MMOs are a dime a dozen these days, but what about quality MMOs that don’t even cost a dime? Those, of course, are a tad harder to come by. That’s where Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited comes in. Formerly a subscription-based MMO, DDO’s knocking down its “You Must Have This Much Disposable Income to Enter” gate and letting everyone join the party. Thinking that’s all DDO has going for it, however, would be a grievous mistake. Why? Well, we’ve got exactly five reasons. Convenient, right?
No, seriously, anyone. During our time with the game, we were amazed at how carefully Turbine smoothed over many of the bumps on the road to MMO enjoyment. Most noticeably, the game now includes a context-sensitive hint system that nudges you in the right direction based on what you’re doing. So say you’re stumbling through your first dungeon and walk right into a fire elemental. Demonstrating your incredible knowledge of cultural idioms, you decide to fight fire with fire, literally. This, however, only heals the elemental. In this case, the game would point out that you’re doin’ it wrong, and tell you to use a different type of spell.
The game also includes pre-generated class paths for players who don’t understand D&D’s rule set, and dungeons that tailor themselves to your party’s particular setup. So say, for instance, that your cleric just left the party. In any other MMO, you’d be hurting something fierce for a healer, but in DDO, the dungeon will alter its setup, making sure that your healer-less party still has a shot at success.
Sounding a bit too easy, hardcore players? Well, fear not, because dungeons come packed with multiple difficulty levels, with rewards to match.
Far from it, actually. The DDO Store, which allows you to purchase in-game items using out-of-game cash, is neither game-breaking nor obnoxious. For the most part, the Store deals in adventure content (dungeons) and small-time items (healing potions, slight XP enhancements), which means that buying your way into the big-time is impossible. If it’s phat lewtz you’re after, you’d better be ready to actually play the game, instead of just inserting a coin into some mythical instant gratification slot.
Even better, DDO actually rewards you with Turbine Points (DDO Store currency) for the simple act of playing. You are, in essence, being paid to play. Or you can opt for an all-access VIP membership (read: subscription) which grants you a monthly allowance of Turbine Points, in addition to a bunch of extra adventure content.
"Eberron Unlimited" isn’t just some ye olde way of saying “Hey guys, now DDO’s free-to-play!” It’s also throwing a new class your way, known as the Favored Soul. Along with being a lightning rod for pro-nerf comments like “Well, it’s obviously Turbine’s
class,” the Favored Soul presents a Paladin-ish menagerie of melee and magic. Bop, heal, thwack, heal, biff, heal, etc.
In addition, Unlimited raises the game’s level cap up to 20, which our in-game tour guides described as “more like 80 or 90 in a non-D&D-based MMO.”
On top of all that, the update adds new adventure packs, one of which we were able to see. Located in the twisted nethers of a place called Shavarath, the Plane of Battle – as it’s known – is for experienced adventurers only. Even with a little press perk called “immortality,” we managed to lose our full health bar upwards of ten times while running through the place like a toddler through a toy store made entirely of sharp objects and blue cleaning liquid. Obviously, then, even if you’ve stuck by D&D Online since day one, Eberron Unlimited has something new to offer you.
If you’re ready to turn in your pointy ears and quit fantasy MMOs once and for all, honestly, Eberron Unlimited probably won’t change your mind. But if you’re only
to yawn at the prospect of another sword-and-sorcery-themed dungeon-runner, Unlimited might set you back on the path to proper MMO addiction. See, DDO isn’t simply Dungeons & Dragons in name only; it is, instead, a sort of cross section between MMOs and D&D. So the combat feels like a surprisingly action-packed MMO, but operates under D&D’s rule set.
Such adherence to the source material, then, means that DDO’s not just a mindless hack ‘n’ slash. Dungeons incorporate a puzzle-solving element and – depending on the situation – certain classes’ skills are needed to help the party progress. In other words, you’re not merely building a mean, potentially green combat machine; you’re building a character.
For instance, during our time with the game, we encountered a room full of tomes – one of which would let us finally nab our main objective. However, each one required a different skill to interact with properly, and would spring a trap if rubbed the wrong way.
There are, believe it or not, no real strings attached here. As a free player, you can level all the way to 20, see most of the game’s adventure content, and interact meaningfully with other players. No money – subscription or Store – required. What have you got to lose?
Recommendation – Really, you’ve got no excuses. The game’s free, after all. At least give Eberron Unlimited a try when it launches next month. Honestly, though, we really liked what we saw, and not simply because the game’s easy on our wallets. It’s a fully fledged, fun, fairly unique MMO. The fact that it’s free, then, is merely icing on an already very attractive cake.
Want to know more about DDO: Eberron Unlimited? Then check out our in-depth interview with DDO developer Turbine!