I decided to give Dungeons & Dragons Online another chance - after all, I reviewed it before based on the beta release. So I downloaded the free trial, ran up a cleric character, and started over. The character creation is still pleasing, that's good. They've improved the default settings for graphics, that's also good. They seem to have streamlined the initial training quests, that's good too. The interface still sucks; that's not so good. Any game where the interface is getting in your way at this stage needs help. They do seem to have reduced the amount of screen the interface takes up, though.
The graphics are very pretty, but there's something about them I don't quite like. I'm having difficulty pinning it down, which probably means it's something in my personal range of likes and dislikes, rather than anything emperical. However, I do have two proper complaints.
One: all the characters look the same. The huge amount of facial differentiation is completely wasted when you have to zoom in real close to see it, and when every character is wearing initial gear that looks identical.
Two: The gear looks awful. My cleric got hold of some Masterwork Banded Mail, which is not at all a bad piece of kit for a first level character. When I saw it, however, I was tempted to remove it again. Whoever designed that had, first, never seen real armour, second, didn't know what banded mail was, and third, was colour-blind. It was a melange of pastel and skin tones, looking like my character was draped in painted dead orc.
I was really annoyed by the get-out-of-the-starter-area quests. I need to play every character I make through the very same initial quests? There's even a false choice, where you get to choose from three quests and end up having to do all of them! If that were a tabletop game, it'd be the DM railroading characters through the stuff he had prepared, whether it made sense or not.
The concept of solo content doesn't seem to have had much impact. Even in the basic, first level, get out of the starter area quests, there were points that were very hard for a single character - even one as capable as a cleric. I thought about making a mage character to see how that ran, but it seemed too much like hard work. And looking for a group - well, I don't know if it was the times of day I was on, or what, but I could not find a group, couldn't even start an out-of-character conversation with anyone around me, let alone in-character. I was wondering if they were even seeing my monologue, when one of them eventually responded, "Too busy, sorry", and that was that. There's no method in the game - at least, I couldn't find one - for finding a group, no WoW-like meeting stones or even an LFG channel.
And speaking of meeting stones, the entirely instanced nature of the world continues to annoy me. It's like a series of lan or single player games, connected by an area where you can talk about them, assuming you can find someone who talks. Why bother with the MM aspect at all?
Before I even got one level, I was bored and frustrated. It really could have been a great game - huge market share, fantastic setting - if only they'd paid some attention to what's been successful in other games.
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Posted by Drew Shiel at June 10, 2006 11:17 AM