I’ve been playing D&D for more years than I care to admit and I still think that the Baldur’s Gate series are some of the best PC games ever made so I really wanted to like Dungeons & Dragons Online. Sadly it was not to be. Turbine came so close but the things they missed on they missed by a mile.
The character classes/races are true to the D&D core rules, though there are a couple of notable core classes missing (namely the druid and the monk). The customization of appearance is lacking, but then most games are after seeing City of Heros . They did a decent job of implementing the D&D skills and feats to allow you to tailor your character but, at least at level 1 & 2 I didn’t really notice a big impact except for the more class specific skills like spot, disarm etc.
There is also a big disincentive to play and experiment with different race/class combos. The tutorial is basically the same for all classes, not a huge deal but you can’t skip it since it gets you your first “Action Point” – the mini levels between actual levels. Then you leave the tutorial area and you have to run the same series of about 5 quests to “unlock” the next area of the town. You can run the quests at various levels, easy, medium, hard, but you have to complete it on easy to unlock medium and then complete it again on medium to unlock hard. Who wants to do the same quests over and over again?
The doing quests to unlock the next area thing means that you can’t just go running around the common areas and explore the city, even though all of the actual combat areas appear to be instanced. For a game that was very quest focused it actually felt more like a grind than even EQ. You HAD to go do these quests to even be able to move around the town and in order to complete the quests you needed to level which meant doing more quests, sometimes the same ones over and over at higher difficulties.
One thing that was apparent was that they were trying to maintain the whole “D&D is a group based game” thing and they did an excellent job of providing you tools to locate a group that was working on the quests you were on. The problem is that it not only required a group but that group needed some specific classes. You had to have a tank, healer and rogue, the other three members could be anything you wanted but if you’re doing quests on harder levels you might want duplicates of some of those – it sucks to lose your rogue when there’s a trap between you and the rez stone to get him back.
Though to be honest you could probably get by without a rogue. Almost every trap is blatantly obvious or anyone with a decent spot skill will get a warning message just before it triggers and every one that I saw could be triggered without taking damage if you were careful. Once you knew the trigger point the game became a platformer, you just had to figure out the timing and you could run and jump your way past a lot of the traps.
Then we get to the combat system. I’ve played games of Unreal that had less jumping and strafing than this game does. To actually hit the mob you really need to control the swing, not just turn on auto-attack. That means moving around, keeping him in front of you, and hitting right click when you think he’s not blocking or casting. Then, if you were in position for your blow to actually have a chance at landing the skill system took over to determine the outcome. If the mob failed his block roll then you rolled to see if you hit (there’s a little 20 sider that appears on the screen), so I have the frustration of a twitch game but without the benefits of my actual mouse/keyboard skill determining if I really hit.
Like I said I really wanted to like this game but the more I played it the more it felt like a console game ported to the PC, even the interface reminded me of a console game. In fact if they were to port this to the XBox or the 360 they’d probably have a real hit on their hands, on the PC I think it misses the mark.