Thursday, February 09, 2006


The 2-cents:
I think people will run to Dungeons & Dragons Online online for about 2 weeks after release while the game is still in the spotlight. Afterwards people will be like rats on a sinking ship and run, in droves, from the game leaving Turbine to wonder what went wrong.

The Pre/Review:
Is DDO dodo? In short yes. Dungeons & Dragons Online SHOULD have been the MMO to beat all other fantasy MMO's. The Lore of D&D is rich enough to keep this game living large and long for damn near ever. It could have been the most open playable game in the MMO world but like with all D&D games there's good and bad Game Masters. And the GM of DDO is bad. The many design flaws lead to serious game play issues that handhold a player down a spiral staircase into a room of despair, frustration, and worse yet boredom. One of the DDOs touted strengths is also its greatest weakness. DDO uses Instancing to help with the server load during quests. Game play wise this boils down to the map being nothing more a small area with a tavern, and doors that port you to your quests where you can battle Kobolds, and slay deadly traps. The play area feels very extremely boxed in, you are not allowed to explore the city or the world, and you can only go where the developers WANT you to go. You can't even open doors to buildings unless you are on a quest that unlocks it.Another game play issue is forcing players to play together; granted a lot of people like being grouping and hanging with their friends online. However, people also do not tend to group with people they don't know. Forcing people to group together for nothing more then gaining a little hand out of experience is not that much fun. Add to the fact that most players of MMO's are not hard core gamers (look at WoW for a perfect example) and there for A) Don't know the in’s and out's of the game system and B) don’t know how to play their characters. Why would I want to group with some stranger playing a Cleric that plays him like he's a Warrior? Or worse yet, can't read the interface fast enough to know when you need to be healed before dieing. Another problem is the Questing itself. There seems to be no overlying story line, so in game you really have nothing more to do then run around and do self-contained quests. A lot of those quests, the even with a 'powerful' first level, can not be completed unless you have someone else in your party either to heal you, or just to help keep the mobs off you. This is NOT a single player game in the least.Loading times are also another problem, since the 'game world' is really small you need to load each time you walk though a door and it's a long load time. I thought I was playing a PS2 for a while. A perfect example is leaving the newbie zone into the 'real' world, the first thing you want to do when you get to the real world is to go to the tavern. Sounds good in theory, first you need to load in the new map, then with VERY low frame rates wait for the server to download the people and NPC's in your area, then you load a new map as soon as you enter the tavern less then 10 feet away from your port in. This is just wrong.So what about the meat of the game? How about the Combat, Spell, and Crafting systems? Well, Combat in itself is another major problem. The game wants to be played like a 3D person adventure game. So you press a mouse button to swing your weapon or fire your bow. The problem is that the monsters are 9 times out of 10 MUCH faster then you are and like to jump not only in and out of your attack range, but side step you and get behind you.Wow, active combat huh? Hardly! What happens is that the monsters end up with AT LEAST 2 hits on you before you get in your first one. Which is unfair to say the least and if you want to go into 'auto' combat you much press TWO buttons before your character will attack (and sometimes that won't even happen) and once you kill your target, you must manually target the next monster, and hit the 'auto-swing' again. Yet again that allows the monster a few free swings. To top all of this off you can't even REST anywhere you want. You need to find 'shrines' that allow you to heal. Most quests have at least one, but not all of them do. So when you do die (and you will) you must port again (again load times) to the tavern and sit around while you're Hit point meter fills back up again. So there's another point of 'downtime' from playing.The Spell system seems to work well, but you can only change out (or relearn) your spells in a tavern or a shrine. The major issue that I've seen with spells are the fact that they don't seem to last long enough. Why would a 'Protection of Evil' spell last 3 seconds? As for crafting, there is no crafting system. What could be a major part of D&D is totally over looked. Who makes those +1 Swords? Potions? Armor? Wands? All and All DDO has some great ideas. Just the implementations of all of them are just bad. It's a mediocre game at best and a shining example of why some designers shouldn't be designers.

[Update: 03/01/06]
Looks like I'm not the only one with the same views. HeartlessGamer has a nice write up about DDO and it's located here