Initial Impressions: Dungeons & Dragons Online

ddo beholder Despite having one of the most cumbersome names of any game I’ve ever seen, Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited (DDO) is one of the most unique and interesting MMORPGs I have ever played.

I remember years ago when the game was announced.  I remember getting into the beta test and anxiously waiting on the download to finish so I could jump in.  I always loved playing pen and paper D&D with my buddies, so it would have to be awesome online, too!

I was wrong.  I hated it.  It was buggy, the animations were bad, and the world—Eberron—was definitely not the Dungeons & Dragons world I wanted to play in.  So I uninstalled the client and never looked back.

Fast forward to the present, and my opinions have changed 100%.  After giving the game and its new F2P subscription model a real chance, I think DDO is the bee’s knees.

What’s So Good About It, Anyway?

Two things:

  • The community.

The moment I set foot in DDO for the very first time, I was lost.  I had no idea how anything worked, what the buttons did, where I should go, nothing.  I barely understood how to take quests because the NPC-interaction clicks are the opposite from World of Warcraft. So when I asked a question about how to do something for the first time in general chat, I expected to be laughed at and mocked, as I would have in WoW.

Instead, I found a few people to add to my friends list.  They wanted to help me get better at the game.  I even had one guy say “we’re all beginners at some point.”  And he’s right.  So far—and I am only a level 3 Human Cleric now—I have pugged with people, chatted with people, and just had a good time.  And never once has someone mocked me for being new to the game, even after leaving the newbie/tutorial area.

  • It’s free.

Or rather, it’s as free as you want it to be.  The base game costs nothing, but players can purchase bonuses to XP, items, even new races and classes from what Turbine calls the DDO Store.  I haven’t really gotten a good handle on how much things cost in terms of dollars yet, but I think I am eventually going to buy 32-point characters (more stat points to allocate for more powerful characters) and veteran status (being able to start a character at level 4 instead of 1—there are only 20 levels in DDO, by the way).  I think that should run me about $20 give or take.

ddo dragon Players can also purchase dungeons, quests, and other adventure packs, which I haven’t even hit the level for.  I’m sure some are great, while others are positively “meh.”  I’ll do a little research before I buy any of those.  The great part about the purchasable adventures, though, is that I don’t have to.  The base game is totally free and accessible to anyone; all it takes is signing up for an account and downloading the client.  There is a great deal of content included with the base client, so I have no fear of running out of things to do or see myself locked out of content like I did in Wizard 101.

I’ve said for a long time that DDO has the best F2P (free-to-play) model out there.  Given that I can spend as much or as little as I want with it and still be able to maintain a subscription to another MMO (or Netflix or whatever), I don’t see a reason to not keep the client on my computer and updated.

The One That Could Go Either Way

  • It doesn’t play like any other MMO you’ve ever played.

In my mind, this is a positive.  But I can see many people being put off seeing as how it runs actual D&D rules.  There is no mana/health regeneration.  You use all your mana healing or casting Magic Missles?  Too bad.  Drink a mana potion or find a rest shrine.  And sometimes players even have limited numbers of uses on their spells/abilities that can only be regenerated at rest shrines.

Not only that, but there is no autoattack; it’s Diablo-style clicking to swing that weapon.  It makes playing even a healing class more interactive, if you ask me, though I have found it a bit hard to target and make sure I’m hitting a particular mob.

There are only 20 levels, though each level is broken up into 5 ranks that provide small “enhancements” as players gain XP.  And when players gain a level, they get a ton of abilities.  For instance, when my Cleric hit level 3, I was given 18—18!—new spells to choose from.  Which gets me to my next point: players can only have a certain number of spells “prepared” at any given time.  Of those 18 I was given at level 3, I could use 3 of them.  It makes players plan ahead for what they’re doing.  But I can see people not liking that they can’t have access to all their spells when they want/need them, too.

DDO Mind Flayer I did a basic amount of research into Clerics when I started.  I bookmarked a pretty interesting FAQ on the official DDO forums which tells me what skills/feats/abilities I should go for by the time I hit level 20.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I’m doing it wrong, and will either have to reroll a new character or purchase a Reincarnation (DDO’s type of respec) off the DDO Store.  There is a steep learning curve in DDO, have no doubt, but it is nowhere near the hell that is learning EVE.  However, factor in a community who actively wants new players to succeed, and that learning curve becomes significantly more accessible.  In just the few days I’ve spent with the game, I’ve learned a lot, and feel much more at ease when playing.

Hit Me Up!

A few people around the blogosphere (Syp and Ethic, namely) putter around in DDO from time to time.  I’m happy to say that DDO will finally give me a chance to play with some of my blogging buddies and not just converse through comments and Twitter.

So if you’re ever in DDO on the Cannith server and need a Cleric, friend “Beej.” We’ll do a dungeon or something.

Overall, I’m very impressed with what Turbine has done with the game.  They took a game that was struggling to break even and made it into the third most popular MMO out there.  It’s still way too early to tell if this game has the staying power that UO and WoW had (~6 years each, so far), but even if the game falls flat on its face and peters out after a few more levels, what am I out?

Have you tried DDO?  If so, what did you think about it?  If not, what’s keeping you from it?

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. I hate it when my fellow blogger write about other games, and how great they are. Then I get to hankering to try it. You sir are the devil, and I must resist the temptation. Though I do have one question, how many drow rangers called Drizzt are there?
    .-= Riv´s last blog ..Weekly Lagout =-.

    1. You should not resist! It’s free! And fun! 😉 C’mon… (See what I did there?)

      And coincidentally, I haven’t seen any Drow rangers named Drizzt yet. Or human wizards/sorcs named Raistlin. I’m still only level 3, so that may have something to do with it. I’ll keep my eye out and report back. 😉

  2. I’ve been wanting to try DDO since it went F2P. I have vacation starting tomorrow evening, so that may be what I do.

    I’ve had a hankerin’ for 3.5 D&D and since that is what DDO uses. . .

    Thought I am a little bothered there are no druids.

    1. You really should. Hit me up if you make a character on Cannith.

      I wondered about the lack of druids myself, but in lore, it was always hard to figure a way to get druids out of nature and into the party, so maybe they didn’t want urban druids since it’s Eberron.

      I really enjoy how DDO uses 3.5, too. I think you’d enjoy it.

    1. Believe me, Tesh, I know that feeling. 😉

      I’ve actually spent way more time on DDO these past few days than I intended to. It feels so much more different than other MMOs that I get caught up in the quests/adventures and lose track of time.

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