Rolling a Save vs. Budget - a Look at Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited

Posted Mon, Nov 30, 2009 by B. de la Durantaye

There was a time when I would spend every night of the week playing a game with hundreds of my friends and guildmates, running raids that numbered up to 144 people, taking on epic content and staying up far too late to be of any use at work the next day. And don’t get me wrong – those days will always be special to me. I’ll always look back on them fondly. But times have changed. We’re no longer in our twenties; most of us have real jobs and careers now, not to mention families of our own and other responsibilities. It was sad to let those days slide away to happy memories, but a small group of those friends have stuck together over the years and we’ve learned that all of the fun didn’t come necessarily from the epic raid content, but simply from playing a good game with some good friends.

And that’s Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited in a nutshell: a good game for good friends. A handful of my closest online friends and I have been playing DDO for a few weeks now and it’s been a crate of catnip at an Andrew Lloyd Webber show in the ‘80s.  We can log in, immediately run a new instance , and we’re not held back if one of the gang can’t make it that night. This works out well  for us, since we have two members who have just had their first child together, two more with a couple of toddlers, a few of us single guys whose schedules can be unpredictable from day to day due to work or other engagements, and a younger guy who’s probably busier than all of us as he goes through training and preparation for his application to law enforcement. Some of us get called away on business. Some of us get called away by the opposite sex. We never know who’s going to be online from night to night. But it doesn’t matter, because if any of us want to play DDO, we can, and we don’t have to spend weeks figuring out a play schedule with the others.

The lure of the opposite may apply to some in game

There are a couple of elements that make DDO so forgiving when it comes to group makeup. First, virtually every instance can be played at varying levels of difficulty. This means most instances can be run solo, duo, small group, or full group. The story and setting don’t necessarily change with the difficulty level, apart from varying degrees of difficulty, so if you’re one who doesn’t want to miss any of it but can’t seem to get a group easily, worry not--you can do it solo and still experience it all.

“But, not all instances are solo!” you may protest. This is true. Even though most of the early instances can be done solo there are a few that require more party members. But that doesn’t mean you can’t venture in alone. There are NPC hirelings in the game that can join you or your party to add the support you need. These mercenaries will work for you with in-game currency, or you may opt to get some gold ticket hirelings who are purchased through the DDO Store. The gold ticket version allows you to summon multiple hirelings, allowing you to bring along a full group of computer-controlled characters. So whether you want to run an elite dungeon by yourself, or simply fill in your last spot with a healer without having to worry about finding another reliable player, you're covered.

Playing alone? Bring a group of hirelings

If you’re more of a people person, the game offers a pretty solid LFG tool. Simply pick a quest you want to finish, and hit the LFG button. With so many in the game now that it’s gone F2P, it won’t be hard to find other willing adventurers.

An important thing to consider before jumping into the game is that it’s not your average MMOG. There are persistent zones but the game is heavily instanced. This means that outside of city hubs you will be exploring either on your own or with your group. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach, but the purpose of this article is not to discuss gaming theory. It is noted here though, because this mechanic makes for a much different feel than almost anything else you’ve played, with a few exceptions. Every quest is an instance. You won’t need to pick up a quest from an outpost, run halfway around the world to kill 10 wolves, and run back. You’ll pick up a quest, enter an instance, and the entire quest will play out as you crawl through the dungeon or zone. In this way the game plays out very much like tabletop Dungeons and Dragons modules (or “adventures” for you new 3.0+ D&Ders). There’s a ton of ‘em, so you’ll never run out of things to do. You can also repeat the adventures if you enjoyed them or simply want the loot again. If you complete an adventure on one difficulty you will unlock the next hardest difficulty level, so the next time you go back you can make it even more challenging.

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