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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

The Twelve Trials of UnSub - DDO: Stormreach, Part 1 of 2

Posted by UnSub Monday January 21 2008 at 2:14AM
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I know that in my original entry I said I'd wait until the end to post up my opinion of the trial I was playing, but I've started keeping a day-by-day review of what has been happening, so it makes sense to split it in half and post the first bit.

Day 1: Try to start it. Get long error. Technical support entries suggest that I may have downloaded a corrupted version of the client and that I should delete it and re-download it (2659 Mb, if I remember correctly). I'm sorry, but is this an ONLINE GAME? You know, which UPDATES and PATCHES content regularly through the DOWNLOADING of FILES from the internet? Seriously - have a verify file button that tests which files are corrupted and automatically fixes them. Other MMOs have such a feature. Re-download the entire client? What year is this?

With my finger literally over the delete button in Add / Remove Programs, I give something else a shot. Turns out that DDO didn't like me trying to play on an account that didn't have Admin privileges. So I got in when I switched to Admin.

Watched a nice CGI movie - something about evil lurking and some guy being dangerous because he's now finished swimming. Or something. Looked good though.

Started the game. Made myself a Warforged Ranger, so I've got myself a robot dual-wielder (well, at lvl 2 he gets to dual-wield without pentalty). UnSub Subion went into action doing the tutorial quest (I love how easy it is to switch between mouselook and mouse cursor) and a few of the early quests in Stormreach, all solo. Combat is pretty dynamic (real-time targetting, actual hits based on rolls of the 'dice') and kept me moving. I got about half-way to lvl 2 during my first play session.

I will say that the modifications to the D&D pen-and-paper system threw me a bit. I'm not a hardcore 3.5 Ed player of those rules, but I knew enough about them to find the earning of skill points before leveling a bit odd. Also: no Monk class? Drows and Warforged as races, but no Monk class? What an odd decision.  Also, I'm concerned about spending those skill points 'right', so for now I'm just going to focus on lvling up and getting some better gear.

All in all, a fun first session.

Day 2: More questing, more solving everyone's problems for them. Apparently in a world full of heroes, the common folk lose the ability of self-reliance or any sense of personal responsibility.

I find the auto-targeting system odd since I can target mobs through walls and doors - I have often hit Tab to find an enemy who is actually around a corner and who I can't see. It makes it hard for a mob to sneak up on me though, which is good, but it isn't very D&D to have automatic X-ray vision. Another quirk is that the text options for a lot of the quest givers either seem to make my character seem like a soft-headed boob or a heartless jerk. It doesn't appear to matter though, but I'm not always happy with the choices I've got. Final thing: the Dungeon Master voice that decides to tell you about things, like how you feel or what you hear. Pointless sometimes, hilarious other times (when he does 'voices' of characters) but overall a nice touch.

Got closer to lvl 2, but I'm still not there. Given that Warforged can't wear the armour they find and a Longsword / Handaxe, Light Hammer / Starter Mace and Composite Bow weapon combo seems to be doing alright, I don't have much to spend on yet. As such, I spent my ability points to get a damage resistance ability and another point in Search (which never seems to find much).

Still fun, if a bit repetitive.

Day 3: No play time - servers down when I tried to log in.

Day 4: Had a nice play experience today where a much higher lvl character gave my male Warforged Ranger a number of magic weapons for just being near him. Thank you Hasa - I'm sure the +1 items were all inventory fodder to you, but they've made my character's life just that touch easier.

Got to lvl 2 - took another level of Ranger, so I'm now able to dual wield without penalty. Dual longswords +1 have been fun, but I've enjoyed more the ability to one-shot kobolds with my Composite Longbow. It's been fun to take on a stack of them and then wittle them down one by one as they run at me. I also did a quest called 'Stealthy Repossession, which I thought would be an interesting way of testing out how stealth worked in-game. However, when I aggroed one of the Kobold Prophets (who you can't kill more than six of in order to complete the mission) he just kept following me. In the end, I completed 'Stealthy Repossession' with probably 10 + Kobold Prophets running around after me while I trained them to areas far enough away to hit the switches I needed to open the doors before they came back.

Also I got a Docent as an item. What's a Docent? Why, it's an armour item for Warforged that changes how they look and adds some armour bonuses. Nice, but I wouldn't know what they do based on their description text.

It's at this point I should probably state that DDO: Stormreach has the Video Game Hatred of Barrels and Boxes in full effect; every time you see a barrel or most types of crates or urns, you can smash them and maybe get something to drop. Nothing says 'high fantasy heroics' than smashing every storage container in a dungeon.

Still fun enough.

Day 5: Time to team. Checking out the Social Panel made it pretty easy to find which teams were looking for people and there were a few that I could join with. As such, it was pretty easy to find a team within minutes.

Actual team play was less than easy, however. The team was spread over all of Stormreach and no-one appeared to have an idea of what to do. It was impossible to work out which mission we were doing or where we were meant to be meeting. Then, when we entered a mission, it was like a full force sprint to the end of it. The quest description text for 'Durk's Got a Secret' says it's a 'Long' mission. It took a team of six 5 minutes to complete, with everyone running as fast as possible from encounter to encounter. Little was said in the way of dialogue - I suppose they may have been using some sort of Teamspeak - and ever other lvl 1 or 2 character on the team hit all the secret doors and extra bits like they'd done it a million times before (which they probably had). Seconds after the mission ended, the team split up with nary a word of goodbye. Okay then, nice knowing you all.

My second team was quite a bit friendlier, but it was still a rush through the dungeon to get to the treasure. I generally couldn't keep up on the loot whoring since I didn't know my way around, but it was a nicer group experience overall and lasted a few missions. It was still impossible to work out which mission the team was going to do (or, if there is an easy way, it wasn't obvious) and the team broke up when it looked like the experience acquisition rate might drop off for a second when some players went off to sell items or visit trainers.

For a game like DDO: Stormreach, where teaming is arguably a core of the game (more on this in a bit), having such a weak team management system really seems like a lazy oversight. I don't care about players dropping out of teams so quickly, but the inability to set a team mission or manage players regarding where they need to go is a huge miss-step.

I say that teaming is a core part of the play experience because of the way the quests are organised. Almost all of the quests have 4 different difficulty options - Solo, Normal, Hard, Elite - that they can be set at. In order to do the non-easy difficulty sessions you will need a team to support you. The quest will be exactly the same in terms of layout, but the different difficulty settings influence how hard the enemies are to fight (and probably some other things, like the damage that traps do). So DDO: Stormreach's idea of content is the same map, four times, if you want to experience 'the full game' (and get all the phat loot and experience points). Most players will want to rely on teams for some of those quests, yet running a team isn't particularly easy to do without lots of verbal pointers to team mates. It's an odd disconnect in my book.

Ended up soloing a bit more after that and got a bit further into level 2. A good team could make this game a lot more fun, but it's okay as a casual diversion. Don't think I'd end up paying for this though. Five days left in this Trial...

Day 6: Didn't play. Chores and other real life things to do.

Part 2 to follow soon-ish...

alakram writes:

Talking about groups. It's true groups use to rush over dungeons. I dont like it but it's what we have. I play as a cleric and some people die because they can't wait for me to follow them in to the battle. This is really diferent if you join a nice guild, usually people take their time and help you a lot if you are all in the same guild and group.

Mon Jan 21 2008 5:39AM Report
Thillian writes:

You just say it on party channel that you are new. And everyone will slow down. Yes the default behaviour of players is to rush throught to first levels content, because they enjoy playing with different character builds at higher levels. Therefore you need to tell them you are new.

Mon Jan 21 2008 6:06AM Report
UnSub writes:

At the time I really didn't feel like saying, "Slow down!" because I wanted to see how people play. There was little chat, everyone hit the secret doors they knew were there already and the chests were raided ASAP. But the point of this exercise wasn't to have veteran players give me things or wait up for the newb, it was to find out what the trial experience was like.

Based on this, I do think a good guild / social group would make all the difference with this game.

Thu Jan 24 2008 8:21AM Report
elvenangel writes:

Trials for any and every MMO pretty much just let you experience the beginning of the game they're really not the best way to judge the complexness or depth of a game.  Beginning levels are begining levels..and I've yet to play the game where there first few especially on trial accounts aren't completely lousy.   And if you don't tell someone your new you'll never experience any game thats been out for more than a year and enjoy it. 

BTW are you sure they were silent? If you did't have your audio set for turning the microphone on (it needs to be on even if you dont have one) it won't let you hear what people are saying in the built in team speak.  Yes it has its own built in voice chat which everyone uses, those without mic's simply turn it on so they can hear whats going on :)   Very few people type anything.

Sat Jan 26 2008 2:04AM Report
UnSub writes:

elvenangel - I didn't have my audio on so I could hear player speech. I didn't know it needed to be on.

Also, if I don't enjoy the experience during the trial period, I'm unlikely to want to pay up just so I can play the game until it gets good.

Thu Feb 07 2008 11:41PM Report writes:
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