I decided to try out the ten-day free trial of Dungeons & Dragons Online, because–well, I enjoy D&D and I enjoy online games. Unfortunately it only took two of the ten days for me to decide to uninstall. Sure, that isn’t enough time to give the game as a whole a fair chance. On the other hand, a game needs to be designed to hook people quickly, and if DDO fails in that regard, I can probably expect it to fail in others as well. Certainly after two days I had little interest in logging in again, so I’d rather spend that time on LotRO.
The irony, of course, is that LotRO was put out by the same company–Turbine. You can certainly see hints of it in the design elements here and there. However, the two are extremely different in how they play.
I think I get it–Turbine really wanted to capture the canonical D&D “feel.” Unfortunately what they captured was the feel of a stereotypical D&D session, which is not at all the same as a good one or even a normal one. Absolutely everything seems to be dungeon based, at least early on. The narrator/DM’s voice is heavy-handed, constantly dictating your actions, reactions, and discoveries. It gets old very quickly, and gives the game the feel of being a simple boxed game, not something you’d be willing to spend a monthly fee to play.
Getting to level two took forever compared to games like LotRO and WoW (a day or two of off-and-on playing compared to… what, an hour?). One thing those games got right is that it’s really fun to see quick advancement when you’re first playing your character.
I’ve never felt lost for long in a game before. At first Orgrimmar or Shattrath drove me nuts, but it didn’t take long to learn my way around and find everything I needed. In Stormreach I kept getting turned around, and even once I thought I knew where most things were, there were still characters and places I couldn’t find for the life of me. The damn place is incredibly three-dimensional, and doors aren’t exactly labeled, so you can easily end up god-knows where. On the plus side, at least when you click on an instance entrance it tells you what level the instance is, how long it’s likely to take, and what quest it’s for, and allows you to choose the difficulty.
Basic things like the auction house also have a lot less functionality. I can tell it’s based on the same interface used in LotRO, but clearly the execution has been improved drastically for that other game.
I might have simply not run into it since I didn’t play for long, but I didn’t see signs of a crafting system. Usually after two days of play I would have run into that, at least in games like WoW and LotRO. Since crafting is one of my all-time favorite things to pursue in an MMORPG, that’s a big gap for me.
So, yeah, I didn’t give the game much of a chance. But then, it seemed fairly clear to me that while I might always enjoy playing it a little here or there, I’d never find it worth a monthly fee–at least, not unless I had a lot of extra money to throw around!
To be sure, however, the game does have its fans (as well as other detractors). So, to give you a few contrasting opinions, here are some links for you (I do think it’s telling that I had a much harder time finding DDO links than links for other games):
- DDOCast–an entire podcast site just for the game
- Playability vs. Vision–a wonderful treatise on how important playability is to a game
- (Third link removed because apparently they don’t like finding out people have linked to them, or something.)
Most of the discussion links I found had something to do with Warcry (which I won’t link to, since as my security software so helpfully pointed out, they use ad servers known to harbor spyware) or were hosted by a gold-seller blog (which I also have no interest in supporting).