The realm of free-to-play massively multiplayer online gaming has long
been a place of undiscovered treasures for Western development teams.
Ever since games like MU
hit the marketplace, companies like Sony Online
Entertainment, Turbine Entertainment, and Electronic Arts have been
looking for the right moment to try their hands at this sort of
business model. It appears that 2009 is the time and the place for this
transition to finally occur. Companies all over the world - old and new
alike - pushed their free-to-play games to market in (or just prior to)
2009. Notable titles like FusionFall,
and - perhaps most important of all - Dungeons and Dragons Online
have all seen or are going to see free to play customers this year.
For many, Dungeons and
Dragon Online Unlimited: Eberron
was a eye-widening
surprise. Many gamers knew that Turbine was hard at work trying to put
together a free-to-play game that could compete with the Asian
importers, but it seemed that Turbine was trying to pump out a brand
new title rather than simply reworking an older property. Still, the
notion of an "older" premium game going through a complete free-to-play
revamp is something that a lot of online players have been yearning
for, especially those of us that have seen titles like Tabula Rasa
, The Matrix Online
and others go to the MMO graveyard. If Turbine can breathe some fresh
life into DDO with this F2P option, other companies may look at this
strategy as well.
Recently, the Ten Ton Hammer team had the outstanding opportunity to go
check out Dungeons and
Dragons Online Unlimited
in a special press tour hosted by
Fernando and Kate Paiz. Although the client is still in beta, we
received a special "freedom of speech" tour where I can describe to you
everything that I saw in the game during my hour long play session. So
sit back, grab a cold one, and learn a bit about DDOU with me and the
The Favored Soul
First off on the tour, Fernando and Kate urged me to jump into the role
of the Favored Soul. Although they didn't have a high level version of
the class available for me to tinker with, I was allowed to test drive
the entry level version of the class. For the most part, the Favored
Soul feels like an interesting blend between the Sorcerer class and the
upper level Paladins. Although nowhere near as hearty or armored as the
Paladin, the Favored Soul definitely has a flair for melee combat even
while firing off heals with its extremely large spell point pool.
To get a few more details about the class, I asked a few questions of
Kate and Fernando to see where the Favored Soul differed from the
Sorcerer and the other classes in the game.
Ton Hammer: What can you tell us about the Favored Soul and how it
works compared to the pen-and-paper game?
Fernando: I think we've been able to keep
it pretty true to the pen-and-paper game. We really started building
the Favored Soul the same way we began with the Sorcerer; a Favored
Soul is really to a Cleric what a Sorcerer is to a Wizard. We started
with the basis of all the Sorcerer improvements, in that they get
additional spell points cheaply and they get extra spell points from
The one thing that we
didn't end up putting in because it made the Favored Soul feel pretty
overpowered was the casting speed that a Sorcerer has over a Wizard. In
the case of the Favored Soul, this just made all the healing feel way
powerful. Otherwise you pretty much get all the benefits.
Of course, there are
some trade-offs in that you're locked in to a particular set of spells,
which you can trade off at the trainers. The other important one to
note is that Favored Souls don't have access to the full spell list
that the Clerics do. You don't get things like Remove Disease or Remove
Curse, and you're still going to be hankering for a Cleric in those
go up against mummies, you're definitely going to want a Cleric nearby.
fighting side, Favored Souls do get proficiency in one weapon. There's
a class feat early on that will align you to one deity, so if you're a
drow you could align yourself with Lloth. Mind you, this grants you a
proficiency with a martial weapon.
If you're a Warforged
for example, you can align yourself with the Lord of Blades, which
gives you proficiency with a greatsword. So basically, when you align
yourself with a deity, you get to use a martial weapon that's aligned
Ton Hammer: That's neat.
Fernando: It is, and although it isn't
always obvious which proficiency to take, it's usually best to pick the
one that's most preferential to your race so you can get access to the
better enhancements down the line.
So if you're a drow,
it's probably best to go with shortswords initially simply because by
the time you're at a higher level, you'll be in a better position than
if you'd picked the longsword feat.
During my character creation experience, it was nice to note that all
of the character generation improvements that had been implement in
Module 8 were still alive and active, with the Favored Soul falling
under the "path" as the Cleric. Although we've already covered all the
renovations made with Module 8, it's still a nice piece of the game
that many of the new players attracted to the F2P experience will
At this stage, the DDOU devs had to take the time to introduce me to
the store. Since I was playing as a "free user" and not a VIP, I was
required to purchase the Favored Soul from the store using my Turbine
points. This process was fairly painless, and I'll outline it after the