Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Dungeons and Dragons Online

Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited is a fantasy MMORPG from Turbine, Inc. Dungeons and Dragons itself is from Wizards of the Coast.

This is a review that I've anticipated, and admittedly dreaded for some time.

First, a little background.

Dungeons and Dragons is the oldest of the tabletop RPGs, dating back to the early 70s, leading to many many books and computer games over the years, and several franchises. Among the most recent were the Neverwinter Nights games from Bioware, which were extremely innovative and well-received across the board. Having played both my share of the old computer games which even preceded Windows 95, as well as the tabletop game itself, dating to the early 80s - I was looking forward to the first official MMORPG in the series. Dungeons and Dragons itself has had many different faces, in the form of sourcebook worlds that players could build and campaign in over the years, from Greyhawk to the iconic Ravenloft and Forgotten Realms. It must be said that arguably the best writing and certainly the best worldbuilding went into the Forgotten Realms, which itself had many supplemental works published, novels, mythology and so on. It is also the world of choice for many of the computer games that were made in and for Dungeons and Dragons over the years.

And yet, as you can plainly see, DDO is made using one of the more recent attempts at building a high-fantasy world, Eberron. Eberron is a semi-Steampunk world, starring new races such as the Warforged, a hulking genderless race of sentient constructs, and it offered a new direction when it was introduced, now 6 years ago.

I guess it, like many such things -seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, let's take the most iconic RPG there is, and make it into an MMO - and what do we get?  The character creation all depends on how much money you are willing to pump into it - anything aside from the original basic races involves paying for an account. If you want to use anything but the basic classes, you have to pay for an account.

Now, the biggest letdown of all - the gameplay. Point and click. No dragging shortcuts to abilities, you just point and click with your equipped weapon, keep moving your avatar around until you happen to highlight another enemy you can damage. Oh look! You can even change the color of the "d20" your random number generator will bring up, as if that actually made a difference. The use of glow makes it look like you're playing inside someone's Absinthe-induced dream sequence, you will have to rely on people you already know if you have a hankering for a group larger than one, since walking around with the kooky "I AM LOOKING FOR A GROUP" symbol, which looks like a pair of holographic new pennies hovering over your head, and best of all, if you like spellcasters, prepare to be turned into elfmeat! Clerics, Wizards, it doesn't matter - unless you have an escort, you're going to be the Reverend Wizardly Redshirt.

The most iconic of all RPGs, reduced to a MMORPG experience that may as well be Ghosts and Goblins in 3D with glow?