Being the first week with Massively readers in Dungeons and Dragons Online, I'd say we were fairly productive. In the first 15 minutes, we formed the guild -- aptly named "Critical Mass" -- and began the butt-kicking.
With last week's comments focusing on our completion of Korthos Island, we made quick work of that, finishing the main quests and arriving in Stormreach on our third night together. Now we patiently wait for our next adventure as you read through my impressions of the game so far, just after the jump!
After a few days of exploring this small island of Korthos, I decided to seek aid on further questing. I'm just not sure I can handle the lizard-men alone. With the help of a kind bar patron, I posted a notice for more adventurers to join me to form a guild, with promises of riches and fame. Could I provide either for my new companions? Probably not, but it can't hurt to lie a bit. I'm desperate!
All races were represented as well, from Elves to Halflings to Dwarves. I must admit, I was a bit overwhelmed by the response to my posted notice, but it was good to know that I would never have to worry about going it alone out there again.
"You must be Fahryn", a slender man announced from across the tavern, as he noticed me staring quite rudely.
"Yes, I am Fahryn Brygo. And you are?"
"I am Stormsnow Greysfandir. I am the leader of this band of... misfits. Well, most of them anyway. The rest either tagged along on our journey, or we met up once we arrived."
"Are you here for my call-to-arms?" I asked, eying the group more closely this time. This might just work afterall, but my biggest worries center on payment. There's no way we can earn enough through simple townsfolk errands to pay these adventurers. There must be another way.
"We are, sir." Stormsnow said with a bow. "Many of us are from a nearby island, and we only want to see the land and what she has to offer us. We don't require much in the way of payment." I felt a flush of embarrassment as I realized he may be able to read my thoughts.
"Speak for yourself!" a small roguish Halfling shouted from atop her barstool. "I'm here for the plat."
Stormsnow and his closest companions led us through some particularly dangerous spots that they had already scouted, and to our surprise, we had no problems working together as an effective team. It was almost as if we were destined to form as a guild. Not only did we initially work well together, but as we progressed through and explored more of the island, we found that we complimented each other quite well.
The following day, after working our way through the meager earnings we had already earned from the locals and their petty quests, we were told about a special danger that befell Korthos Island. The barkeep had more in store for us than just saving his lost daughter. He explained to us that the harbor had been frozen over by a great dragon who was helping the lizard-men. This prevented the Korthos people from getting supplies from Stormreach proper. For true riches, loot and even a good word or two, we were commissioned to find the source of this frigid weather and restore their trade route with Stormreach.
Not to worry! The new unstoppable force known as the Critical Mass guild had done more for this small island than others have even imagined -- even in the span of a few days! We were a beacon in their gloom, and they were very thankful. So thankful in fact, we were able to outfit the entire guild in new armor, magical weapons and line our pockets with enough platinum to last for what would seem ages! This lifted our spirits and proved that adventuring was the life for us.
But it wasn't over yet. A sorcerer by the name of Lars Heyton had a plan to rid the island of that powerful dragon once and for all. With our help, his plan worked, and we reclaimed Misery's Peak for the good people of Korthos. The snowy weather vanished and the sun shone through once again. Our time on the island was done, as we set our sites on Stormreach. Since the beginning of our journey, we knew this was where we needed to be if we wanted to become real adventurers, but saving the good people of Korthos taught us our way. We will never forget Korthos and how it inspired us to get where we are today, and to that wise barkeep, we owe everything.
After what seemed like days aboard that creaking old sea vessel, we finally arrived at Stormreach. Never before had I seen so many people crowding the streets of a city -- or at least not that I can remember. Something seemed eerily familiar about the harbor, but I couldn't quite grasp a memory of actually being there.
We stopped at a group of merchants formed together in what seemed like a makeshift market area. It was then that we realized our armor and weapons we held so dear to our hearts were nothing more than junk. We had worked hard to win this loot, and with one visit to the Stormreach armor crafter, we saw that we had some work to do if we were to ever have anything that magnificent. Luckily, we were up for the challenge.
Now to see who around here has some work for us.
This being a fairly new experience for me, I've found Dungeons and Dragons Online to be a breath of fresh air. Not to say anything bad about the previous games I've played through the years, but this last week just reminded me that DDO has a lot going for it, and I can't help but wonder why I never played it more often.
At first, it did take some trial and error. The combat is very different from anything else out there, and the UI isn't as intuitive as the games I'm used to. Coming straight from Lord of the Rings Online, you would expect the two Turbine games to be similar, but that's not really the case. I often found myself misunderstanding what the different colored chalices above the heads of NPCs actually meant, which led to at least one repeat of an instance from lack of proper quest.
That said, most of my rookie mistakes were fairly harmless. Our new guild of readers is really a nice mix of helpful veterans and curious newcomers. That first day was a rush of new experiences and guild invite requests, so if you're still looking to get in with us and I never sent you an invite, let me know. This is honestly the best way to experience a new game, in my opinion. I'm just happy to be a part of it!
So I wanted to briefly touch on my impressions of the game's major features so far:
Combat: Left mouse button to pan the camera and select UI options, right mouse button to attack. It took a few minutes (and then again every time I start the game) to get used to these controls. I can't count the number of arrows I've wasted by trying to pan the camera around on the right mouse button. Once you get used to it though, this set-up is actually way more fun than clicking through your skill bar or using your mouse only to position your character.
Character Progression: This also took an explanation or two by my helpful new guildmates, as I didn't understand why I was Level 1, Rank 4 for so long. DDO has a max level of 20, so don't expect to fly through the levels as you would in something like WoW or LotRO. I had also forgotten about talking to a trainer to reach the next level. Had it really been that long since I've played this?! Apparently so.
Environment: DDO is very heavily instanced, which may keep some people away, but I enjoy it. It's basically a series of dungeons that you enter with other players -- at least in the lower levels. What I liked the most was a feature that I had only ever seen used as much in Guild Wars: clearing out instanced wilderness zones with no respawns. I don't know about you, but respawns really kill it for me sometimes. It was nice to clear out an area and have the option to run afk for a few minutes without fear of being killed by a named boss that I just killed 30 seconds before. I know, I know... that's such a casual gamer way of looking at it, but that's just my play style.
Game mechanics: I find it refreshing to see that my hit chances and criticals are based on real stats and figures. I may not want to know or understand the details of those stats and figures, but it's nice to know what's going into that. If you're a fan of D&D and dice rolls, you'll love how everything in DDO is so true to the original tabletop game. On the tails of that, the Dungeon Master (sorry... GAME Master) narration is superb. Despite the fact that I think I can read at an acceptable level, the narration really helps you along. Also, I have missed swimming underwater in other games. Seriously, you don't realize how much fun it is until you're back under the surface!
Puzzles: Oh. My. God. I love these puzzles. I've always been respectful of the fact that DDO is the king of MMO puzzles, but this week has just reminded me that there really is nothing else out there like this.