Microcosms: Breaking the Mold – A Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited Review

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style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(255, 204, 51);">Top
Free-to-Play Games

of July 4- July 10, 2010

1. Dungeons
and Dragons
Online: Eberron Unlimited

2. style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://us.runesofmagic.com/us/index.html">Runes
of Magic target="_blank">

href="http://everquest2.station.sony.com/"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://allods.gpotato.com/" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;">3.  href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/181"
target="_blank">Sword 2

4.  href="http://atlantica.ndoorsgames.com/center/default.asp"
target="_blank"> href="http://www.freerealms.com/" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/856"
target="_top"> href="http://www.freerealms.com/" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://www.freerealms.com/" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;">FreeRealms

5.  target="_blank">  href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/856"
Chronicles of Spellborn

Perfect World International

 7.  href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1303"
target="_blank">Atlantica Online

8. target="_blank">Aika href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/856"

9. target="_blank">Allods Online href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/581"
target="_top"> href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/856"
target="_top"> href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/581"

10.  target="_top">Requiem: Bloodmayne href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/581"
target="_top"> href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2433"
target="_blank"> href="http://heroesofgaia.gpotato.com/" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://www.gamersfirst.com/swordofthenewworld/"

style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://www.freerealms.com/" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://atlantica.ndoorsgames.com/center/default.asp"
target="_blank"> href="http://allods.gpotato.com/" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://us.runesofmagic.com/us/index.html"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="http://allods.gpotato.com/" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;">

Last week was certainly an interesting one for those of us in MMOG
land, with a phenomenal PR blunder from Blizzard dominating the
headlines. Unless you were on a desert island, in solitary confinement,
or just avoid anything related to Blizzard or style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcaft
you no doubt heard the outcry over the proposed change to the WoW
forums that would require all members to post with their real names.
While Blizzard saw no downside to turning their forums into the newest
incarnation of social media, players of a fantasy MMOG seemed to feel

I don’t wish to debate the merits or pitfalls of the proposed changes,
that has certainly been done enough this week, but it made me think
about Susan Wu of Ohai games and her plan to make social media centric
MMOGs. Players have flocked to, and fallen in love with, their initial
game offering City of
-- a browser-based game that uses a player’s
Facebook login to create their character, populate their friends list,
and even create their guild. With integrated status-update-style
announcements and leader boards adorned with player’s real life
pictures, City of
exalts the merging of real life and MMOG play. So
why do gamers seem so willing to let their real information flow freely
in City of Eternals
and yet seem so violently opposed to it in WoW? I assume it relates
back to our overall resistance to change; if Blizzard had implemented
this system at the launch of WoW then I imagine there wouldn’t have
been much said about it and their forums would have never have reached
the level of buffoonery that they are infamous for.

This week’s review looks at a game that has been no stranger to change
or controversy, Dungeons
and Dragons Online.

Controversial decisions are nothing new to MMOG developers. Even though
this week’s example may have been the most widely reported, Blizzard
isn’t the only company ever to spark outrage by announcing their
forthcoming plans. Turbine fanned some flames of their own when they
announced that their AAA title, Dungeons
and Dragons Online: Strormreach
, was going
to shift from subscription-based to microtransaction driven. But both
Turbine’s well implemented plan and the gaming community’s positive
reaction put the fire out and helped change the perception of
free-to-play games here in North America.

Once a faltering title that was destined for the dust bin of MMOG
history DDOU is now the leader in the fastest growing segment and the
model of success that many other developers are beginning to look at
for aging or disappointing games. But can a formerly pay-to-play title
cut it as a free-to-play? While the polish and content factors may be
heavily weighted toward success, how well can the game capture players
who are looking for value above all else? Let’s put style="font-style: italic;">Dungeons and
Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited under the Microcosms
microscope and
find out.


One of the unfortunate caveats that we often have to mention when
reviewing a free-to-play game is that you often compare their graphics
to those of their subscription-based counterparts. Coming from a major
publisher and sporting the major budget that goes with an AAA title,
you don’t have to worry about getting such a warning here. You will
find all the spell effects, textures, shadows and lighting that you
would expect, but without the system crippling requirements that leave
some budget minded gamers feeling left out. In fact the scalability of style="font-style: italic;">
Eberron Unlimited may be its best asset, especially when
dealing with
gamers that may choose to play a subscriptionless game due to financial
considerations. Having a game that can morph from stunning on a
bleeding edge system to smooth and playable on the Radio Shack machine
that you got for Christmas in 2002, and do both remarkably well, is a
huge upside.

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/85777"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 200px; height: 149px;"
alt="DDOU" src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/85777">

Textures and details are top notch. 

The UI is clean and well laid out with a style that has its own unique
flavor without feeling foreign to gamers. Some mental retraining will
be needed to remap hotkeys and their function, but the game’s starting
area and its myriad quests will help accomplish this pretty easily. My
best recommendation, however, is to not disable the help tooltips that
pop up, and to do the tutorial quests-- they are less of an annoyance
and more beneficial here than they are in most other games.


MMO gaming has become somewhat of a paradox in the last few years. What
started out as something that was, by its very nature, a group and
social experience has given way to becoming a solo affair with some
grouping thrown in. Dungeons
and Dragons Online
was built to be as
close to the tabletop game as possible which means it was designed for
more than one player, but the developers have added a couple of
features to allow solo players to be successful without compromising
that feeling of interaction.

The first, and most prominent, mechanism that achieves this is The
Dungeon Master (I visualize the little balding guy in the robe from the
80s cartoon series, but that could just be a me thing). The Dungeon
Master is a persistent companion who sets the stage of your adventures
via a voice over. In addition to the unseen guide there are mercenaries
that are purchasable from an in-game vendor who will fight along side
you in the game’s many instances.

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/85767"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 200px; height: 144px;"
alt="DDOU" src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/85767">

Most loot is gained only at the end of a dungeon.

Leveling and combat are both handled a bit differently in DDOU than
they are in the typical MMOG offering. For each of the game’s 20 levels
there are 5 “sub levels” that help to stretch out the time needed to
level, keeping the pace on par with that of the tabletop game. While
that may sound like a grindy mess to they typical player, this isn’t
the typical game and you are introduced to rather epic feeling battles
from the get go. The combat system of DDOU also gives it a more intense
feel than auto attacking to kill your 10 rats. Combat is handled
primarily by left clicking on the mob (or mobs) you are fighting in a
fashion reminiscent of a first person action game, with spells and
abilities triggered off of action bar hotkeys.

Before I get into one of the more interesting aspects of gameplay, the
puzzles, let me first give you a warning about controls in DDOU. As I
stated earlier, left clicking a mob in combat will cause you to swing
your weapon in the direction the mouse is aimed. It will also create
the same effect if you are out of combat or trying to interact with any
world object and aren’t close enough. This can be a major source of
frustration until you become familiar with it.

Puzzle solving was a major part of the tabletop version of D&D
and this iteration stays with that theme in a major way, adding a very
nice element of gameplay that is typically missing in MMOGs. Puzzles
come in all shapes and sizes and are an integral part of gameplay from
the intro quest line on.


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/69942"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 200px; height: 150px;"
alt="DDOU" src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/69942">

The cash shop is affordable and easily

Radically changing the way a MMOG is monetized could easily be the
final nail in the game’s coffin, but Turbine has pulled off nothing
short of a miracle with this resurrection. With strong graphics,
amazing gameplay and tons of content available, the free portion of
DDOU is the strongest in the industry, and the item shop pricing is
superbly handled as well. If you chose to pay for DDOU, there is still
a subscription model available that unlocks all the game’s features and
rewards you with an allotment of item shop currency each month. Players
who make any purchase in the item shop will be upgraded to Premium membership, which could
be the best overall value in all of free-to-play gaming.


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(5 / 5

Overall DDOU receives 5 out of 5 hammers, with its amazing value easily
making up for the slight downsides of the leveling system and learning
curve. Blessed with the advantage of starting life as a big budget
game, Dungeons and
Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited
has made the most of its
second chance and is a model for how to properly make a free-to-play

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style="font-style: italic; color: rgb(255, 204, 51);">Most
cash shop purchases can also be earned in-game.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited Game Page.

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