Last played: 2009
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…
Real-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…