Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited Review

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Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited Publisher: Turbine
Developer: Turbine

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 4 1.6 GHz or AMD equivalent, 512 MB RAM, DirectX 9 compatible video card with 64 MB RAM, 3 GB HD space, internet connection, Windows XP or more recent operating system


I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons Online since June 30, 2007. More precisely, I've been paying for it since then. Turbine has taken DDO "free-to-play," or as they term it – "Gold." That's not to say you can't still pay. You can, and I do still pay the $15 per month subscription fee.

DDO's free to play feature certainly seems to be gold. Since its implementation on September 9th, 2009 a great many new and returning players have joined the Turbine servers for their chance to slay evil humanoids, beholders, mind-flayers and other creatures from the Dungeon & Dragons canon. But what has changed about the game?

Damon Vukasovic

For those who still choose to pay a monthly subscription fee, Dungeons & Dragons: Eberron Unlimited is still the same game as Dungeons & Dragons: Stormreach, with even more content than before. Players still play primarily in instanced dungeons meant to be explored by a group of intrepid adventurers. What's really new is that it's possible to play the game without a fee, or to rely on the cash shop for a few specific features. This lets everyone choose exactly how much to spend and how much to play DDO.

What Makes You A VIP?

From a subscription standpoint, very little has actually changed. You can still pay the same monthly fee to access to all the features and resources available in the game. This is what Turbine terms "VIP" status.

The free-to-play aspect of DDO is what's new, with the biggest new feature being the DDO in-game store. Turbine has made sure that it's easy enough to get to the store while playing; whether through icons, banners in NPC vendor windows, hotkeys or simply trying to access a feature you haven't yet paid for.

As a true free-to-play user (a first-time DDO gamer who has never paid the monthly fee before) your choices are limited. Turbine has provided a chart to illustrate the different features available to VIP, premium and free players. If (as before the game went free-to-play) you pay the monthly subscription fee, you get access to everything available in the game. Not only can you experience every adventure, enjoy nine character slots and a shared bank, but you get 500 Turbine points to spend in the store every month. 500 points might get you magical gear like a +2 sword, a tome that permanently increases a statistic by +1, or even new hairstyles and dyes. If you already have VIP access to the adventure content, 500 points will get you most of what you might want in a month.

Premium Players include everyone who has purchased a copy of the game or has bought something from the online store. Premium Players get access to the basic classes, basic races and early adventures, along with four character slots. More importantly, once you've bought something from the store and become a Premium Player, you get access to chat, auctions, mail and the game forums. Presumably, this is to save players from any posts and spam by gold farmers using free accounts.

A Favored Veteran

Even if you don't spend a single point in the Turbine store and just want to try out the game, you get two character slots and can play any class except for the Monk or Favored Soul. The Monk is available to VIP subscribers, while the Favored Soul can be acquired with sufficient favor (see below). Free-to-play gamers can also use all the races save the Drow and Warforged.

Cash (in the form of Turbine points) can usually be used as a shortcut, but many features can be earned with the acquisition of sufficient favor, including races, classes and the valuable "Veteran Status." Favor is awarded by several NPC factions for completing quests, and enough favor (typically 75 or 150 favor points) grants useful rewards. The total of your favor across all the factions unlocks even better perks: 400 favor unlocks the Drow race; 1,000 favor unlocks veteran status; 1,750 favor unlocks the ability to create more powerful characters; and 2,500 favor unlocks the "Favored Soul" class.

Veteran status is a particularly great perk that has been added to the game recently. Whether unlocked through play or purchased, vet status lets DDO players create new characters at level four. That way, you can get right to what's fun about trying out a different class instead of replaying the same introductory experience over and over. Of course, it's a little more fun with VIP status and ten character slots.

A Store for All Seasons

Turbine has put just about everything they offer in the DDO store. Not only can the favor rewards, classes and races be unlocked, you can buy cosmetics for your character, gear, equipment, healing items, hirelings, spells, potions, statistic enhancing items, leveling items, experience- and loot-boosting items. Depending on how many points you buy in a single purchase, points can cost as much as 64 points per dollar or as little as 100 points per dollar. You can acquire a few points by gaining favor (but not many).

So what has really changed with the transition to Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited, the new, free-to-play iteration of DDO? For subscribers ( I mean, VIPs), little has changed, although veteran status makes it a lot more fun to keep playing and try out other classes. For everyone else, a purchase from the game's store is intriguing. Anytime an account modifying feature is purchased, be it veteran status or adventure packs, that content remains unlocked for all the DDO servers and stays accessible regardless of your account type.

It Works, With or Without Cash

In most ways, going free-to-play has been a boon for DDO. It has provided an influx of players and boosted Turbine's revenue as well. Of course, with the influx of hordes of new players there are now many who need a more advanced "DDO education."

Prior to DDO going "unlimited," Turbine added the Isle of Korthos, a starter area that better introduces players to the game. It's a nicely designed area that grants some nifty items to players that remain useful for many levels. The Isle of Korthos makes for a dramatically improved experience for new players, and free-to-play folks can have plenty of fun – certainly enough to get a good handle on the game before deciding whether to drop some cash. For all the early grumblings about the store, it works well. Once you decide to jump in, I would recommend buying any of the features that modify your account, such as character slots, 32-point builds and veteran status. From there, you can purchase any adventure packs that seem compelling as you rise in level.

My biggest problem with the cash store involves the descriptions of what you're buying. I'm not too keen on purchasing a potion that "somewhat" increases your ability to jump and only after buying this discovering that it gives +10 to the jump skill for 10 minutes. I don't like buying things sight unseen, and want a more intuitive way to learn exactly what I'm spending real money on, whether it's the improvements granted by potions or the vague text descriptions of haircuts available for purchase.

One irritation is that Turbine is relying on other players to mentor the n00b's. So, while there is a vastly improved new-player experience, the documentation is largely left up to the forum boards and player chat. This works to some extent, but also leads to older players misinforming new players either for entertainment or out of ignorance.

Assuming that the Dungeons & Dragons flavor of fantasy role-playing appeals to you, the new, free-to-play iteration of DDO is worth trying. It can genuinely be enjoyed for as little as an hour a week, and four to eight hours per week is enough to enable you to competently join other players – or possibly be competitive. It's easy to decide from there if you'll enjoy paying for the experience. I still do.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on January 14, 2010 1:05 PM.

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