Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach is the classic RPG game's first step into the MMORPG world. Many people carry the opinion that Dungeons & Dragons started it all as far as role playing goes. With its foundations in the mid-seventies to its height in the eighties, D&D has always given players fun worlds to explore and create on their own. The classic D&D scenario is a small group of players, between five or six, getting together to explore a dungeon filled with monsters, traps, myths, and mystery. Each player selects a character class and race which has become the standard in many RPGs.
This pack of travelers meets up and decides to go out and right the wrongs of the realm that have been troubling its citizens. How well does this scenario fit into a video game? Very well, the entire RPG world has been shaped by this type of situation. How well does this fit into an MMO? It works, but there are many things lacking in the Massive-Multiplayer department. Also, the game has almost no solo content; this can be a problem if you want to just play for an hour or so by yourself. The game has its fun moments, but does not offer an expansive world for players to explore.
Turbine has done a good job in creating the feeling of a small group of players fighting it out in a dungeon. DDO has a lot of instanced dungeons to offer. As a matter of fact that is all it has to offer. Guilds can be formed, but parties stay within a six person range and can enter and explore dungeons in that capacity. I know there are larger raids at higher levels which full guilds or groups of friends can take part in. I did not get the chance to explore that far into the game. In starting off with DDO I created a dwarf barbarian as my first character. You roll up a character almost the same as Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition. There are skills, feats, and spells you can choose as well as customizing your stats. Customizing the look of your character is fun, but the game falls pray to the same problems as WoW. Your character is defined by the loot you win and end up wearing. If you have two fifth level fighters with the best plate mail and sword, chances are they look the same. Many of the players I met had several different characters in their stable. With only ten levels to get through, it was not a surprise that people were willing to create multiple characters to try. After reaching level two with the Dwarf, I switched over and created a Sorcerer. This was a good move as far as looking for groups because the sorcerer was much more needed in the parties than the barbarian.
So off we go with Mordrik the Sorcerer throughout the city and sewers of Stormreach. Beginning at first level I was lucky enough to have close friends playing the game on one of the servers and joined them for the adventure. The game begins with a brief set of trials to help you understand the mechanics of how things are played. You basically go through a very simple trial dungeon to recover three missing Wizard Stones. This allows you to find ways to open doors, find traps, fight spiders, explore a warehouse room full of crates (there are lots of crates in this game) to practice jumping and climbing, and eventually turn in your loot for experience. It was a very basic introduction. I quickly got through the intro and was on to meet my friends at the city docks.
Mordrik was able to group up with the guild for some adventures that basically get you into the next level of Stormreach. This time I find myself in a party of adventurers who have been through the dungeons I need to explore a bunch of times. We quickly blitz through the quests around the dock in order to enter the gate into the trade district. Some of the instances are fun. There is a very cool puzzle room that lights up the floor and opens another door for your party to continue on. The feel of the game is fun. Fighting foes offers a lot more clicking and moving. The fact that you can run out of the way of shots or spells is great. However targeting can be difficult as you have to actively click on your target to get the spells off. The problem is, when six people are all attacking the same monster, it is hard to focus on getting the target right. Overall though there are plenty of things in dungeons for different classes to do, traps for thieves, puzzles for wizards, lots of monsters for everyone. So far the game is fun.
Once we get into the higher area, level two and three. I went through a great dungeon called Waterworks. There are a series of quests in here that a party can do which takes several hours to complete. The Waterworks quests were fun, fighting kobolds, a few bosses etc. The problem I found at level two is that everyone wants to do Waterworks over and over again. Groups are always looking for players to run through Waterworks because it offers the best loot and XP. There were a bunch of side quests that I tried, but no one wanted to run them. There is almost no solo content in this game, so I was stuck with what the group wanted. Even the second time through the dungeon was fun, but by the third and fourth time it became tedious and boring. I was afraid that this limitation in content would become a sign of things to come at higher level. At least I got to level three with my sorcerer and was able to enter the Marketplace.
The Marketplace area had the most to offer to players as a town. There was a huge market which also had a player auction area. The auctions are different than in a game like WoW, in that players sell their items to a vendor who then resells them at a fixed price. There is no bidding. One of the really good features about loot in DDO is that everyone gets an equal share. When a chest is opened, there is a set amount of treasure for each player. No one has to roll, or build up DKP points in order to receive loot for their hard work. If you get an item you already have, then you can sell it to a vendor or at into the auction so other players can use it. Once in the market place there is a questing area called the Steam Tunnels which appears to be the same type of place as Water Works was back in the other zone. There is one quest series called Shan-To-Kar which takes you on a fun quest through the tunnels. Again the first time through this quest is a blast. Fighting hobgoblins, earth elementals, and in the end a giant is great fun. The problem is, all anyone ever wants to do is this quest. It gets old after running it six times.
At this point after one month of playing my character is fourth level, almost fifth. I have seen players that have already reached level ten (end game). I have heard about the vampire, beholder, and dragon encounters but have not played enough to be able to fight these classic D&D foes. The game is fun in the beginning, but all games are fun when you first play them. DDO does not have the open ended content that other MMOs offer. To be honest I do not know why it is called an MMO? The whole game is instanced and no matter how big guilds are, players must adventure in six-person groups. If you had a small group of friends who could only play one night a week or so, this is the game for you. The problem is that Turbine charges a monthly fee. So you end up paying fifteen dollars a month for content that is very limited. Also, as I had mentioned before, there is no solo content. At least in some other MMOs if you have down time you can go and find something to do. In DDO unless you are looking for a group or selling items around town, you are in an instance plain and simple. Without opens areas for players to explore and PvP content for players to enjoy, DDO comes up a little short of expectations.