Dungeons & Dragons Online Review

With all of the fantasy-themed MMORPGs out there it’s surprising that it has taken so long for the granddaddy of all RPGs to make its way online, but finally there is a Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG. Now the question on roleplayers’ minds is no longer “when?” but “was it worth the wait?”

Welcome to Stormreach.
D&D Online takes an approach to MMORPG gameplay that tries to stick close to the game’s pen and paper roots. You begin by creating a character and selecting a race and class from a list that covers the D&D favorites – mages, clerics, rogues, dwarves, elves, etc. One of the playable races may come as a surprise to you if you’re not familiar with the world of Eberron in which D&D Online takes place. Eberron is a place where magic takes on the role of technology and magic devices and spells are used to perform tasks such as lighting the streets and loading cargo onto ships. In this world you can play as a warforged, a magical robot of sorts built for battle. The aspects of character creation will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played any D&D game before, and most likely to most anyone who’s played RPGs in the past. However the game assumes that players have a good familiarity with the character creation process, so if you’re new to RPG games you probably won’t understand the impact your choices at this stage will have on your gameplay. The tools provided to customize the look of your character are adequate, but all characters in the game look somewhat like all others of the same race. When playing the game it will feel like you’re constantly running into your long lost cousins – and this is not helped any by the fact that there’s not much variety to the look of the armor in the game.

Once you get into the game you’ll find yourself in the city of Stormreach. D&D Online is different than other MMORPGs in that it does not give you a sprawling world to explore. Instead you’ll be confined to Stormreach with the real action taking place in instanced cellars, sewers, and dungeons – this is not a game for crafters or explorers. Talking with NPCs will enable quests for you to pursue and clicking on the corresponding portal, be it a door, sewer entrance, or what have you, will launch the instanced quest. In a nice touch the game will let you know the relative difficulty and length of the quest before you launch it so you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into. However, this seems more like a nice idea than a genuine indicator as there is a wide variety in quest difficulty. For example, some quests marked as the lowest level will have you meeting your death time after time while others will be over so quickly and with so little effort that you’ll find it surprising.

The quests are some of the more immersive that you’ll find in any game. Not only are there plenty of traps, puzzles, and secret doors, your adventure will be periodically narrated by the disembodied voice of a dungeon master. While everything takes place in real-time, the result of every swing of your sword, every spell cast, and every saving throw is determined by the traditional D&D die roll. You can even see the rolls in the bottom right corner of the screen, but it’s not easy to watch the outcome of every roll while simultaneously trying to fend off an attacker.

The quests are an essential part of the game because there’s not much to do outside of them. Presumably this is the reason why you can go back and replay any quest at the same or a higher level of difficulty. The game has a diminishing returns mechanism in place though, so each trip in will yield less experience than the one before. If you’re a casual player it will take you some time to play through all of the quests, by which time new content will hopefully be available. On the other hand, hardcore players will be able to rip through the quests before they reach the end of the thirty trail period. These players seem to keep themselves occupied by creating alternate characters and taking them through the game all over again. Whether or not the developers can add new content quickly enough to keep these players from losing interest in the game remains to be seen.