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Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach Beta Impressions (30/12/2005)
by teekc

Impressions

So, I've played the beta test of Dungeons & Dragons Online, and these are my impressions. Please keep in mind that everything described is subject to change. There is no story at the moment, or I haven't reached the story part yet. But then, it is a MMORPG, and if there is any story involved, you wouldn't get your exciting, high-paced, twist and turn story as you would in a single player CRPGs, such as Baldur's Gate or Knights of the Old Republic.

A great part of MMORPG fun is player to player interaction. Intrinsically, you would be looking for co-operative dungeon crawling with players of other classes. It is fun, provided that you can find a steady, serious, role playing, teammate-aware group, with a lot of communication. Most of the time, though, you will end up with "I will go ahead and slash everything" group. If you are an old DnD player or a cultist of Baldur's Gate even, you wouldn't get any sense of involvement in such a group. I've played a ranger/fighter, and my job was to hide and scout first. Unfortunately, I ended up being the last person lagging behind the party since everyone just ran and killed and smashed. No awareness of co-op whatsoever. So most of the time, not being able to find a real co-op group, I've soloed the quests. Using the social panel and a short comment, you can both advertise yourself as LFG (looking of group), and even your own group.

It takes a long time to level up; a seriously long time. Each level is divided into 5 ranks, with each rank giving you a "rank skill", which differs in classes. However, you can only possess 4 skills at any time. To use the newly earned 5th skill, you will have to delete one of the previous ones. Leveling up will also delete all unused skills. Some rank skills give you a passive bonus. Some give you depletable short boosts, ranging from attacks to spotting traps. You can "recharge" them by using unused rank skills. Also, both disappointing and not surprising, is the loss of the steal skill for rogues. Stealing is only fun as long as you're not the one being robbed...

You gain XP only from solving quests. Killing, partially, wouldn't give you XP. So the challenge rating is just an indication of how endangered you are. Each of the quests give you base XP. If you raise the challenge before entering the quest, you get bonus % from base XP. If you kill a large number of enemies, you get bonus % for slathering. If you open enough chests, % for looting. If you break enough breakables, % for vandalism.

All the quests are quite linear, in line of "go there and save someone, loot something or kill someone". Some quests have side paths that require a certain stats level or skill level. Some quests also involve a bit of puzzle-solving. There is one the requires you to steal a rock and kill an amount of enemies without killing another amount of enemies of a different kind. There is another one that tasks you with killing 200 kobolds. And there is yet another one that asks you to defend a crate from waves of kobolds. In short, rangers should pick kobolds as favored enemies.

A serious problem playing the game is its camera. It is the kind of problem that you would face when you play one of those 3rd person action games ported from consoles. Because of the doing of some mysterious magic, the camera always manages to turn to the most unfavorable, most inconvenient angle. To compensate for that, a great indicator is the changing of music when you are close to an enemy.

Attacking spell casters are very hard to play. First you need to click on a target. If your target is moving around your fighters, you will certainly click your fighter more than your target. Then you need to cast a spell. By the time you've cast a spell, you will usually see "target invalid". Yes, your fighter has already killed that kobold.

Regarding power gaming - there is no prevention of that. After all, this is a MMORPG and they need to satisfy all types of customers. The good thing, at this moment, is that there is no player vs. player, or friendly damage even. So power gaming only affects the power gamer, but not your old-school DnD PnP-er.

My System Specs

Operating System: Windows XP Home Edition (5.1, Build 2600) Service Pack 2
Processor: AMD Athlon(tm) 64 Processor 3800+, MMX, 3DNow, ~2.5GHz
Memory: 1024MB RAM
DirectX Version: DirectX 9.0c
Display Devices: RADEON 9800 SE AGP
Sound Devices: Realtek AC97 Audio

Screenshots


In this character creation screenshot, you can notice the half-orc race is replaced by the warforged. The druid and monk classes are not available.

To create a DnD atmosphere, DM text will appear when triggered, accompanied by a deep, male DM voice.

There is still room for improvement in the AI department. In this screenshot, you can see that once I took the high ground, your average scorpions, who cannot jump, can't do anything to avoid being arrowed.

The brown spider might be able to make a short jump. But once it jumps up, for some reason, it doesn't know how to jump down.

No amount of text can describe my heart pounding battle with this vicious spider.

Your typical DnD tavern, where you meet people, get drunk and get quests.

Barkeep, a drink!

The marketplace, where you find a street performer, a professor, a guard, casual passersby... everyone except any merchants.

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