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Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach (PC) artwork

Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach (PC) review


"It has been a little over seven months since the relase of Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach and during that time, there has been quite a few updates. But, on to the show and on to what you want to know. "



It has been a little over seven months since the relase of Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach and during that time, there has been quite a few updates. But, on to the show and on to what you want to know.

Character Creation
Each account that you have will grant you a total of five characters per server - and there are quite a few servers to choose from. If you're heavier into roleplaying, there are a few unofficial RPG servers to choose from. The thing that you may not be used to us that in order to switch servers, you have to log out of the game and back into the launcher in order to switch. Annoying, particularly if you're used to other MMOs.

Races are pretty standard-issue fantasy fare, with the exception of two: Warforged and Drow Elf. Warforged are not, as stated in the preview, machines or robots. Not. They are free-thinking, magically animated constructs of wood and metal created to serve in the Last War. Not robots. Did I mention they are not robots? Drow Elves are locked at initial creation - yes, there's a reason for this, but I'll go into it later.

Your character is designed around a race/class combo. To start, you're only allowed to select one class, but you're free to multiclass into as many other classes as you want. The in-game prompts and descriptions are helpful in getting your character started, particularly if you're unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons. I suggest you read what's in the scroll boxes - they do contain important information that will help you create a great character. After selecting your race and class, you get to choose name & alignment. Now, alignment is more that just a couple lines in your character information: it will prevent or allow you from using certain items in the game. Customizing your appearance is fun, and has a lot more options that what I've previously encountered, but not as intimidating as the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion character creation. After this initial part of customizing your character, you're given the option of going with a straight-up pregenerated character or the option to customize it further. If you're itchin' to get started, go right ahead and play. To get the most out of DDO, I suggest you customize your character. It will allow you to become more familiar with your character and make them yours. The ability scores, skills and feats are all important parts of creating a character - time spent here will make for a more playable character. Hint: Hovering over many of the icons during character creation will describe the skills and feats.

Gameplay
If you're tired of the standard-issue click-and-wait-for-the-bad-guy-to-drop style of combat, then DDO might pique your interest. The combat system in DDO is very good, and the fights are tense and fast-paced. Learning how to effectively use your hot bars and shortcut keys can mean the difference between dying a slow death on the floor or standing over your opponent, victorious. You have a choice between an up-close fight or a long distance one and both casters and fighting-types get a battery of choices to use in either combat style. Some opponents are downright brutal in melee combat, and it would be wise to wear them down before they get too close. You do get combat options, such as Trip (knock your opponents down) or Sunder (break your opponent's weapon or shield). It does go both ways, though - bugbears, wolves and dogs will jump at the opportunity to trip you and beat on your prone body!

It's not all hack-and-slash, though there is quite a bit of that. There are quests that you will fail if you run around and kill everything in sight. There are puzzle quests - find X pieces and assemble at Y. The traps are fiendish in variety and lethality - whoever designs the traps is a sadist. Poked, stabbed, sliced, burnt by fire and acid, frozen, shook apart by sound - these are just a few traps waiting in your character's future. In one of the beginning quests, there is a quest that has a trap that I call Gillette Blades of Dooooooom. Fortunately, there are ways around all these traps. You can tumble across them, avoid them with a high Reflex save, or, if you're lucky and have a rogue in the party, disable them.

Death does come and shake your hand from time to time. A lot of times, if you're particularly unlucky. When you die, you have the option of either hanging around your party as a ghost or resurrecting at the nearest tavern. If you die in a dungeon, you drop your soulstone, which is something that a party member can pick up and take with them to the nearest rest shrine. Rest shrines are usable only once per instance of the dungeon, so use them sparingly. Rest shrines serve a dual purpose - they resurrect you and they heal you. Taverns are safe havens in the city of Stormreach - they're full of NPCs who give you quests, friendly bartenders that server you food and drink (which restore your HP and spell points), and the people who will become your friends and party members. Most importantly, they also hold the Brothers and Sisters of the Silver Flame, healers which you can speak to set up your resurrection point when you die. They also offer healing services, but at a price.

Dying also comes at a price - you lose valuable XP, which is gained by successfully completing quests and lost when you die. The XP penalty goes up as you go up in level - play smart and hopefully you won't see the red XP debt in your experience bar too much!

Killing the most monsters means very little in this game - XP is awarded for quest completion, though you can gain boosts to the total XP gained during the course of the adventure. XP is awarded for everybody in the party, not just one person or whoever killed X. Chests randomly generate loot for everybody in the party - no more loot stealing! Some of the quests offer loot rewards at the end of them, from the very basic masterwork items to the rare and desired "static loot" - named items that have a little bit of history and a lot going for them. Sometimes, boss creatures (don't worry, you'll know them when you see them) will drop a rare named item upon death that is very cool. One in particular that is very popular among the players is Muckbane and Muck's Doom. Dungeons are a haven for slimes as oozes, ambulatory puddles of almost-sentient glop that like to consume you and your belongings. Muckbane and Muck's Doom are coveted for the fact that they cause extra damage against these jello molds gone wrong. Quite often you'll see high level characters in low level quests just to get these items.

Graphics and other shiny stuff
The graphics are gorgeous in this game. Crank the graphics all the way up and you'll see what I mean. It doesn't have the cartoon colors or polished-until-they-hurt graphics of other games - it's a very dirty city, down to the papers blowing around and the grimy walls of the housing. The House wards all have a distinctive flavor to them as well, but there are a couple of areas that truly shine as far as design goes.

DDO comes with a built-in voice chat system - downright invaluable for large raid groups (6+, up to 12 characters) and one of the best things about this game. It wasn't something I originally liked, but now I can't imagine going on a raid or in a big group without it.

Now, I had mentioned previously about "unlocking drow." DDO has a favor system - basically, going on particular quests will grant you particular goodies for a particular faction in Stormreach. Benefits to the favor system are many and varied, ranging from increased inventory space, more space in your bank vault, beneficial spells with an extended duration, to special ammunition and gear. Getting a total of 400 favor will grant you a sixth character slot and the ability to create a drow character. Why the fuss, you may ask. Drow have increased starting ability scores as well as spell resistance. Their natural charisma makes them great paladins and sorcerers. The benefits at higher total favor are unknown to me at this point, as I haven't gotten that far!

The Future
Auction houses, PvP, level cap increase - Module 3, the Demon Sands, comes out this month. Big new desert area with one bad boss at the end (and "bad" in a good way of course).

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
DDO is not for everyone. Solo play is not the focus of this game, though it is (painfully) possible. If you're a hardcore D&D pen-and-paper roleplayer, and think that it should follow The Rules 100%, you'll be frothing at the mouth. If you don't like the "new" setting of Eberron - give it a chance in DDO and it may win you over.

The good thing is that believe it or not, the developer team at DDO are all enthusiastic about D&D. Giddy, one would say. And yes, they do listen to the customer base. Recently, the warforged, the iconic race for the Eberron setting, were granted what they get in the pen & paper game: their immunities. Previously, players had to choose feats and enhancements in order to gain these back and play them as they would in pen & paper. The dev team listened, and they were given these immunities back. (I believe this is upcoming in Module 3.) Developers post more frequently on the community boards than in a lot of other games - it's refreshing and (occasionally) insightful.

The ugly - when you're staring down the dimly lit hallway and you see one baleful eye staring back out at you and the combat log message pops up saying that you can't do that action because you're in an antimagic field. That can be ugly.

Rating: 10/10

lilith's avatar
Community review by lilith (October 12, 2006)

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