Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach

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Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach review


As enjoyable as you make it for yourself

Rook's Gambit

Dungeons and Dragons Online is finally here and MMOs will never be the same. DDO is set in the newest of the Dungeons and Dragons campaign worlds called Eberron. It is a world of high magic, high fantasy, and even higher adventure. As you enter to the world of Eberron, you will be introduced to your new surroundings as you explore a small island starting at the local tavern, The Rook's Gambit (No really, that's its name). After a 15 minute crash course in the Rook's Gambit, you set sail for the great city of Stormreach. This is where the true adventure and your story begin.

Barbarians, Wizards, and Rogues, oh my!

Before you even get to Rook's Gambit, your first challenge will be actually making a character. This is not to say that the character creation is daunting, but it can be a task when you are like me and want to play and try everything at once. The physical attributes of your character are set to race and gender. However, you do have several options on facial features and color/pigment for skin, hair, etc. Right now the selections available are limited, so the look of your character may not be very unique until later on in the game.

Upon launch, there are five playable races with nine possible classes. Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings as well as the Eberron exclusive race of the Warforged, who are a sentient 'race' of enhanced constructs, created during the turbulent history of Eberron. There are nine classes available for play at launch. Each is grouped into one of the four basic casts of adventures, fighters, mages, clerics and rogues. As in the traditional D&D game, there is no wrong or weak class/race combination. Any race can be of any class with its own racial abilities and every class has its own place and role it plays in the adventuring group. This concept is very important to the flow of the game as we will discuss next.

It's a group effort

DDO has very little solo content, it is that straightforward. Many will try to argue this point, but Dungeons and Dragons Online is just that, Dungeons and Dragons. Traditional D&D is not a game you play alone, nor is DDO. You will be able to solo your way through much of the early content of the game though. This depends on what class you choose to play and how well you play it though. Each mission can be played in different ways which may allow you to avoid combat or traps. Eventually, the balance of the game will catch up to you and you will be forced into a situation of where you have to group-up. Soloists, you have been warned.

The gameplay is the main cause of the difficult soloing environment. Fighters will tank and deal damage, while mages and rangers stay at range. Also, it is very difficult to heal during an adventure. You may have a stash of healing potions to help you out of tight spots, but without a group healer, you are forced to rely on raw skill and any rest areas that you may find during the adventure. The rest areas can only be used once per adventure, however, and therefore the management of when to use these rest areas is very important. Rogues are not to be left out of the loop though: many dungeons are littered with traps and doors that will need that special touch that only a skilled rogue can provide. There have been too many occasions that a group has been wiped out because of a cleverly hidden trap.

Combat skill is also a deciding factor on your parties' Survival. DDO uses a real time combat system. This simply means that the days of the warrior auto attacks are over. You will be required to duck, dodge, parry, spin, and thrust your way though combat. Obviously some classes will be better at this than others, but even the casters at the back need to stay alert in case they are attacked. Your adversaries will be varied and not all of them are very bright either - the AI is a little weak on problem solving. It is common for a party to stay well above a group of kobolds peppering them with arrows while the kobolds just kind of sit there and take it since they aren't sure what the ladder is for. On the other hand, if you are unfortunate enough to be on an even playing field with the same kobolds, be prepared for a fight. The AI is smart enough to use good tactics and will use every trick available to the creature type, including flanking, tripping, sundering, and even the casters know when to run away from the guy with the big sword.

Adventuring is the only way to gain experience and advance in levels. That's right friends, those of you who live to power level and grind your way to uberness will be horrified to find out that the reward tables for DDO offer zero XP for slaying a bad guy. In order to receive any experience, you must successfully complete the mission you have undertaken. This experience total will be adjusted by certain bonuses and penalties though. You may receive a bonus for breaking every box and barrel you see or for detecting and disarming traps. You can be penalized in the same manner, however, if you die during a mission, leave and reenter the location, or if you have undertaken a mission that has a lower mission level than your character's level. You are also penalized in experience if you run the same mission repeatedly at the same difficulty level. You are able to increase the mission level however, in order to grant more of a challenge and more experience.


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