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Archive for the ‘F2P’ Category

Still Trekking…

…across the universe, etc. etc.

I actually did the unthinkable this holiday season: I re-subscribed to STO to bridge the month before it goes free to play. Me! Re-subscribed! I’m not sure that I’ll spend any more money on STO past this subscription, but I was so impressed by the changes to the game that I wanted to throw some cash Cryptic’s way, and this way I get to keep playing prior to January 17th. Which I have been. I have even given running missions Klingon-side a try, trying to see how much I can level between PvE missions and Duty Officer management (which are so much more amusing than the Fed-side DOff missions) and no PvP whatsoever.

Despite the furor on the forums about the Star Wars-inspired glowing lirpas and bat’leths that Ferengi!Yoda was handing out until earlier this week, I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t look more like the lightsabers they were decried as. One of those “all this kerfuffle over this?” moments, to be sure, but I find that is often the case on the official STO forums, where if you aren’t angry about something, you’re a fanboy.

Obligatory Glowing Lirpa Shot

Aside from making Mr. Randomessa extremely jealous over being able to play the game while he waited until he couldn’t justify paying $15 for as many days of subscription, I have also dipped into the Foundry missions (a whole new level of fun) and have been catching up on STO podcasts. I have also found possibly the only Star Trek Online forum that isn’t full of bitter naysayers at the Trek BBS (my home on the internet when my husband and I were mainlining DS9 a couple of weeks ago).

Oh, and I’m trying out the diplomacy missions for the first time and am still running races in Q’s Winter Wonderland, which, again, goes to show how much I appreciate non-combat and non-competitive options for gameplay. I tried popping in to Guild Wars’ Wintersday celebrations and popped out again rather quickly for that very reason. Tis the season not to fight anything, for me.

I have to say that unlike most MMOs where I do like being in the thick of pre-orders and the surge of new players embarking on their first journeys together, STO was one of those games where you didn’t get a whole lot out of being an early adopter (unless you were a lifetime sub from the start) and coming in later means I have so many parallel paths of advancement that I don’t expect to run out of things to do for some time. Of course, this also means that all of my content stories will be old news to those who ranked up to Admiral last year. Oh well; time to delve deep into the Foundry, I suppose.

And then I jumped off.

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For the past 10 days I’ve been taking part in the Star Trek Online free key and item bundle offered here by Alienware. I already have my veteran account, of course, but I wanted to give the game a free once-over before it actually goes free-to-play, and this past week, with all the excitement of everyone else in the free world playing SW:TOR, seemed as good a time as any.

Mr. Randomessa and I stopped playing STO only a few months into our year-long subscriptions, citing several conflicts of interest, from my aversion to what I felt was excessive space gameplay, to his PvP burnout Klingon-side, to our disappointment with the crafting system, among other quality-of-life issues. We left just as the Episodic content was starting to get underway, but by that time our enthusiasm was spent and we didn’t delve too deeply into the weekly episodes. We didn’t write off the game completely, however, opting instead to wait and see how the next year would change or improve things.

Having ranked up to Lt. Commander on a new character, I think the wait has been well worth it. The most praise I have to offer is for the Duty Officer system, which adds a compelling means of non-combat advancement – something I’ve been wanting in MMOs for as long as I’ve been playing them (are you listening, ArenaNet?). Since usually this comes in the form of crafting in other MMOs, and crafting is generally on a separate XP bar than adventuring, the Doff system, for the first time in any MMO I’ve played so far, allows me to rank up even if I’m not actively completing missions or engaging in patrols. I cannot express how tickled this makes me; over the past week I leveled twice just from having completed Doff assignments. This also partially resolves the problems caused by having a singular leveling path for all Fed and KDF characters (which I have previously criticized), in combination with the ability to “skip” missions (which I should also mention is an awesome feature!). Combined with Squad Support putting an end to our need for our spousal leveling contract means that Mr. Randomessa’s and my leveling options were just blown wide open.

Second is the extra love being added here and there, from the occasional voiceover (Bioware has nothing to fear on that front, to be certain), to inserted cutscenes, to chairs you can sit on without using an emote (a feature I haven’t seen in any MMO I’ve played other than WoW). I’ve participated in Q’s Winter Wonderland, had a snowball thrown at me, fawned over other characters’ fashion choices (I’ve never been the type to ask “where did you get that outfit?” let alone spent much time trying to emulate them, but the new additions to wardrobe have unveiled this tendency in me and allowed me to indulge my love of the fantasy genre even within this universe), and remembered how cool it is that I can make a Cardassian given the character creation tools Cryptic has provided me. I even got a “boo, hiss” tell from another player for running a Cardie, which was surprisingly satisfying.

For the Republic! Er, wait, what game is this again?

I must also give bonus points to Cryptic for adding the ability to purchase Cryptic Points in-game through the exchange of refined dilithium. I feel this is Perfect World’s hand at work, since PWI’s other games also tend to feature the ability to exchange (exorbitant amounts of) in-game gold for cash-shop items. That the option is there is always a plus in my mind, just as I appreciate the means of acquiring Turbine Points through gameplay in LOTRO.

In short, STO has added or improved on a lot of features that Mr. Randomessa and I dreamed of from the start, and we’re more than ready to jump back in on the F2P launch date. We also can’t wait to check out the entries on the Foundry, which from the reviews I’ve read make even greater use of the engine than Cryptic does at times. There are only a couple more items remaining on our wishlists, including being able to see our Doffs on our ship when we explore the interior, and the ability to have quests and/or combat take place in ship interiors.

It remains to be seen how long I will be excited about STO before my love of fantasy settings begin to chafe again – costuming aside – but I still have my active LOTRO gaming sessions to scratch that particular itch. My free 10 days in STO ended yesterday, and I was loathe to log out that last time, hoping instead to see how just one more of my Doff assignments would end… and then another… and then another….

You know how it is, new shiny MMO experience and all.

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Shockingly, Mr. Randomessa and I are still playing Lord of the Rings Online, which I think makes it the longest straight stint over which we have played one MMO since we pre-ordered Warhammer Online. We are, in fact, playing LOTRO so much that I am not sure our playstyle can be considered “casual” any longer; at least, not by my previous definition. I feel badly that we haven’t taken the time to check out the F2P launches of City of Heroes or Fallen Earth, but LOTRO is taking up all of our gaming time these days.

While it is true that we have not been racing to endgame (we only dinged level 33 this weekend), we have been amassing several hours of playtime across multiple alts and crafting professions. We have each purchased deluxe houses in the Falathorn homesteads – that’s how we know we’re serious! – and have begun decorating in earnest. Two of our alts, a Hunter for him and Rune Keeper for me, even duo together on odd days. And all this without PvP! Although I suspect that some of the more vicious bidding wars Mr. Randomessa has gotten into on the Auction House for crafting materials are serving as a form of PvP “high” for him….

In a refrain I have heard elsewhere by Minstrels, the class changes in Rise of Isengard have breathed new life into a class I had struggled with since around level 25. My Minstrel is now level 39, having gained three levels last week, and I have been enjoying tackling the Epic Story quests solo, in addition to skirmishing. I feel more sturdy and powerful than ever, and am seeking out new challenges to test the limits of my damage-dealing capabilities. Having unlocked more than the initial two free skirmishes, I was surprised to find that several of the later skirmishes were much easier than the early ones. I had much more fun and success running Attack at Dawn, Thievery and Mischief, or Stand at Amon Sul than I ever managed solo with Siege of Gondoman or Trouble in Tuckburough, which has made skirmishing a more fun and rewarding experience across all my characters.

Of course, with the tiny army that is our Captain and Loremaster combination, we’re still doing well with Tier 3 skirmish challenges, which I lay at the feet of Mr. Randomessa’s newly-acquired Lynx pet; enemies simply melt away before his stealthy kitty swipe. We’re also doing well with the Hunter/Rune Keeper pair; I was interested in trying the Rune Keeper for some time already, but upon learning more about its skills and realizing that in the healing attunement it’s essentially a Prot Monk, I was sold. With LOTRO’s slower-paced combat, this actually feels like something I might be able to do (and enjoy doing), and so far I’m liking healing with my RK more than I ever did on my Minstrel.

Sadly banished to the bench is my adorable Hobbit Warden, who, although invincible and mighty, just wasn’t a playstyle I really enjoyed at level 17. She’s resting comfortably at Michel Delving, cooking up a storm for the rest of the team with occasional overnight stays in Esteldin to craft jeweled goods and runestones as well. In the meantime, we will need to make some decisions as to what quest pack(s) Mr. Randomessa should buy to add variety to our alts’ leveling paths. Hopefully, one or two will round out the content he already has through the Isengard expansion; thanks to my VIP status, I have already earned enough TP to purchase the rest of the content should we still be playing at level 50, 60 or beyond.

To close, one more complaint from the premium member: no permanent swift travel unlocks in the LOTRO Store, Turbine? Really?

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Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we? Among my list of games I would play if they were F2P, one just joined in on the fun, and the other will be there by fall. We are at 50% saturation… come on, WAR and Vanguard, you know you want to.

So, 15 months after making this statement, instead of “would I,” the question is “will I?”

The answer is “yes,” and “yes, but.”

I am quite looking forward to being able to pop back in to City of Heroes/Villains with my old “paid” characters; my husband and I had a nice thematic team going, and although I don’t foresee it becoming  our main, default log in each evening kind of game (though nothing really fits that bill at Chez Randomessa), we have plenty of good times ahead of us, I’m sure.

Age of Conan, I’m much less sure about. In the time since last year’s post, I have discovered I have an animosity toward a lot of MMO conventions, and Age of Conan skirts enough of them to significantly dampen its appeal to me. As I stated even then, once the Destiny quest content had petered out, there was little that really held my interest in Hyboria. Perhaps Mr. Randomessa and I will take our characters through the Gateway to Khitai just for the heckuvit. That’s more, at least, than we had before. And if we like it, I wouldn’t be opposed to purchasing the rest of Khitai for us to own and play on our own time!

Also on our desktops is an icon for Fallen Earth, just waiting for the gates to officially open. Mr. Randomessa and I like harvesting for craft materials something fierce… although sometimes we like the comments our characters make when we click on items they are not sufficiently skilled to harvest even more:

“Why’s all the good stuff always inside the rock?”

“Maybe later… when I’m not such a noob.”

My roster also consists of time spent in Wizard 101, on which I have happily and voluntarily spent some cash buying access to areas, and Champions Online, which I am still trying to wrap my head around and can’t quite come to a verdict on whether I enjoy it or think it “meh.”

Oh, but today…. today, we play Hellgate: Resurrection.

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Of Gaming Lulls

Whilst waiting for the Rift Beta 5 event to take place (although I’m not yet certain I will be able to participate much due to timing and my fear of growing sick of the game before it even launches), Mr. Randomessa has taken it upon himself to give the newly-released Bloodline Champions a try. I would let him speak for himself as to the merits of this game, but he hasn’t spoken a word to me since first loading it onto his computer last night, so I’ll just assume he’s having fun. (I kid, of course. He has been playing it steadily all weekend, though)

Inspired by his experimentation, but put off by the top-down/isometric view BC locks you into, I tried downloading Land of Chaos Online (LOCO) instead, and lasted through the newbie tutorial before acknowledging that this sort of game is Just Not For Me(TM). That, and I’m terrible at them, so the feeling is mutual.

Speaking of games that are not for me, something on the Leakerz website made me check out Firefall’s development progress. Here is a video of gameplay footage with developer commentary that I found very compelling. While I had seen a couple of trailers, I had not heard such a complete feature list until specifically going to the site to seek this information out. I did not realize, for example, that Firefall claims to provide dynamic content, much along the lines of Rift and Guild Wars 2, including player hubs that can be taken over during invasions by hostile NPCs and subsequently cannot be rescued unless other mission objectives for reclaiming said hub are completed. All this, and a seamless world plus PvP and PvE matching and storyline missions, for free (yes, free to download and free to play, with a cash shop). Why, I can almost hear a gauntlet being thrown down as I type this. It won’t release until the end of 2011, which is more of a release date than ArenaNet has provided, so I look forward to these two duking it out over the next year. The winners are us, the gamers!

Of course, while I quite like the cell-shaded and admittedly anime/manga-inspired visuals of Firefall’s future Earth, I just cannot see myself being able to invest much time or passion into an FPS/TPS game. I simply haven’t got the skills… yo. The videos are quite fun to watch, though. I even like the ubiquitous Blur cinematic.

I’m using this lull between choice gaming content for myself to finally finish reading Guild Wars: Edge of Destiny, which is making me want to play a mesmer in Guild Wars 2 so badly (you know, whenever that information is released), and Brandon Sanderson’s The Well of Ascension, which is making me wonder if rolling a Riftstalker in Rift would be a close enough approximation of a Mistborn.

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If you want the skinny in a few words, I can sum it up thus: I’ve certainly played worse WoW clones.

Early travels in the Human homeland

However, I’m not sure it’s that simple. I think Forsaken World is getting a bit of a bad rep — somewhat fairly-earned — in part due to the abundance of screenshots of well-endowed and scantily-clad Kindred Assassins that every reviewer seems to have rolled (truth be told, it’s only members of the Kindred race that can be Assassins [Edit: Whoops, I completely forgot that Humans can be Assassins, too], but the females of that race have the most alarming proportions and lack of modesty in the game).

The other reason for the poor reputation has to do with PWE’s discarding of the conventional F2P wisdom that “Closed Beta” means “anyone who has a key gets in” and actually seems to be restricting access by Beta phase, as well as their poor communication of that fact well in advance. This has led to a lot of confusion and hard feelings from fans who obtained beta keys but were not let into this Phase 1 of the Closed Beta.

Due to a generous giveaway by Massively, I am one of those in this phase of testing, and I have been playing multiple characters for hours. While I have been trying to submit bug reports like a good beta tester (see the overlooked Chinese characters and typo in the screenshot), I can’t say that my playtime has been through sheer determination – I’m actually having fun! Much like with Allods Online, I know I won’t be staying with this title due to the emphasis on PvP (after level 30, PvP or Player-Killing will be open-world and that’s just Not My Thing), it’s not stopped me from enjoying the content in the meantime.

Minor glitches aside, Forsaken World plays smoothly and the aesthetic is much more Western than previous PWE titles. Having explored a few different races’ starting areas, I have already experienced a couple of unique quests that I haven’t experienced many places elsewhere, if at all. The usual PWE conveniences are there, such as auto-pathing and pets, as well as other F2P staples such as level-gated gift packages. Character customization is less than PWI and more than JD, and felt much like it would if you could only use Aion’s default customizations with no feature sliders – that is to say, a fair amount of customization is possible, though no varying size options are available. No boob size customization, unfortunately.

I am still hovering around level 20 and the game is telling me I should start running dungeons (in-game chat is lively with LFG requests at this stage), but not having done this thing much in traditional MMOs (the closest I’ve come is the Barrow-Downs in LOTRO, and that was a crash-course in Healing With An Aggro System if ever there were one), I am leery of the abuse I would face from strangers if I failed in my Priestly duties. So far there is still plenty I can do on my own – the game is not hurting for quests, and not the sorry excuses for quests that PWI offered, with “kill 50″ requests rounding up post-level 20 content – so I shall continue on until, as usually happens when I play a traditional MMO, I get tired of never-ending questing and give Forsaken World a rest.

Or maybe I’ll try running a dungeon then.

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Vindictus Victorious

Having taken advantage of several Open Beta Key giveaways for Nexon’s Vindictus Open Beta, my better half and I have found ourselves spending considerably more time exploring this title than we usually devote to online gaming. I’d say we are about knee-deep into the amount of content (for certain values of content) that is available in the OB, and thus far it has made us forget all about a certain Cryptic MMO’s weekly episode updates, daily Guild Wars bounties and Zaishen missions, and even Guild Wars 2 media watching for the time being.

In a gaming first, I am playing a male character, since the Lann role is a dual sword-wielding damage-dealing tornado DPS with little use for subtlety, while Fiona is the tank a sword and shield character with powerful knockbacks and a bit more skill involved in utilizing her to her full potential. The game even warns you at character creation: Fiona is not for noobs. My better half plays her more than aptly.

Despite these character role/gender limitations, which normally put me quite off a game, I am enjoying myself tremendously in Vindictus. The smallest contributor to my enjoyment is how beautiful the game looks; even on my midrange rig, graphics flow smoothly, look great, and still deliver a decent framerate at normal settings, and yet the detail is stunningly impressive when you crank it all the way up to max. The story is nothing to write home about, but as an admitted story aficionado I appreciate the effort and that’s half the battle.

No, what impresses me the most about Vindictus is that the combat is so much fun, and that isn’t something I ever thought I’d say about an action game. My experience with Dungeons & Dragons Online was appalling, and with Chronicles of Spellborn I found combat something interesting, but more to be endured and grown accustomed to than something I was genuinely excited about. Action-oriented combat was one of my last niggling fears about Guild Wars 2: that if I can barely manage or remember to strafe in GW1, how can I be expected to add dodging to the mix? The answer, in Vindictus, is that it’s all in how the game lets you handle the controls. I have never felt dexterously-challenged by the lack of skill buttons to be mashed, or targets to be selected, by the use of the right and left mouse buttons or by context-sensitive kicks and throws. Not only that, but there’s something so incredibly satisfying about breaking apart a stone pillar, and subsequently picking up the pieces of that pillar to club enemies over the head with. Or picking up an enemy and throwing it at another enemy. Or grabbing an enemy by the neck and slamming its head into a wall.

Three days into the beta, and my better half and I are looking for ways to fit more Vindictus time in. It has already been declared “the best free MMO ever” in this household (though not by me), and we both know that when the game goes live, we’ll be rolling the Evie character and laying waste to everyone and everything with our Golemancy. While I will add the caveat that there does seem to be a degree of dungeon repetition the likes of which I have not previously tolerated in any given MMO, the ways in which combat can be switched up and varied on the fly really does lend to replayability in ways I didn’t expect.

It may not hold us off until Guild Wars 2 releases, but the environmental interactivity might give us a taste of what can be achieved with a good engine and implementation.

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I’ve been taking things easy on the blogging front, because I haven’t had much to report on the gaming front, I’m afraid. In some cases it’s by choice, but in others it seems the universe and/or my computer are conspiring against me.

I haven’t logged any time in Guild Wars for a while now; after my big push to get my Protector of Tyria title (and in the process, finally finish Prophecies on my main), as well as grinding Asura faction on the double EotN faction weekend, and trying to finish the War In Kryta content (still stuck on Battle for Lion’s Arch due to bad timing on my part), I got pretty burned out. I’ll not likely return until there’s another big WiK addition. It’s funny, because I was just starting to reconsider my previously-held position that I just can’t sustain gaming for hours every night because I was having such fun in Guild Wars, but no, I really can’t sustain gaming for hours every night. Fortunately there’s no subscription to cancel and re-activate, as ever, hooray for Guild Wars.

Since I was no longer playing GW, it was lucky that Gamescom came around right at that time, so I could drown myself in GW2 footage, commentary, speculation and all-around glee. While sill I want this game to come out so badly it hurts, that rush is finally starting to die down – though I’m still paying close attention to PAX – and I can turn my attention to other things.

One such thing is the resurgence of Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising and news of stress testing. NDAs prevent me from saying anything more about this, but I am excited to see that something is on the near horizon.

Another such thing is EverQuest II Extended, which I have gone ahead and created a character in, to putter around in New Halas. I wish I could be more excited about this, as generally speaking EQII has been one of my favorite MMO experiences and as recently as this year I had to wrestle with myself to keep from subscribing, so this ought to be a dream come true. However, I’m pretty disappointed in the way SOE has gone about breaking into the F2P market, from the segregated servers and abolition of live server free trials, to the absurd restrictions still placed upon EQIIExtended users who pay the equivalent of a monthly subscription. Had SOE handled this a little more deftly, I would have been sure to throw some money their way, whether to buy a race, or a class, or broker tokens, or the latest expansion – anything, really. Now I’m pretty determined to see how far I can get for free, and not sure I’ll continue on if that turns out to be “not very far.”

Finally, this weekend is the start of the Final Fantasy XIV open beta. While I already know that FFXIV is not for me – I tried FFXI as well, and boy, is it not for me – the game looks positively gorgeous in my opinion and I wanted to have such loveliness on my actual computer, even if just for an evening of tussling with an arcane menu system. Six client crashes and a character falling through the world later, and I think I’m about done. Also, I had a guildleve to work on, crashed on my way to the location, and it went away, unable to be reclaimed from the NPC I’d originally got it from. Still, I managed to kill a few things, take a few nice screenshots, watch two evocative cutscenes, had a same-sex demoness proposition me, and was invited to discuss male body parts by a lalafell.

Client issues or not, I’m reluctant to call that a complete failure based on the above experience alone.

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Regarding Turbine’s revelation that Lord of the Rings Online is going to go free to play this fall, I am late to the party as always – particularly so because I am not yet completely certain of my feelings on the matter. A summary of other bloggers’ thoughts can be found here, with most weighing in as optimistically apprehensive to positive in outlook. My thoughts on the change are that this is a good move for Turbine and MMOs in general; as a fan of free to play titles and a cheerleader for the Guild Wars franchise, this is a no-brainer for me. I do not buy the story that subscriptions are necessary for either server maintenance or continued content updates, so if Turbine (or the Warner hand that is guiding it) feels that a change in business model will bring more people to the title, I think it’s well worth the attempt.

LOTRO was supposedly already free to play for me because I bought a lifetime subscription over two years ago. However, due to that purchase, I have actually paid approximately $46/mo for my playtime, as I discovered too late that the game is not at all to my taste. I would have benefited from this model springing into play a little sooner, but I am determined to find a way to make use of the Turbine points I will be accumulating as a lifetime member, perhaps to buy a Warden and make one last attempt to pass through Middle Earth, if only just to say I’d been there.

Whether or not I am or ever was a fan of Turbine’s games, as champion of the growing free to play family, I must admit that it’s nice to see another game enter the fold. Come on in – the water’s fine!

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I am utterly susceptible to trying practically any game at all if enough people talk about how good something is, regardless of my own trusted experiences with said game. I simply cannot resist seeing for myself what the fuss is about. This flaw in my psyche is why I tried WoW three times, why I patched up LOTRO last weekend, and why I am now re-downloading Dungeons & Dragons Online Unlimited.

Having tried the free trial of DDO (pre-Unlimited) on two separate occasions, I can say that my previous impression was that I vehemently hated it. I simply do not feel that a video game based on a pen-and-paper strategic turn-based combat system is the place to insert an real-time, action-based combat system. I agree with Syncaine in that I feel combat is far too fast, and that it is this fast in a game based on Dungeons & Dragons of all things is particularly upsetting to me.

I also found it frustrating that outside of RPing in a tavern, I did not feel there were enough tools to make role-playing choices or interact with the environment in the sort of varied way you would get with the traditional PnP version. My cleric felt like just another cleric running just another dungeon (and don’t get me started on repeating dungeons!), and while I accept that this is the case in many other MMOs, I expected so much more from such a franchise. There is also a rather vocal contingent on the forums who show up to any negative post or review of the game, eager to tell anyone who doesn’t love it all about how they’re obviously doing it wrong.

In short, I had expected a more role-play heavy, slower combat type of game. I had been looking forward to seeing more room and more in-game rewards for personal creativity realized in digital form, and I was sorely disappointed with the reality.

But I am me, and I cannot resist picking the game up again in light of the newest reports that members, subscriptions and profits are way up for DDOU these days. I admire Turbine for implementing a F2P model that has far eclipsed many others currently being tried in the western gaming world. In some way, I want to do my part to support them because I want other companies take heed and adopt this model as well.

I don’t know that I will not throw my mouse at the monitor (…again) after half an hour of clickclickclicking my way through another dungeon. I do know that I will be purchasing a Warforged character this time around, for increased survivability (this is a huge hit to my Pretty, Pretty Princess factor, but so are the red-blooded character models). I will be taking advantage of the Hireling system, which is new to me, as well as playing with my better half and perhaps a couple of RL friends when possible.

I want to like this game so badly. It is the only Dungeons & Dragons Online we have, and probably the only one we ever will. If I can just manage to have some fun this time, I am sure that I can overlook everything else.

I am taking a deep breath, dusting DDO off, and going back in.

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