D&D Stormreach Review


by Vincent Haoson, Onrpg writer

Porting a well-known and loved tabletop role-playing game like Dungeons & Dragons into an MMO is no mean feat. Turbine, the company that brought you games like LOTR Online and Asheron’s Call in fact attempted to bring the whole D&D experience to the MMO scene. That is why we have Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stromreach, with its 8th module update recently released. MMO players finally get to taste what it feels like to be part of the whole D&D universe.

Character Creation
First up, character creation. Players get to choose what fighting style their DDO character will use, they can choose to be a melee, spell or specialist. The character’s job class is highly dependent on the style they choose. If players go with the melee, their options fall to being a fighter, barbarian, paladin or the recently included monk class, while players who go for the spells will be a sorcerer, cleric or wizard. Meanwhile players who go for the specialist are given the option to be a ranger, rouge or bard.

After the character’s job class players are provided with the choice of their character build or in DDO’s case “paths”. There are three suggested builds per character, thus giving players an idea of what build their character should take. There is a fourth “customize” option where the more independent minded players could allocate stat points to make their own “path” for their character.

Players then decide what race their character would be from. There are five races available to choose from, namely: the Humans, the Elves, the Halflings, the Dwarves and the Warforged. There is a sixth race, the drow elf, but there is a fame requirement that players need to obtain before having access to it.

If that’s not enough, players can also customize their character’s appearance. Players are given the usual freedom to decide the color of the hair and skin of their character, which is extended to also being able to choose how the eyes , nose and mouth look. Players can also include facial hair and facial markings if they are looking for the more weathered look.

DDO gives a whole new meaning to the term “character customization”. Players are given great freedom when it comes to their character; each style has its own class and each class has its own paths to choose from, while the character race determines their character’s effectiveness as a solo dungeon runner or a party member.

The immense choices for the character may overwhelm new players. Those who are trying this game out the first time may find themselves spending a great deal of time on creating their characters. This may either be good or bad depending on the preference of the player.

Storyline
Because of the long history of Dungeons & Dragons, being the first fantasy tabletop game with an extensive fantasy world, I expected that this MMO should be in fact story driven. Thankfully Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach doesn’t fail in aspect.

After creating your character, you would be transported into the D&D world as a shipwrecked stranger. You were on your way to Stormreach when a white dragon attacked your ship and left you for dead at the shores of Korthos village. From there you meet people who ask for your help in exchange for information on how the game is played.

The shipwreck arc is the new addition included in the Module 8 update of DDO. Players eventually need to slay the ice breathing dragon that is terrorizing the whole village of Korthos before you can finally get to Stormreach. The storyline angle before the arrival to Stormreach is a nice way of tying-in the add-on change that was included just recently to the game. It neither destroyed the whole concept of DDO nor did it include too much info so that new players can still grasp their overall idea of the game.

DDO has well thought-of quest system; every quest you do is part of the whole story telling experience of the game. The quests in the game translate well to the whole story the player is trying to make in DDO.

The audio narration that is often heard while you are in a dungeon, is one of the elements that makes DDO such a great story telling experience. Not only does it give a player tips, it adds to the whole “you-are-part-of-this-story” feel that other MMOs fail to do.

Graphics and Sounds
DDO’s graphics and sounds are on par with other Pay-to-play MMOs, the weather effects add to the D&D feel of the game, giving the sense that you are in fact in Korthos or wherever you are in-game.

The graphics and sounds really help you immerse yourself into the world of D&D, making sure that you are in fact part of the whole community itself. There are instances where you can actually see people just lounging around or helping others out. Turbine has made sure that the NPCs are not static and that they actually do something rather than just stand like dolls.

Gameplay
Of course we must not forget that in any MMO the most important thing is not just the storyline, graphics and sounds but also the whole gameplay itself. Though the game does make a player immerse itself into the game, DDO has a few gameplay flaws.

One example is the awkward in-game controls, because as MMO players are used to just point-and-clicking, in DDO you can only use the keyboard for character movement while your mouse handles the interaction with the NPC and the like.

This could be unnerving to some. The controls get in the way sometimes, for example when you are fighting monsters. You may find yourself at times wasting more time in trying to determine on how to control your character to kill the monster rather than killing the monster itself. This could be very irritating when you’re soloing and your quest is a multi-level one.

Another thing is the camera angles. Sometimes the scenery would obstruct your line of sight even if you already fixed the angle of your view. This can be very irritating when you are in a middle of a fight and you need to make your character face your enemy before you can attack it. This can be quite frustrating, especially when you are in a very tight spot and taking down monsters spells either death or survival for your character.

Conclusion
With this said, I must conclude that DDO is not just for any casual MMO player out there. The first point is that there are too many choices during character creation. I think it’s great that it gives the player more freedom to choose their character preference but there are some who would rather get the default character type and spend more time getting to know the game.

Also, the free flow of the quest can be bothersome to those who are not used to quests like these. Some may be even overwhelmed on the vast amount of quests that are available for them.

The game controls are also hard to get used to, players would need to be patient and take their time adjusting to the controls. DDO is not just your typical MMO, it actually feels more like an RPG. The RPG-ish feel of DDO is of course expected, this is in fact Dungeons & Dragons, a table-top RPG. DDO is unlike other MMOs where you fall in love with it the first time. You would actually need to spend time before it grows on you. The question is, is the player willing to do it?

Pros:
* Immense choices in character creation
* Engaging story and narration

Cons:
* Awkward game controls
* Camera views can be irritating
* Players would need to spend time to actually have fun in game

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