MMORPG.com Preview of Turbine's Dungeons and Dragons Online
Article by Jon Wood
Turbine Entertainment’s Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach has inspired many mixed opinions from the community. Some players seem to love this game, touting its closeness to the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop game. Others fault it for its use of instancing, and perceived lack of content. Now, I’ve had a chance to hop into their beta test, and their NDA has been lifted, I’m free as a bird to talk about it.
I find myself feeling a bit mixed on this game. There are parts of it that I really do enjoy, but there are also aspects that make me think that I might not put my time or money into this game. So, I’m going to divide the article into “gripes”, “mixed feelings” and “enjoyable”.
These are the parts of the game that need significant attention before launch or simply bother me personally.
EberronI think the first, right-off-the bat thing that I had to complain about with this game was their choice to use the Eberron setting for their game. While this is old news, it still chafes me a little bit because, as the newest campaign setting offered from Wizards of the Coast, it just doesn’t feel like Dungeons and Dragons to me. It challenges my pre-conceived notions of the game, especially when it comes to the races. Some behave differently in Eberron, and others (Warforged) are new and don’t carry the recognition of some of the other classic DnD races.
That being said, I can see why Eberron was chosen for this game. First, I wouldn’t be surprised if – and this is pure speculation - that it was a condition that Turbine was forced to agree to in the licensing agreement with Wizards of the Coast (the company that owns Dungeons and Dragons). They’re trying to promote their pen and paper campaign setting, and are hoping to bring MMORPGers to the product. If that isn’t the case, then it may have been chosen (as the developers have been saying) because of its newness. It does allow the devs a little bit of leeway in their storytelling. Whatever the reason, Turbine has done a great job of portraying the setting, giving it the correct feel and ambiance.
Character Creation (Cosmetic)Ok, now this is an area that I find extremely frustrating, and is probably my biggest issue with the game to date. Simply put, the character creation for DDO is totally inadequate to the game.
You do have a choice as to whether you would like to be male or female, and which race and class you would like to play. The models are nice enough. I especially liked the look of the Warforged (even if the male and female don’t look very different). It’s in the fine details that character creation really falls short for me. First of all, your starting gear is exactly the same as everyone else’s, only slightly modified by class. I don’t mind a statistically generic wardrobe, but visually looking the same as everyone else in the game from the get-go just doesn’t float my boat. I want clothing… or at least color options. Same goes for the faces. There are only so many different combinations that you can make in the face, and that’s a real shame. I don’t want to be generic elf # 32, I want the freedom to alter my facial (and other) appearance as I see fit. Give me some sliders and let me feel like no one else is playing the person that I have made, otherwise, what’s the point in the first place?
One other gripe that I would like to add to this section comes in the form of naming. I wanted to call my character Melissa Diamondblayde. Now, it’s possible that the same name had been used by another player, but no matter what I changed about the last name, the first name, Melissa, gave the game issues. I couldn’t use it. That annoyed me. I was trying to re-create a favorite PnP character, which seems like something many potential players of this game are going to want to do. If others run into this same frustration, it could cause problems down the line.
Common AreasI found the common areas in the game, especially early on, to be so over-crowded as to be infuriating. People appear on top of other people, walk along the bar as though it were the floor and partake in other activities that make it almost impossible to distinguish one sprite from another. Even with the names above their heads, I found that I got angry when I looked for a particular person in those settings.
These parts of the game are not entirely good or bad, but are worth noting.
InstancingNow, many people are going to wonder why I didn’t complain more bitterly about the amount of instancing that this game uses. Frankly, I think that quest instancing is a great idea for MMORPGs in general. It gives you a feeling that what you are doing has purpose. You don’t spend your time waiting for re-spawns so that you can complete your quest. It just makes sense, and I felt like Turbine really does it well. I don’t feel like I’m playing a single player game, especially if I’m in a group. The instance allows me to feel as though what I am doing is unique (even if it isn’t).
Where it all falls down for me is the total lack of non-instanced area that you are able to explore. Sure, there are places in the game where I can interact with other people, but I want to be able to use those open areas for more than just the “functions” of the game (training, doing business, making my groups). Whatever happened to random encounters or fighting things just for the heck of it? Instanced quests, I can deal with. They work for me. However, this level of instancing goes a bit over the line for me. Give me a more interactive world, and I’d be a happy camper.