Tuesday, May 24, 2011

MMO Tourist: Dungeons & Dragons Online

One of the things that can broaden your concept of what is possible in an RPG is to try everything that's out there. Luckily for those of use who don't have any money, it is possible to try out many MMO's without spending anything at all thanks to the modern Free2Play trend. The idea being that you can play some version of the game for free while the full version of the game is only available for money. The idea being you play for a while and if you like it/have become addicted to it, you start paying money to enhance your play time. This is presented in a different fashion for every game, but usually comes down to a few different types: A. Pared down version for free, full version for monthly subscription; B. Pay to level-up faster/gain other advantage; C. paired down version for free, buy full game one piece at a time.

In these MMO Tourist posts, I'm going to discuss my experiences with several MMO's that I've tried, most of the F2P, what I liked, what I didn't, and why I stopped playing.

Dungeons & Dragons Online started life as a subscription based MMO, so the basic game is set up that way. Most of the game is based on dungeon crawling (big surprise). You start out from hub cities and can enter instances for each quest you undertake, selecting the difficulty of the instance (often based on whether or not you are trying to solo it or have a decent group). It seemed to me that 95% of the quests take place in instances with the remaining 5% being "find this person and talk to them" quests, so get used to spelunking.

What I Liked:
The dungeons aren't just moving from start to finish, as they are in modern WoW, but are labyrinthine with secret passageways that you can only access with certain classes (need a thief to lock pick or a mage to activate a rune door, for example) so it encourages you to bring as diverse a group as possible. If the dungeon is new to everyone in your party (or if you are soloing a dungeon) this can lead to a slower pace, as you think out each move. There are hidden traps as well as rewards and if you don't have enough potions or a healer, traps can be a serious problem. I liked that the game makes you figure it out. That is something that was sorely lacking in WoW dungeons.

What I Didn't Like
When you have a group of higher level characters that know the dungeon backwards and forwards, they take off at a run. If you're unfamiliar with the place, you will get left behind. Also, the reason they know the dungeons so well is that you end up playing the same ones over and over. There didn't seem to be a huge variety of quests or other things to do besides get a group together and run an instanced dungeon. Now I realize that most RPG's have this to a degree, but in DDO, I really felt the grind after a while.

Why I Stopped Playing
I had fun with my time in DDO, but in the end it wasn't enough to get me to pay for a subscription. I do appreciate the business model that allowed me to play for nearly 30 hours before I really saw things I couldn't get access to without a sub, but at that point I decided the game play wasn't so compelling that I'd pay for the privilege. Also, I'm cheap. If I had to assign a dollar amount to the playtime I was able to experience for free (close to 100 hours, i'd guess), I'd say I got about $15-20 worth of game for free.

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