Being a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), I knew
I was going to buy Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) when it came out,
so I preordered a copy when it was available. I received the
10-Day Beta pass, and after installing the client, logged on to play.
Wow, the fun I had! I have played 3 other Massive Multiplayer
Online Games (MMOGs) to date, and in my opinion DDO was easily the
best. Part of my enjoyment of the game stemmed from my love of the
D&D system itself. I always had looked at other, similar
games as “something like D&D”, and finally playing a game meant to
be as like it as a MMOG could be was great fun. Another key to
fun in DDO, at least for me, was the combat system: no longer a button
push and an animation, but alive and exciting; no longer simple
administration of a button bar. And finally, the amazing detail
of the landscape, foes and characters won me over. Writing about
it now, frankly, it's hard to restrain myself (not that I am doing a
particularly good job).
In character creation, I decided upon a
cleric, simply because I expected the blend of fighting ability and
defensive spells would be a good “middle of the road” start to play in
a new game. The characters were not fantastic in the sense that
they had features which could be expanded to (near) absurdity.
People of all races looked the way they might have been drawn had they
really existed. There were choices in eyes, lips, hairstyle,
face, and colors of skin and similar features to give a wide choice in
When it came to selecting stats, spells, skills and feats I had the
choice of using a template or selecting my own; naturally I chose my
own. The choices of spells, skills and feats where fairly
extensive, though not all from pen-and-paper D&D were
present. I wanted to have my cleric be good at turning undead and
spell casting, so I chose the feats Improved Turning and Extra Turning,
and a nice 16 wisdom and charisma. There were plenty of choices
toward developing my cleric to be better at combat, or similar
specialties, if I had wanted.
The first area I saw was an island I had arrived at, where I spent a
few minutes doing some simple quests in fighting, moving
around, and healing. Having done the voluntary learning parts of
the beginning of the game, I took a ship to Stormreach proper.
Stormreach itself was only partially open to me when I arrived; I
needed the trust of a guard to get past the gates of the harbor area to
the rest of the city. I spent some time doing quests for a few
people (and one untrustworthy fellow) before I was able to pass the
gates into the rest of Stormreach.
The quests were excellent. None were boring, gone were the “kill
5 of these and bring me their heads” variety of quest. One
involved our adventuring party guarding a crate in a massive warehouse
while kobolds swarmed at us from all sides for several minutes.
Another involved consecrating shrines in an undead-haunted tomb.
A third involved helping a “reasonable” tribe of hobgoblins against
another, more dangerous tribe.
Quests were numerous, but I noticed that with my lack of experience of
the areas of the game, I often found myself doing the quests that were
most local to the places I started from. Later as I moved farther
and farther a-field, I noted quests that would have been appropriate
for me when I was lower level, which I had not found because I had not
gone far enough away from the center of the city.
The adventures themselves had diverse scenery. There was an
entrance to a fortress where we repelled an assault of kobolds. I
remember watching in envy as a fellow party member, a ranger, nimbly
leapt to the roof of a shack during the assault, able to prick our
kobold attackers full of arrows while I fought in my heavy plate and
shield on the ground. I remember trudging through a huge columned
sub-basement in a library, lightning traps blasting lighting into the
water while I tried the best I could to avoid being electrocuted.
At one adventure I wandered through enormous caves populated by a
multileveled hobgoblin city.
More than the scenery, the traps in the game were fun, and the
creatures interesting to fight with fairly good artificial intelligence
(AI). Kobolds would attack and leap away if you concentrated too
hard on hitting them. Spell casters were intelligent in
their spell casting. A couple times gates would drop down between
myself and my fellow party members, usually meaning a group of
creatures would attack on one side of the gate from the shadows.
Depending on which side of the bars I was on, this was a prelude to me
fighting to survive or casting healing and protective spells on fellow
party members who were fighting on the other side of the bars from me.
There were definitely the problems one might find in a beta phase of
game development. There was a bar in a
pirate-infested area that would cause to you to be a permanent ghost if
you asked a friendly priest to raise you there if you died. As a
cleric I could summon at first a war dog, then a fiendish giant
scorpion, and finally a hell hound, but the AI was a bit buggy, and
occasionally my monster would “space out” standing without following or
attacking until I got its attention by running around it a
moment. I noticed that, rarely, I would see this behavior in an
enemy too. Once I saw a hill giant trying to jump over a group of
3 NPC's as it tried to attack me. With its long “hang” time in
the air, it looked much like an ugly blimp with a club.
Overall, assuming some of the more glaring bugs are worked out before
the game goes public, Dungeons and Dragons: Stormreach is the best MMOG
I have ever played, and should have a strong following in the gamers
market. I fell in love the first time I stepped off the boat in
Stormreach harbor, and don't expect to be looking back.