Friday, October 16, 2009

DDO: Yes.

(This post is quite long compared to the stuff I’ve been putting up recently. If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom and read the three primary reasons. In short: I like DDO. I find it fun.)

I have played through 5 levels of an elf rogue and two levels of a human bard. I played with a friend through all these levels, never once having a group larger than the two of us. We picked builds that complimented one another so we could take on level-appropriate content and not feel handicapped. We play for an hour-and-a-half to three hours a night, and we’ve been playing since October 1st.

DDO is an extremely gamist MMO. it’s the most gamist MMO I’ve ever played.

You walk around a city populated by plenty of NPCs as well as a subsection of the online players on your server. I’ve seen two cities so far: Korthos, the starter town, and Stormreach, the main city. Every single quest zone is an instance just for you and your party. There are special wilderness instances that don’t have one difficulty setting, but every other zone has a selectable difficulty setting that’s either solo, normal, hard, or elite. There are some solo-only quests and some group-only quests. You’re expected to repeat quests to unlock higher difficulty levels and eventually beat the elite version.

I went through that brief introduction because it’s important to realize just how staged this game is. There is no open world. In no sense is this game massive. But it’s fun to play, so I continue to play it.

Below, I’ve outlined eleven reasons why DDO is fun for me.

Character Creation and Growth

  • There are a myriad of viable builds. Eleven unique classes each have at least two or three viable builds. That’s more viable ways to play than just about any comparable theme-park MMO on the market today. And these classes are not carbon-copies of one-another. Later in the game you get to choose between class-specific paragon paths that allow you to further customize your character’s play.
  • Your character will have unique capabilities from day 1, and these abilities can be unique even among level 1 characters of your class—you don’t need to wait for five or more levels to enable your full class.
  • Multi-classing increases character diversity significantly. You can take a maximum of twenty total character levels, but you can take each one of those levels in any class you’d like. Taking a couple levels in a secondary class can dramatically increase your character’s effectiveness if you build the character correctly.
  • Racial modifiers and boons have a noticeable impact on how a character plays. Any race can take any class, though some are better for some classes than others. In general, I am under the impression that each race is viable or optimal for several classes depending on how you want to build your character. It’s not always obvious which race to take, though your decision is significant.

Itemization

  • Magic item diversity, finally! From level one, there are a wide variety of magical items. Some of these have “Clickies”, or abilities that can be hotkeyed and are once-per-rest.
  • The itemization rewards paying attention to what kinds of enemies you’re fighting against. The game lets you put together a surprisingly large number (more than 10, I think) weapon groups that you can hotkey to allow the quick changing of weapons and shields.

Content

  • It’s free to play. My judgment of the game is positively impacted because I’m getting my money’s worth. I’ve enjoyed the game enough to keep playing and I won’t feel like I’ve wasted money if I quit. I actually plan on buying access to a premium race, another character slot, and perhaps a premium class. I’m paying what I as much as I want to support the game, so I’ll definitely be happy with the amount I decide to spend.
  • Multiple difficulty levels for content throughout the game. If you’re going to make a gamist game, you should make sure that players are motivated by gamist goals. Giving your players multiple tiers of challenge in just about every quest means that players will willingly repeat content several times and not consider it a grind. Playing more difficult content can be outright more fun.

Combat

  • You can collide with party members and enemies. This means that positioning is crucial and being able to move effectively in combat is critical.
  • No circle strafing! When your character is moving, he has a fairly significant penalty to hit (roughly 20%).
  • Tactics are fluid but important. There isn’t only one way to beat each boss or group of enemies. You can use different skills an spells in different combinations to accomplish any kill in a variety of ways. There’s such a diversity of abilities in this game that the tactical options are vast.

Eleven reasons? Well, if you pressed me, I could whittle it down to three primary reasons:

  1. It’s a gamist game and it doesn’t try to dress itself up otherwise. You’re on rails and it’s clear you are, but if you don’t cheat by looking up every quest online (which you really shouldn’t have to), you’re going to have fun through just playing the game. Difficulty levels on quest lead to a fun push to play the game better.
  2. Creating and growing a character is full of tough decisions between multiple appealing options. Throughout, I feel like a child in a candy store. So many appealing options and nowhere near the time to indulge in them all. That’s a great feeling.
  3. Combat doesn’t require a slide-rules and amphetamines, but it does require players to read situations and react appropriately in order to succeed. There’s enough challenge in combat to keep me interested. You have to play each class differently to a further extent than you do in most MMOs. The game is not about hammering your spell rotation, it’s about positioning, timing, and awareness.

6 comments:

Glyph said...

Free, eh? I think I'll also give this a shot. I've been looking for something new to play, and the screenshots on their site appear to have fairly decent graphics.

evizaer said...

DDO's graphics are sufficient for the kind of game it is. There are some moments when I was impressed and surprised by graphics quality in a game that is actually several years old.

Tesh said...

I'm a fan of the game, both for being a fairly faithful rendition of D&D and for its business model. It does a lot of things right, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with it.

syncaine said...

The addition of DX10 was a nice touch in DDO. As one of the guys I play the game with said, it's more of an online Gauntlet game than an MMO, but that just makes it a different kind of fun. It won't ever will the full-time MMO slot for me (which is probobly why the game failed as a sub-based MMO), but it sure is a nice side-title to have.

evizaer said...

Yes, Syn. It's more of an interactive lobby with 3D graphics for a bunch of traditional multiplayer RPG content. That's certainly fun in its own way. It has kept me interested much more than Aion and WoW had. I find myself having fun while playing it and that's enough for me.

Borror0 said...

A few of the comments become false when you dig down and become more used to the game's rules but, overall, I think that's a fair assement.