DDO v WoW: bring it!

Will it be worth my time?

Will it be worth my time?

Being the perpetual MMO tourist I am I decided to check out Dungeon & Dragons Online (DDO) which recently went free to play (F2P). DDO is of course based on the “dungeons and dragons” intellectual property, using the same rule system, character classes, monsters and settings as the table-top version of the game.

As an MMO it wasn’t as successful as it could have been. Rather than shut it down or let it die a slow death, the developers Turbine have “rebooted” DDO as a F2P game (with micro-transactions of course).

So rather than “Here is a game review blah, blah, blah” I decided to compare and contrast playing the Paladin class in both DDO and World of Warcraft (WoW).

Why?

Well, the Paladin class is an iconic symbol of both table-top and online fantasy gaming: the veritable knight in shining armour of the genre. Paladins, in case it may have escaped the readers attention are my class of choice.

I’m curious to see if DDO  can offer a gaming experience comparable to the industries leading MMO. Is being “free” enough of a carrot to keep players going? Is the game worth playing? WoW is a useful benchmark, so let us begin.

I’ll be exploring both games from the newbie (i.e. new gamers) experience: from character creation, working the UI, questing and combat. I’ll be looking at DDO with fresh eyes and trying to do so with WoW.

Ranking the game experience

I’ll be using a simple ranking system 1-5 to score different elements of the games:

  1. Very bad
  2. Bad
  3. Average
  4. Good
  5. Freakin’ brilliant

So with that, let’s begin with one of the most important stages in an MMO: creating your character.

Say hello to my little friends…

For this exercise I rolled Paladins in both games. In WoW I created Angelarmor a Blood Elf female Paladin. In DDO  I rolled a toon called Augusteen Angelarmor, a Human male Paladin

Creating a character: choosing your online self

I love this part of starting an MMO, as character creation can be fun. It’s one of the most exciting. For veteran MMO players the next step is as natural as breathing: choosing your class, sex and the look of your avatar. However the experience in each MMO is unique.

Step one: choosing a server and faction

Warcraft 

Gosh this is familiar. I must have at least a dozen times… Any way let’s look at it from the perspective of a new player. Here they start with two choices: the type of server and their faction. These two choices alone will greatly impact their game play experience. The experience on a dedicated PvP will be radically different than that of a PvE one. The choice of faction – Horde or Alliance – will have also have an enormous impact. This choice will dictate the type of zones they will level through, the quests they will perform and the type of players they will encounter.

Dungeons & Dragons Online

There are only six servers at this point in time, so the choices are limited. The major difference between DDO and WoW at this point? DDO has no factions. Unlike WoW or WAR, DDO lacks factions locked in perpetual conflict. Your enemies will always be AI controlled MOBs.

Note: DDO does offer PvP, but limited.

Overall, not much to distingush the two games here: log in and select a server. Faction selection only applies to WoW, and why players shuold choice Horde or Alliance is a complete mystery. In the end I think choices are often made purely on aesthetics. Do you like the bad arse Horde or the pretty Alliance?

Ratings:

  • WoW – 3/5
  • DDO 3/5

Step two: class selection and character customisation

Warcraft

WoW makes it easy on the player here: click on the various portraits to get a review your class options.  Some generic text is displayed on the right which gives you a feel for how the class will play. Again, it really comes down to what your prefer. If you like bashing things, chose a Warrior. If you like throwing firebolts, chose a mage. I like Paladins, so I selected Paladin. Well duh.

I’ve played Alliance, and not much Horde so I decided to go select this faction so that my experience will be “fresher”. Thus I made a pretty little Blood Elf Paladin called Angelarmor. Ta da!

Faction, class, sex and some basic avatar features

Class, Path and sex...

Awwwwwwwh, isn’t she cute!

Selecting facial features, hair styles etc. is very simple. But as most WoW players know, your options are limited. The character customisation options don’t give you much to play with, so WoW avatars of the same race/class all look a bit the same.

Dungeons & Dragons Online 

DDO does offer something very different. Indeed, the whole process is like creating a D&D pen and paper character. You can, if you chose, build your character completely from scatch. I have to say I was impressed.

I could also chose three different “paths”. These are somewhat analogous like WoW’s talent trees, each path giving a different emphasis to the play/fighting style of your character. In selecting one,  a different emphasis on will be placed on charisma strength, intelligence etc.

Players can select an offensive specification, one that is allows you to support a group with buffs/protective spells and a third path that offered a mix of the two. DDO also notes how effective your class and path selection is for solo play.

Again, I’m impressed. I like that I can shape my gameplay experience right at the start, rather than waiting to accumulate talent points as I level. One of the great challenges for WoW players is learning how to effectively place their talent points. There are plenty of online guides out there, but these are created by third parties. DDO gives you this option right at the start.

If you want to be a bad arse fighting Paladin weilding a two handed weapon, then select this option when you create you character.

Customising the look of your avatar in DDO is brilliant: you have a wide range of facial features, hair styles and colour palattes to work with. Unlike WoW, you can create a truly individual avatar. Indeed, the character customisation tools were a lot of fun! As an added bonus, when you name your character you can also have a surname.

Create a unique avatar...

Create a truly unique avatar...

Overall comparison?

  • WoW – 3/5
  • DDO 5/5

Creating a character in WoW offers an average experience. Not bad, but not that exciting either. However it is simple, no fuss and gets you playing in minutes. Making things accessible is what WoW does well.

DDO’s character customisation is very sophisticated, allowing you to both design the look of your avatar and select it’s key attributes. In this way DDO it is exactly like pen and paper D&D. However this very varitey may be daunting to really casual players. If this is your first exposure to the world of MMOs then DDOs options may be a little confusing.

Conlcusion

Well, so far I’m impressed with DDO. Creating and customising the look of your character is a lot of fun, while the tools allow you to create a much more individual avatar than WoW.

However, one can’t underestimate just how easy and accessible WoW’s character customisation process is. For complete MMO virgins, WoW makes it easy.

Next installment: the UI and opening quests

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