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Page 3 of 3Or consider the party list. The only thing the game shows you is who is in your party, what class they are, and how healthy they are. It doesn't show their level, where they are, or if they currently have any buffs or penalties being applied. That makes it annoying when you join a party, because you have no way of knowing if it's an appropriate party for your character. If you really wanted, you could search for each character in the social tab, or examine them one by one if they happen to be nearby, but that sort of basic information shouldn't be so difficult to come by.
Other parts of the interface work better. For example, the social tab makes it easy to indicate that you're looking for a group, or, if you're in a group, to specify that you're looking for more. You can also move around and resize the interface panels and open multiple hotkey bars, and the game will remember your preferences (except, oddly, for the (d20) panel, which always resets to its default position), but in general, Turbine didn't spend even close to enough time making the interface friendly or functional. The interface works, and the game is playable with it, but that's about the best that could be said for it.
Odds and Ends
There are two other topics I want to delve into, but which don't fit anywhere else. The first one relates to that ESRB warning that you always see nowadays -- (game experience may change during online play.) That's the one where what they really mean is, (People tend to be schmucks, so be careful.) Well, I don't know if I've just been lucky, or if perhaps the cooperative nature of the game has kept at bay those who enjoy causing problems for others, but the people I've met in Dungeons and Dragons Online have been almost unfailingly nice and polite. It's actually been sort of eerie, because I never expect that sort of thing while online. But if you're a parent who worries about what your child is playing, or if you're just a potential player who gets turned off by the typical online hijinks, then you should feel safe with Dungeons & Dragons Online.
The second topic is less positive. In fact, let's call it a negative. Dungeons & Dragons Online works badly if you have a dial-up connection. When the game was first released, simply running through town caused problems, and actually grouping with other people or killing more than one enemy at a time was all but impossible. Then about three weeks ago, Turbine released a patch that allowed you to set your connection speed, and that made the game reasonably playable. The new Dragon's Vault module also includes a patch, and supposedly that patch will help matters even more -- but the patch is 250 MB, and I'm still downloading it, so who knows? I'm optimistic that Turbine will eventually fix the dial-up problems, but even so, realize this: Dungeons & Dragons Online includes voice chat, and that feature only works if you have a broadband connection. If you're stuck with dial-up, then be prepared to be treated like a second-class citizen.
Overall, Dungeons & Dragons Online is a nice but less-than-stellar MMORPG. I probably would have liked it better if I hadn't been using a dialup connection -- or maybe not. Generally, most of the game seems rather uninspired to me. I'd say that the best part of the game is the character development system, but that came almost verbatim from the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition rule set. The quests don't have enough variety, and there aren't enough of them, and so mid- to high-level characters aren't given enough to do. Possibly, Turbine will provide enough extra content, such as with the Dragon's Vault module they released on April 5, to alleviate these problems, but if so it'll probably be a while down the road, and so you might want to wait and see how things shake out before purchasing a copy of the game.
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