Friday, February 10, 2006

Stormreach impressions

Well, I was looking forward to playing in the stress test for Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach this week. I managed to get signed up within the first ten minutes of the 2-hour window on Tuesday night, but waiting in line to download and the actual download of the client itself (1.5 gigs!) took about 3-4 hours, then another 10 minutes to unpack and install three gigabytes of game data.

Finally at about 1AM, I managed to see the title screen of the game show up on my box. After creating my character (an elven rogue, for those who care), I was taken through a neat intro to the game's mechanics by way of a few miniquests and training rooms. So far so good. Upon completion of this primer, I set sail on the ship that would take me to the real world of Stormreach where the full game takes place. The first place I was suggested to visit was the inn... *lockup* *grr* *reboot*.

I looked at the clock and realized it was already 3AM. Any game that could hold my attention that long without me realizing it must be pretty good, right? I logged back in, talked to the NPCs in the inn and received my first mission soon thereafter. I did a really quick run through the beginning of the quest to kill some zombies and skeletons to get back a set of daggers, and went back to the inn to recover before logging out... *lockup* *grr* *power off*.

So in total, of the nine times I've gone into the inn, only twice have I been able to keep playing without the game freezing, so that shot the whole experience down a big notch. The visuals are really nice with all kinds of fancy textures and models filling the world realistically with flashy stencil shadows and framebuffer effects generously thrown in--all of which my GeForce 6 series card and aging AMD Sempron 2400 handled quite well. Here and there, DM text appears to further enhance the experience to make it feel more like the pen-and-paper game accompanied by well-done voiceovers.

The bad? Well, aside from the frequent lockups in the abovementioned location, some busy areas make take a few moments to catch up and load all the other characters running around. Also, coming from a more console-oriented game experience, the controls were a bit awkward and the sheer amount of things you can do and have to keep track of seem to clutter the interface up. Running below the default resolution of 1024x768 also resulted in some dialogs and UI elements running offscreen.

I see lots of potential, and being that the game is still in beta for a few more weeks, it may improve even more. The spirit of the pen and paper game seems to have been maintained. Another nice thing that sets this game apart from the rest is that experience isn't awarded for killing everything in sight, but rather for achieving goals in quests. At the moment, I just don't have the time and money to spend on the game when the retail version hits shelves at the end of the month, but from my limited stint in the stress test, I'd want to wait a while for the experience to get smoothed out more (and maybe upgrade my system a little more). With the potential this game has, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it for anyone already addicted to other MMORPGs, if your system can run it.

Currently playing:
Dungeons & Dragons Online: StormReach
By Atari
Release date: 28 February, 2006


Post a Comment

<< Home