Thursday, May 26, 2011

Three days in Eberron

I'm still playing DDO, and enjoying it. Although I've read in reviews that it isn't so much true later on, at the moment at least, this game is a solo player's dream. Every quest takes place in its' own instance, and as mentioned, the difficulty is fully adjustable; Casual, Normal, Hard, Elite.

I tend to go in on Normal to get the feel for a place, and then kick it up to Hard for a second run through. Depending on how I did on Hard, I'll then go for Elite. The rewards scale with the difficulty, as well; on Casual, XP/rep gains are 50% of Normal, while on Elite, XP gains are 8-10% more.

It isn't all completely rosy, however. DDO's interface isn't quite as slick as WoW's. I have to have my bow and melee weapons assigned as different weapon sets, and use two hotkeys to manually switch between each. There can also be a noticeable delay when switching during combat, so if I'm going to initially kite or shoot a target, I have to time switching to make sure I've got my axe out when a mob reaches me.

The other major bugbear is the targeting, which tends to ping pong back and forth between targets, depending on what my mouse is hovering over. From memory there's an option to turn auto targetting off, though, and I also already have sticky targetting assigned to the F key, so I think I will be able to sort that out. That's just the usual sort of initial teething problem when starting any new game, really.

I only have two combat skills at the moment; Trip and Sunder. My spells apparently come much later. Trip is very useful, because it makes my character perform a foot sweep which knocks a mob's legs out from under them, and sends them to the ground. This makes them much more vulnerable, so I'm usually able to kill them in one hit after that. Sunder is like Sunder Armour for Warriors in WoW; it reduces a mob's armor class for a bit, so I can kill it more easily.

The Ranger Tempest is meant to be a dual wielding class as well, but I think I already mentioned that being a Half-Orc means I get initial two handed proficiency early on. This is a real lifesaver, because while I'm levelling up, before I get the full bonus from Two Weapon Fighting, I've still got a hit penalty to the offhand, similar to what I actually had when dual wielding as a Survival Hunter in WoW.

As far as shooting is concerned, my Strength is sufficiently high that I do almost as much damage with my bow as with my axe; but because my Dexterity is lower, my hit chance is only around 10-20%, currently.

More than anything else, I'm actually enjoying the feel of being low level again. It makes things challenging, and means that I really have to focus on what I'm doing, in order to survive; especially if I keep the difficulty on Hard or above. Kiting is a lot more tricky than in WoW, particularly given that I don't have auto attack, and have to click to fire as I freelook with the mouse; but I'll get it eventually.

It's a funny paradox, you know. DDO has all these funny little interface quirks that WoW had smoothed out at release on the one hand; but now, DDO also actually has enough real challenge that it can keep me interested in playing on the other. DDO is not homogenised in any sense of the word. I suspect that even if WoW does somehow manage to recover from its' current slump, that fact will mean that Turbine will continue to receive my money.

Monday, May 23, 2011

As one door closes...

...Another opens.

I've uninstalled WoW from my hard drive, and cancelled my subscription. In its' place, I've installed Dungeons and Dragons Online. I've been playing it for the last three hours or so as I type, and already I'm able to tell that with this game, although I loved Survival, I'm going to be able to get at least a good part of the playstyle that I'd always wanted from Surv.

My class in DDO is a Half-Orc Tempest Ranger. Rangers in DDO are a true melee/ranged hybrid. At the time of rolling, I had 17 base strength, straight out of the gate, and was also given a large two handed axe with a fire enchant during the starting quest, as well.

I'm now running through the early quests two shotting literally everything, and even though ranged combat is supposed to be the weakest element of DDO, I think I've figured out a way to get around that. Half-Orcs have very high base strength, and although Dexterity (the equivalent of Agility in WoW, roughly) is usually the stat needed for ranged damage, Tempests get a skill later on which allows us to use Strength as our ranged stat.

I do a little (though not much, truthfully, because I got a very nice repeating crossbow as a quest reward) more damage melee than I do at range, but I can shoot when I need to, for getting casters or other mobs that I don't want to get so close to, that they can damage me. So I have a lot of versatility. Rangers can even wear shields, although I am not going to do that, because as a Tempest, once I get the skills for it, I will be dual-wielding. Tempests apparently have two hand specialisation that is even better than what Fighters (the Warrior equivalent in DDO) get, but they're still quite a bit stronger than we are, as well. Still, I'm doing just fine as my own tank right now.

Rangers aren't a pet class in DDO, but I'm that much stronger melee, that I really don't need a pet; although it is possible later on to get spells which let me summon one for ten minutes or so.

DDO is a completely PvE oriented game; there's no PvP at all, at least that I know of. The instances can also be run either solo, with a human group, or with NPC hirelings, and the difficulty level is fully adjustable. Payment options are equally flexible; you can either pay a monthly subscription, (which I'm doing) or pay for Turbine Points at the DDO store, which seem to allow content to be unlocked on a per-transaction basis, although the initial content is free to play.

I've subscribed for an initial three months, as I said, and I much prefer subscribing than gated microtransactions, because a subscription means I immediately get access to everything up front, that someone doing the initial free-to-play would have to spend a lot more money for, on individual points. At $30 for three months, it's 30% cheaper than World of Warcraft, as well.

DDO's graphics might seem a little limited to some, but I like them. It uses the classic 70s style of fantasy art, as also seen in Age of Conan. They not long ago added support for DirectX 11 though, and I had to actually put the settings down to DirectX 10, because my video card started running at 85C.

If you've been upset about the direction WoW has gone in since Cataclysm, though, DDO is at least worth a try, I think. I'm very happy with it, and while it comes across as non-mainstream and a little old school, that is exactly what I was looking for. It might be your cup of tea; it might not.