As I stated in my Dragon Age review, I was very impressed with the combat engine when, after finally defeating the first boss, one of my characters jumped on him and put his sword through the Ogre’s skull. All of this was done in slow motion, but in-game and without any delay. Yesterday as I was playing I had another such moment, although this time my guy was on the receiving end of a dragon tackling him to the ground and then clawing his face off. Again all in-game and happening while I was still able to control my party, and just another ‘oh shit’ moment. Good stuff.
Oddly a new patch is out, and I’ve had none of the issues it fixes, while it makes Normal difficulty easier. As I’m really enjoying the challenge at Normal (and with rumors of Hard being brutal and requiring some min/maxing), I think I’ll just hold of on the patch unless I come across some great need. Another bonus of D2D over Steam, I can patch when I want. (Steam forces you to patch, right?)
In MMO news, our DDO group has left the docks and started questing in the Market area, where much of the content is pay-to-play. I doubt we will be putting up the cash as a whole, because while DDO is a fun distraction, it’s just not that great. The dungeons are well designed, the graphics are great, sound is good; no issues with any of that. The problem, like I’ve mentioned before, is that the combat is too fast and fights are either mash-attack easy or insta-gib hard. You never really get the feeling that playing smart is needed, that using all your abilities is important, or that coming up with a strategy before an encounter will alter the result.
Playing both DDO and DarkFall at the same time makes me realize how vastly different two combat systems can be, even if their ‘basics’ are similar. Both games melee combat (DF ranged and magic is far more FPS than DDO, which is more similar to WoW tab-targeting) is click-to-attack, enemies dance, block/dodge player driven mitigation, and yet they don’t even remotely feel the same. DDO feels mindless, just hold down attack and wait for the mob to go splat. DarkFall is a challenge with every swing, and dodging/blocking is absolutely critical, and I’m just talking PvE here.
I’m not even sure it’s a speed issue either, DF might be a bit slower than DDO, but it’s not massively noticeable. I think the major difference is the overall length of combat. In DDO either you or the mob dies in 3-8 seconds. In DarkFall you can be fighting a decently challenging mob for 30-40 seconds, if not more. So in that 3-8 seconds of DDO combat, what good is using sunder armor or other debuffs? What good is coming up with a pull tactic when one cleave attack kills most of the enemies? And most importantly, what good is strategy when one attack hits you for 50% of your HP, with a second hit coming in 1-2 seconds?
One final note about DDO and its cash shop, which some have recently used as an example of the ‘inevitable’ F2P wave. First, let’s keep in mind that the only reason DDO is F2P is because it failed as a sub game. It’s not like Turbine was racking in the cash with DDO, and one day just decided to let everyone get a prolonged free sample. Second, while the cash shop in DDO is better than most (although you can still buy plenty of items that make the game much easier), it has zero effect on how fun the actual game is. F2P or sub, DDO is IMO just a somewhat average MMO, one that does some things very well but overall feels off. It makes a good first impression, which is why everyone is throwing around that 40% number now, but lets see how that persists 2-3 months down the line, when more players are out of the initial area and see more of the game. My bet is that F2P won’t turn DDO into an MMO success, but rather give it a nice initial boost before it returns back to it’s previous level (if not slightly lower due to how the F2P model works).