Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach Review

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Dungeon & Dragons Online: Stormreach is a massively multiplayer on-line role-playing game (MMORPG) that achieves a lot of (firsts.) It's the first MMORPG to use the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition rule set, it's the first MMORPG to employ the Dungeons & Dragons Eberron setting, and, most importantly, it's the first MMOPRG to try and recreate the feeling of playing Dungeons & Dragons in a room with your friends, where one person acts as the dungeon master and the other people roll dice and role-play their characters. As a result, Dungeons & Dragons Online provides a unique role-playing experience. But is it a fun role-playing experience? Keep reading to find out.

Character Development

Despite its many unique aspects, Dungeons & Dragons Online starts out like most other MMORPGs. You must choose a server (there are 14) and you must create a character. I'm not an expert on Dungeons & Dragons rules, version 3.5 or otherwise, but the races and classes available seem about right. Bards don't get any rogue abilities, and sorcerers and wizards get spells to repair warforged characters, but otherwise the five races and nine classes do about what you'd expect. Halflings are best as rogue characters, elves are best as spellcasters, you should choose the cleric class if you want to heal people, and you should become a wizard if you want to dish out damage.

If you've played other Dungeons & Dragons computer role-playing games (such as just about anything from BioWare), then the skills, spells, and feats in Dungeons & Dragons Online should also feel familiar. Some character abilities, like the (magic missile) spell and the (weapon finesse) feat, work just like they always have. Others, like the (diplomacy) and (intimidate) skills, work a little differently. Dungeons & Dragons Online doesn't use conversation checks of any kind (NPCs basically talk at you rather than with you), and so there's no such thing as a diplomat character. That means the diplomat skills have been turned into combat skills, and you can use (diplomacy) to convince monsters to attack somebody else, and you can use (intimidate) to get monsters to attack you.

Characters are only allowed to reach level 10 in the game. Since this is intended to take a while (after playing for a month, my best character is only level 7), developer Turbine, Inc. added five (ranks) to each level. The first four times you gain a rank, you receive an action point. The fifth time, you advance your level. Action points buy small enhancements for characters, such as extra damage for certain kinds of weapons, skill boosts, and bonuses to ability scores. That means, while in most Dungeons & Dragons games characters are pretty weak at the start, in Dungeons & Dragons Online characters buff up quickly, and it doesn't take long before they can participate in difficult quests.

Playing the Game

It's after you've created your character and started exploring the world that Dungeons & Dragons Online separates itself from other MMORPGs. The game is completely quest oriented. You don't get any experience for killing random creatures. You only get experience for going on quests and completing objectives. Moreover, quests only take place in private instances, and there isn't any combat allowed in public areas. That means, among other things, that there isn't any player-versus-player combat allowed (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your tastes), and that it isn't possible for other players to (grief) your party by sabotaging your quests or even just by following you around and making a nuisance of themselves (which is definitely a good thing).