DDo stormreach first opened its doors to the public in 2006. As a premium MMORPG it required a monthly subscription. In north america it was deployed by Turbine, in Europe it was outsourced to codemasters. Over the years it has had many updates, or modules, increasing the content of the game and adding new features.
The game is based in the world of Eberron. This is a new setting for Dungeons and Dragons, rather than the traditional ones such as Forgotten Realms or Planescape. Eberron was the winning entry in a competition to design a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting that was run in 2002 and was released as an official campiagn setting in 2004. Generally the setting is a standard fantasy affair, however there are a number of differences. These include the magic and the religeon. In Eberron there is far less availablity of high level magic, however the low level magic is far more common to the point that it is used as a “utility” , providing city lighting and such. Also in Eberron religeon is much less obvious than most other fantasy settings. Rather than having Gods that may at any time walk through the city, in Eberron it is more a case of faith that there are Gods.
The game is played from a third person perspective and players are charged with completing quests in order to gain experience and level up. There are a variety of different charecter races to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There are then 3 different styles of play, each of which contain different classes which can then be further specialised. For example, of the three styles of play( melee, spell and specialist) one may choose to play a specialist. This style includes the bard, the ranger and the rogue. The player may then choose the ranger for its skill with a bow and arrow, skill with a sword and the ability to cast spells at level four. Then the player may choose a path ( or create a custom path themselves). The predetermined paths include the Deepwood Sniper, a specialist in archery and scouting, the Tempest, a specialist in duel weilding weapons, and the Arcane Archer, a master of archery. Each different path is designed to help enhance the play style of the player. Upon entering the game, it soon becomes apparent howÂ much customisation is available. The vast numbers of different spells, items, clothing etc is staggering.
The game utilises a simple choose the attack and then click on the enemy style of control, although it is important to note that, unlike some other MMORPG’s, the player still has to ensure that they are facing the right direction and move close to the enemy in the case of a melee attack. The different types of attack (special attacks, spells etc) can be chosen from one of the many customisable hotkey bars at the bottom of the screen, or the number assigned to that hotkey. This type of gameplay is very effective and makes the game easy to play. It is also worth noting that the quests have a choice of difficulty levels, making the game ideal for low level characters, or characters that are by themselves and not in a group, to progress easily and not feel overwhelmed. These difficulty levels are Solo, Normal, Hard and Elite. As one would expect, the experience and item rewards from the different levels vary greatly.
With a huge amount of detail in the game, and the whole Dungeons and Dragons background to draw inspiration from, DDO has an enormous amount of depth. The world of eberron is full of life ( albeit mostly evil) and will provide the player with as much or as little challenge as they desire.
With the release of Eberron Unlimited on August 4th in North America, Turbine will be unveiling a new free to play pricing model, along with a whole host of new content. The new content will be available to players in Europe soon, within the much anticipated Module 9 update, but the free to play pricing model will not yet be available, meaning players in Europe will have to continue paying the monthly premium for the time being. Under the new pricing model, the game will be financed by micro transactions. This means that the player will have the option to buy certain game enhancing items or additional quests/dungeons etc, for real cash. Unlike most MMORPG’s that use this method, all of the items that can be bought with real cash will also be available for free, in exchange for “favour” points. These favour points can be obtained by completing quests within the game. This means that a player can get everything for free that can be paid for by simply putting in some time and effort.
I tried out the new DDO Eberron Unlimited myself. From the races , both Drow and Warforged need to be paid for, and then from the classes monk and favoured soul ( a new class) need paying for. Once I had created my character ( a Drow in honour of Drizzt Do’Urden) I was immediately shipwrecked on the beach of Korthos Village. This village is having a slight problem with Sahuagin (a type of evil fish person) and a white dragon. Korthos village will be your home while you learn how to play the game, and until you manage to solve the villages problem. Once this has been done, then travel to Stormreach will be available and the real adventure begins.
I found the game itself to be very involving, and I lost a number of hours to quests, as one often feels that one more quest won’t take too long. The game ran well on my limited PC and I experienced no lag whatsoever whilst playing. Graphically the game looks great, with a very detailed world being created. The quests invloved a lot of fighting, as one would expect, but also a number of rather fun puzzles. I guess I have become used to not having to think much during my MMORPG’s. These puzzles came as a pleasant break from the action that fills the quests. Sometimes the camera can get a bit stuck, leaving you unable to see what is going on, but this is a minor niggle in what is an incredible game.
Here is the thing. I have a lot going on in my life, mostly revolving around video games, and it would not be worth my paying a premium price for any MMORPG. The amount of time I could spend playing would not justify a monthly outlay. Also I have played many, many free to play MMORPG’s and i was not especially drawn back to any of them. Eberron unlimited however seems to address both of these facts. It is a premium game, and it is free to play. I think I am the market that the new pricing model is aimed at, those who cannot spend hours and hours playing the game, due to other commitments, but want the feel of a paid for game. When the new pricing model is launched in Europe, I will be the first at the door, ready to play. Overall though, be it paid or free-to-play, this MMORPG is easily one of the best out there, so I will happily score it a 9 out of 10.