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A Europeans First First impressions of Dungeons and Dragons Online Unlimited

Spurred on by Thalian and Teshes recommendations and reassured by Elric's comment that it is posible to play on the US servers from Europe I installed DDO yesterday and spent two hours playing my noob wizard "Autwind Horogood" on the Thelanis server. In that time I got through the training instance and two beginner instances on set in a crypt and one in a store room. Fully accepting that this not even Ed Zitron could do a reasonable review after so short a play time I nevertheless want to capture my first first impressions (all good by the way).

1. The download and install were surprisingly painless. The whole thing took less than two hours for the high res client. Even minor patches to Lotro have taken longer than that.

2. No obvious discrimination against Europeans. I didn't have to falsify my address. The starter town seemed quite busy at 12:00 GMT. There was no obvious lag in the busiest areas of the town. I have only played solo missions so far but since everything is instanced I am hopeful that lag won't be a factor there either.

3. The tutorial is quite minimal. It just about sufficed for myself who has played previous mmos and who has also played a fair amount of Neverwinter Nights. You can find out quite a lot about the game by poking around talking to NPCS and asking other players but I suspect a complete beginner would struggle.

4. I love the relatively short instanced missions. I expect there may be longer missions available later but the couple of short simple missions I have done were great.

5. There is no locking on to a target! You have to aim your blows and your spells. I think this is great and greatly adds to the fun of combat. When my wizard, low on health and running out of mana was set upon by a giant rat who could eat him in one bite I survived by running  around in circles whacking it with my staff while I stayed out of reach of its jaws.

6. Health and Mana do not automatically regenerate between fights. Unless you can find a recuperation shrine you must carefully guard both to see you through to the end of the mission. Although I haven't checked I imagine you can probably buy recovery potions in the item shop. Why bother? 

7. The two beginner missions were more challenging and more enjoyable than I expected. My level 1 wizard could certainly not have auto-attacked his way through them.

8. I choose a Wizard because it is my favourite NWN class, weak at first but becoming very powerful. DDO's implementation is a little bit different to NWN. I was limited to preparing only three spells but I could cast each of them multiple times (in NWN you can only cast each prepared spell once). However I had a limited non replenishing mana pool so  I was still very limited in the total number of spells I could cast. There doesn't seem to be an equivalent of NWN's resting between fights to reset spells (which always felt a bit of a cheat) - mana can only be recuperated at a shrine and these are few and far between. I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few spells in my level 1 spell book even though I can only equip three at a time. This includes several old familiars like magic missile and mage armour. I found a wizard trainer but he refuses to teach me anything more until I have levelled up a bit. I note that other class trainers seem equally happy to talk to me so I guess that multi-classing is supported.

9. There is a lot of things I still don't know about the game (I haven't even gotten to Stormwind yet). I don't know how the item shop or premium mode works. I haven't experienced combat in a group. I noticed there are NPC hirelings you can add to your party but I haven't enough gold for one yet. I don't know how levelling works (my progress bar filled up but instead of getting to level 2, I went to level 1 rank 2).  Stats and ability modifiers seem to follow the AD&D standard and combat seems to be based on the D20 rule. (Aside: I still think that the AD&D rule-set has passed its sell by date - in this day of computers it is time to move on from multi-sided dice).

10. Perhaps my strongest first impression of the game was that it reminded me of Guild Wars: A limited shared world with with instanced missions, complex combat, complex and varied skill selection  and even the availability of NPC hirelings. In that light the transition to free to play makes perfect sense. This just doesn't feel like a €15 per month live in the virtual reality subscription game. It feels like a dip in and out for a quick mission game. 


Remember all of the above is based on a very limited play time so please excuse any errors (better still let me know so I can correct them).

Comments

Cap'n John said…
I jumped back in again this weekend as well and hit Level 2, I think (or at least Level 1, Rank 5) on my Bard.

I also rolled a Cleric and after viewing the 3 different builds went with (I think) the Warrior-Cleric/War Priest (or whatever it was). That Build proved suprisingly viable for Solo play, so much so that after soloing the first Crypt Instance on Hard I had a shot at it on Elite. Alas the Spiders hit a lot harder and I ended up dying to the first Sahuagin I ran across, but it was still fun, sort of.

Meanwhile my Bard ventured outside the starter town and hit the first Instance there. If you liked the puzzle at the end of the Storeroom Instance (and it was a fun variant from the Tank & Spank bosses of traditional MMOs) you'll really appreciate the end of the aquaduct Instance outside the first town.

I ended up playing DDO for so long that when I finally logged out and jumped back into WoW, for several minutes I kept trying to play while using DDO's control scheme. That amused me :)
mbp said…
Hi Capn John, By Coincidence I am in the aqueduct as I type. I have done the main quest and now am looking for a skeletal mage for a side ques :).

I feel a bit of a noob though - I am struggling with solo mode on my wizard. He is very squishy although I have found that using a summoned dawg helps a lot.
mbp said…
Duhhh.. I just realised that I am doing mission on normal difficulty instead of solo. I thoought I would automatically get solo if I entered alone. It seems I automatically get normal!
Cap'n John said…
On my Cleric/Warpriest Normal appeared no different to Solo except the Mobs took more of a beating and hit a bit harder. Chest Items also appeared no better than on Solo level. Probably the big difference was the amount of XP earned for completing the Quests, but it was nothing to write home about.

Heyton's Rest on Hard mode, however, was where I picked up a long sword that was (IIRC) an exotic weapon. Unfortunately because I didn't have the proficiency to use 'exotic weapons' I would have suffered a -4 To Hit by wielding it. A second run, also on Hard, netted me a suit of Half Plate. Actually, now that I think about it, Normal difficulty was where I picked up some Splint Mail.

I am hoping for a better weapon than my Ember Heavy Mace, though, so I'll probably rerun it on Hard a few times until I get an upgrade...a new Shield would be nice, too :D

I must admit, I am liking this game more and more.

Oh, a couple of last things, seeing as I mistyped the Word Verification word ;)

Strafing and circling a Mob to dodge its attacks is a very nice touch that annoyed me somewhat with WoW. It didn't matter how quick you zipped around a Mob in WoW, they always instantly turned to face you. I love that DDO's Mobs are not mind-readers and do not possess inhumanly fast reflexes, allowing me to quickly dodge their blows or even move around behind them. This greatly benefits a Soloing Rogue wanting to use their Backstab ability (or the DDO equivalent). In WoW, you needed to stun a Mob in order to circle around behind it; in DDO, you just need to be quick.

And lastly, Heyton's Rest really hits home, especially the final battle against the 3 Undead and the Sahaugin. Don't want to be overwhelmed? When the final door opens, stand in the middle of the doorway and you can physically prevent the Mobs from passing through and only 1 or 2 will be able to attack you at a time. If you don't kill them quick enough they will eventually force their way passed you, but I love that I can strategically block a door with my body and my enemies run through each other (or me) to surround me.
Cap'n John said…
Oh, that last sentence was meant to read, "I love that I can strategically block a door with my body and my enemies cannot run through each other (or me) to surround me."
mbp said…
And there was I thinking that you just loved the warm fuzzy feeling of being surrounded by mobs :). It sounds like a good tactic Cap'n John - I'll try it out.
Tesh said…
Nice writeup! I share much the same sentiments across the board. Except that I play a Ranger/Fighter build (multiclassing is indeed possible and fun, though pure builds get some great toys at the end game, apparently) instead of a mage. :)

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