I, like many of you, am someone that bounces from one MMO to the next trying to find a home. In my case I often do feel like a sucker as I unfailingly purchase and play just about every new MMO that comes out, often only to drop it within a few weeks (I’m looking at you Archeage: Unchained.) I’m confident most of this issue is a result of my unrealistic expectations, but also I legitimately think that the MMO market today could use more ingenuity and is somewhat lacking. Cut to this week.
A friend suggested that we try Dungeons & Dragons Online. We play a lot of tabletop D&D and have for years, so he was trying out Neverwinter to experience the campaign and story- but was finding the whole experience lackluster and not interesting. So he suggested DDO.
I had certain misgivings about this suggestion due to my preconceptions of what DDO was. The main ones were these:
The game's graphics and systems are old and outdated.
It’s not worth playing because everything is locked behind a paywall.
It’s just as bad as Neverwinter (MMO).
It’s not receiving new content.
So my first thought was, “Wait, that game is still being supported?” I had assumed that it was put offline years ago, but I was so very wrong. After some convincing, we agreed that three of us would load up the game, give it our best shot, and see how it goes. I figured, at worst, the night would be filled with us mocking the faults of the game and it would be good material for my stream.
I was so very wrong.
Right as we started the game new viewers jumped into my Twitch chat and were eager to help and answer any questions in my stream. Later on some of these viewers would even offer to jump in game with us and do some dungeons with our group. I have not seen this with any other MMO. I have seen plenty of die-hard MMO players jump into chat to correct me, but none that were genuinely helpful.
Parts of the game could have been a little bit more new user friendly during the tutorial area, but at the same time, I was impressed by the depth that DDO has. If any of you have played D&D 3.5 you understand the complexity that you can bring to characters, and I’ve never seen an MMO match that complexity as well as DDO. I opted for a Dragonborn Paladin, as that was the first D&D character I played years ago. And honestly, it felt like the character and its abilities was projected right off the sheet onto the screen before me.
As someone who enjoys dungeons in games like WoW and ESO, I have to say that DDO blows them all out of the water. The instances in DDO actually feel like part of the world- with areas that can be unlocked, revealed, and explored. Treasure is guarded with traps and not simply rewarded. Yes, you can rush to the end, kill the boss, and collect your dungeon reward- but this game honestly rewards creative thinking and exploration. Additionally, the classes we brought with us actually felt like they had unique roles. For instance, one of us played a rogue and that made navigating traps so much easier.
Additionally, the rewards aren’t just stat blocks with higher item levels- they’re actual magical items that impact the world. For example, in one dungeon we were rewarded with a ring of water-breathing. It was given to us at the end and didn’t have a clear use at the moment, but lo and behold as the night progressed we reached a water puzzle that was rather difficult for us to beat. The puzzle involved levers at the bottom of a pool that need to be activated in a certain order, but the levers were just out of reach of the time most of us could spend in water without drowning. Our party’s bard had the idea of using the Rings of Water-breathing and a difficult puzzle became a piece of cake.
So I want to address my original worries that I had about DDO:
The game's graphics and systems are old and outdated, but…. A more accurate phrasing would be that the game’s system could be more streamlined. The starter area is isolated from the rest of the world, but it also throws a lot of mechanics at you at once. For instance, I wasn’t really sure how levels worked in the game since the level cap is 30, but each level has ranks you can obtain. A viewer explained it to me, and I’m sure it was buried in the text in the game, but I think with a tooltip or something similar that information could have more easily been presented to new players. There are multiple instances of stuff like this; all the information is present, but not presented as plainly as it should be. As far as graphics go, yes the game is not on par with modern MMOs by any means, but the genuine fun the gameplay brought proved to me that I don’t need 2020 graphic to have a great time.
It’s not worth playing because everything is locked behind a paywall, but… this might be an issue going forward, but hasn’t significantly been an issue so far. We’re still very early in the game, so it’s hard to tell. Talking with some of the players in the game that popped up in chat, they consider the paywall aggressive, but not unbeatable. Everything in the game can be unlocked through in game actions or simply bought in the store. Years ago, this model instantly turned me off to the game, but compared to the aggressive microtransactions of today, it honestly doesn’t seem that bad.
It’s just as bad as Neverwinter (MMO), but… it’s not. To me Neverwinter felt soulless- like an MMO wearing the Forgotten Realms setting as a hat, instead of building a game that actually fit the world it supported. DDO is very much the opposite, it is the closest to an actual D&D experience for me without being turn-based.
It’s not receiving new content, but… also not true. I pulled up the wiki to see the updates that the game has received and the list was long and impressive! One of my worries about content was that the content was limited to the Eberron setting and that absolutely isn’t true. Barovia! Shadowfell! And just recently announced for the next expansion… THE FEYWILD.
I’m playing more tonight, but I can already tell Dungeons & Dragons Online is an amazing game with some real faults. As of right now, the faults aren’t impacting my experience. I’ll be interested to see if that stays true.
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