Dungeons & Dragons Online

After all the filling in forms and downloading and getting stuff from Fileplanet, and all that jazz, I am not greatly impressed with the Dungeons and Dragons Online Beta. The major problem is the interface - it's huge, it's awkward, and it takes up an unreasonable percentage of the screen. The secondary problem is the sheer weight of graphics; the installation defaulted to the "high" setting, and it took a full 30 seconds to pan 90°. Setting it to "medium" leaves things still rather slow, and this is on a decently high-spec machine.

Character creation was actually pretty good - while it was slightly adjusted from the tabletop version, it was still perfectly comprehensible, and the appearance stage was very customisable, although you're choosing from palettes, not using sliders. I think that really, unless you take the defaults, there's almost no chance of creating a character that looks all that much like someone else's.

The initial area is very simple; run through a few here's-how-you-play quests, and on to the main city, Stormreach, or at least tha part of it you're allowed in before you complete some more initial quests. There's the slight jarring problem of characters using game terms in speech, and there are the "DM Voiceovers", which annoyed me so much that I turned them off after the second rendition. These things are a new concept for this game, supposed to echo the tabletop experience. Words appear across your screen, reading something like "You hear skittering sounds from beyond the door," while at the same time, a voice pronounces the same words in deep, meaningful tones. The text has some value - though I'd much rather hear the skittering - but the voice is more annoying than I can express in polite terms.

Combat was true to the D&D rules - you can see the dice rolls in a little display - but very awkward. Some clicks start you attacking, some only select your target, and it's not at all clear which is which, such that I was occasionally attacking NPCs and quest-givers by accident. It's advertised as "twitch-based", which means you have to react in real time - again, not something I'm a fan of.

I haven't got much further, but there wasn't honestly a huge amount to draw me back in - I left the game after less than two hours without much in the way of regrets, whereas my initial encounter with World of Warcraft had me glued to the machine for more than five hours, and I only stopped then because I had to get some sleep in. I'll give it another go, because there are more areas I want to try, but the 90% instanced nature of the game - no exploration, no scenery, except in the city itself - lack of trade skills, and awkward interface are putting me off quite a bit.

Posted by Drew Shiel at February 8, 2006 1:11 PM

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