Day 7: More soloing. One of the missions I tried was in the Waterworks, where 6 'rare' (and by 'rare', I mean 'very powerful') monsters need to be defeated to reach an objective. Given that it seemed each rare monster killed me 3 times to every one I managed to bag, I gave up on this mission. Some of the other missions were fun though - smashing gambling tables and chasing thieves through sewers has its moments. That is one thing I will say about DDO: Stormreach - the variety of missions is pretty good, even if most of them are achieved by killing everything in your path. That said, I wouldn't want to repeat each of these things 4 times unless I was in a good team.
One other thing that is getting to me is the lack of information about what certain items do when you mouse-over them. I bought several potions of Improved Vitality I because I thought they were healing potions - it turns out that they buff healing spells instead. It's not a good idea that newb players need to have a D&D rulebook nearby to find out what a potion does before drinking it - it should be right there in the item description.
I'm hopeful I'll get to lvl 3 before the trial runs out - I want a level of Rogue so I can do some of the more thief-ish things like pick locks and disarm traps.
Day 8: Doesn't look like I'll make it to level 3 before the trial runs out. Nuts.
At this point I think I've completed every first- and second-level quest within Stormreach (outside of the Waterworks) at the Solo level of difficulty. Since I'm not really that keen to redo all those missions again at Normal difficulty just to get XP, I've started to take a trip outside the walls of Stormreach and into the Cerulean Hills - another adventure area where you wander around and slaughter the local wildlife, but one where I've been doing better than the Waterworks. I haven't found any of the 'rare' creatures yet (who will probably crush my character and use its body as some sort of cave decoration) but I've been impressed with the Explorer areas you come across - areas like hidden caves or special enemies that the DM voice informs you of. Of the few I've found, I particularly liked finding Loligar the gargoyle, who offered a friendly fight and let me circle strafe my way to victory. It was a nice discovery.
Another thing I like - the tips that flash up on every loading screen between instances. I've learned quite a few things looking at them and it's good for the game to have.
For my final few sessions, I might try teaming up and going through these adventure areas - I don't think I'm going to miss much if people just run full tilt through them, murdering any unfortunate creature who crosses our path and it's always good to have more
fodder team mates between you and the bigger monster with a special name.
Day 9: I tried teaming up, but most of the players were doing high level quests I couldn't hook into. Then I tried to start up my own team, which wasn't the easiest thing to do - you go through the Social screen, then click on 'Create Team', then set your team parameters (it seemed to me that you had to set a quest, or at least once you'd selected a quest you couldn't go back to leaving the quest bit blank) then set a flag that you were looking for team mates. The layout was a bit non-intuitive, leaving me to hunt around to work out what to do. Regardless, no-one was interested in joining a lvl 2 team until I was 5 minutes away from logging off. Also, the 'looking for team' is apparently something most people ignore and the icon - a big glowing disk above your head - actively blocks your vision when fighting at range. That was a bit of poor design right there.
It has occurred to me that I've said nothing about DDO: Stormreach's graphics or sound. To me, both are perfectly adequate. The graphics are a bit murky and fuzzy at times and the sound can be non-descript, but neither are problematic or exceptional.
Day 10: I found a solo quest at the Lighthouse I hadn't done, but apart from that it was running to the Waterworks or to the Hills where I'd last versus the normal monsters but the 'rare' monsters would stomp me into the ground. Also, no-one wanted a lvl 2 ranger on a team. After probably 7 days of fun, the last few sessions ended up with me feeling frustrated - hardly the feeling a game dev would want you to be in when you are deciding whether to pay for the game or not. UnSub Subion ended up at level 2.3 (almost at 2.4).
Overall Opinion: All in all, the trial of Dungeons and Dragons: Stormreach has shown the game to be not as bad as I'd heard. It's a fun game for casual players. That said, it's still a one-note game and seems like a big missed opportunity. On first glance it seems like DDO: Stormreach does pretty much everything a D&D MMO should, but the issue is there isn't much depth there. While there are players out there who play D&D as a dungeon crawl / monty haul experience, a large part of the progression of pen-and-paper D&D has been to increase the scope of this beyond the offering of only dungeons and dragons. DDO: Stormreach just doesn't have any scope to it, or if it does, the trial does a lousy job in showing it off.
That said, I think I'd have found DDO: Stormreach a much more fun experience if I'd had a team of friends backing me up. D&D is an inherently social game (I'll leave the ironies of that unstated) so it makes sense that the online version would work better with a social group. While I think repeating the same map four times is a lazy way of recycling content, a team would make it fly by. Of course, if teaming is meant to be such a key part of it, I can't help but wonder why the team management tools are so awful. Perhaps you get used to them, but I don't think knowing at a glance which mission our team is meant to be doing is a big thing to ask for.
Now, the key question: would I pay for DDO: Stormreach based on the trial? No, not if it's just me. If I could coerce a couple of my
cheapskate fiscally responsible friends to sign up at the same time though, well, DDO: Stormreach might be worth a month or two. In many ways DDO: Stormreach feels like it should be a free-to-play game anyway, given how content is recycled and the lack of depth... but you know, I had fun for most of it, which means I'll at least come back in 12 months time and see what's gone on since then.