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Free Realm: Dungeons & Dragons Online Is Gratis

Turbine might be challenging their publisher Atari to a bout of fisticuffs about the fate and funding of Dungeons & Dragons Online, but such conflict has not delayed the re-release of said formerly underpopulated MMO as a free-to-play affair. Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited, as it's now known, can be had for the princely sum of no-pennies from here. There is, of course, a catch. Two in fact, but one of them might be my fault.

I can't download it. I CAN'T DOWNLOAD IT. WAaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!!, to coin a phrase. Every time I try to sign up for an account and to reach that near-mythical download page, it tells me there's an error but refuses to divulge quite what it is. Perhaps it's because I'm a Britisher, but it would be nice if it at least told me that was the problem. After a dozen different tries, I'm giving up until someone pays me to continue. You may have better luck than I, in which case I will hunt down everyone you have ever loved.... and then congratulate them on what a fine, industrious friend/relation they have.

The second, more pressing catch is less than surprising - micropayments. Or "an innovative new pricing model", if you speak marketingese. Specifically, that means purchasing gosh-wow items and, more interestingly, 'adventure packs'. Does this mean the best content is withheld for paid DLC, as with, say, Rock Band Beatles, or is it more about there being a slow trickle of new stuff to ensure players remain interested? Well, if I could bloody get in maybe I could tell you.

Personally speaking, DDO doesn't much appeal, but that's just me and my current boredom with more traditionally-structured MMOs (edit - by which I mean fantasy settings and chasing experience points. I'm aware this isn't a WoWlike monster-grind). Far more important is that there's a good chance this might be the first grown-up-trousers MMO to really make the free-to-play thing work. Where other troubled MMOs have opted for unsuccessful fanbase-infuriating overhauls or have simply put up the white flag, this is taking a massive risk, and I applaud that. As long as the game isn't constantly dangling paid content I don't have over the free players, I don't see why it couldn't be a super-fun time. Not entirely sure Turbine's claim that DDO has "the industry’s best combat system" rings true, but horses for massively partisan courses and all that.

Here's a couple of videos to show you what you're in for: first, character creation, and then the game's first quest.

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Sign up/download/scream at ludicrously unhelpful webpage here.

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