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Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach: Taking MMORPGs by Storm

Company: Atari

Playing Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach took me back to my high school days, when I spent many an hour peering from behind my DM's screen. I've enjoyed RPG's like EverQuest since I first saw them, but there always seemed to be something different - something missing from the cool experience of playing D&D with some old dice, some scrawled notes and a lot of graph paper. The "storytelling" aspect was missing. Yes there's a story there, but it's more like you're watching it rather than someone telling it.

That's why one of the coolest audial element, in my opinion, is the Narrator. While most dialogue with NPC's is conveyed by text alone, there is a Narrator who orates certain pivotal parts of an adventure. When you enter a dungeon, for example, the Narrator may say something like, "As you enter the darkness, your eyes begin to adjust to the lack of light. You can see that you are now standing in a subterranean cavern that appears to have been cleft from bare rock with some determination. The cavernous entry room has no decorations, save for deep grooves scraped into the floor, walls and ceiling. At the far end of the cavern, you can make out a large tunnel leading to the Southeast. A musty smell of salt, soil and mold hangs in the air." I can imagine myself back at the fold-up table, hiding behind a thin, three-panel cardboard divider screen - thin enough to be folded and slipped into a notebook, but strong enough to hide the fate I have planned for a stout Dwarf, a shadowy Rogue and an accomplished Wizard. Ah, those were the days... Perhaps the greatest part of all is when the Narrator describes the dialogue of a pivotal character and - acts the part out vocally in character. Oh, too much! And yet, somehow - just right!

When you first start out, there are some training missions to get you familiar with the controls and game mechanics, as well as get your character started off on gaining some experience. There seem to be three distinct types of interactivity in D&D Online: Stormreach - MMORPG elements when traveling about the city of Stormreach or elsewhere, individual missions (reserved for the easier and training missions) and small party interaction. The lion's share of the adventures are intended for this small-sized party dynamic, where the party is made up of players playing online from their own locations.

This balance of massively multiplayer aspects and small group aspects allows for coherent storytelling that takes place in a much larger world that surrounds the story.

I have a lot more adventuring to do before I can give a proper evaluation, but at first glance, I'd say that D&D Online: Stormreach does a nice job of breathing some of the old pencil and paper game into the PC.

More details to follow when I've leveled up a bit...

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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