needs to make a skill check to jump over the rubble and then will have a -4 to hit the orc beyond it? Wait, does my Jumping specialty affect my attack? Maybe I’ll go around instead…

DDO_Gallery14Real-time video games don’t give you that luxury. As anyone who’s had 30+ skills on their bar knows, you have to use those abilities (or at least a subset of them) in real time. We all manage that, in time, but usually not right from the start.

That was a little overwhelming for me in DDO. Between his spells and other abilities – not to mention balancing my weapons and spell components – my wizard had probably over 10 things to put on his bar right out of the gate. Then I got some magic items to activate, more spells, and…

DDO also takes the damage system from D&D and, while making it a little more video-game friendly, still carries over several conventions from pen and paper. Most notably, you don’t heal or regenerate mana points out of combat without using an item or resting at a designated safe point in a dungeon. Levels are also D&D-scale; the original game only let you progress to level 10.

All of these sound like negatives, and I’m sure they’re the reason why DDO never achieved mass popularity, even with the weight of the world’s most popular RPG behind it. (Being set in the newish Eberron setting rather than something more iconic like Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms probably didn’t help.)

But if you’re looking for an authentic D&D experience… well, Turbine got that right. I enjoyed it, but the challenge level made for a decidedly un-fun solo experience, even with henchmen. The best times were had when I found a person or three to run with. If you can find some friends and treat it like an old-school D&D campaign – i.e., expect lots of death – you’ll probably have a blast.

Just, uh, stay away from the permadeath option at first…

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5 Responses to 50 MMOs in 50 Days #14: Dungeons & Dragons Online

  1. zax19taken says:

    I’ll probably return to DDO at some point, for me it definitely has one of the best dungeon difficulty systems. Also the fact that there are some areas which reward you for bringing a friend with different stats/class is great. My main problem with it was that if you move you lose all your additional attacks. I don’t want it to be like Neverwinter Nights, where you click on an enemy and just twiddle your thumbs while the auto-attacks go off. If they remove(d) that I’d gladly go back so I can move around and swing my axe with my barbarian. 🙂

    • jasonwinter says:

      I thought it was a lot of fun in a group, really felt like “running a dungeon” in the pen-and-paper days. It’s just got a not-insignifcant learning curve and the later content (some of which I sampled as part of my press duties) look absolutely diabolical.

  2. Mad Martha says:

    I agree that running in a group is (a) a lot easier and (b) a lot more fun but isn’t that true of most MMO’s ?
    I’d also point out that the game has changed somewhat since 2009.
    It’s become a lot more solo friendly , the level cap is now 28 (due to rise again to 30 in the future) and for those willing pay for an expansion , Turbine have now added a Forgotten Realms area to quest in.
    The one thing I would note to anyone wishing to try this game for the first time :
    the F2P play is limited. (or at least they make it hard for you to progress using F2P alone)
    It’s good for trying out the game to see if it’s “your sort of thing” but if you wish to play for longer they *really* twist your arm into going for the subscription.

    For someone bored with WoW and looking for something different DDO is certainly worth a try.
    Just be prepared to end up paying the $9.99 monthly sub if you intend to play “full time”.

    • jasonwinter says:

      Sure, it’s more fun to group in any MMO, but most of the time I don’t mind running around by myself. And it’s usually not necessary to group, but with DDO, it felt much more challenging, right from the early stages, and I wish I’d had someone to team up with more often. I think I even have a lifetime sub, which Turbine gave me, but I’ve only logged in with it once.

      It’s definitely different, I’ll certainly give it that. Really, kinda unlike anything else out there, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

  3. Pingback: 50 MMOs in 50 Days #24: Guild Wars | Wintry Mix

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