Moving into the Marketplace to quest in Dungeons and Dragons Online has been great. I’ve been averaging a mission or two every night, which I usually do first thing when I sit down to game. It’s a great, breezy way to settle into relaxation while at the same time being a mostly new experience to me. At least, it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten most of these missions if they did exist back in the day.
What I’ve become really fascinated with is DDO’s propensity to add optional objectives in missions. As the name implies, they don’t have to be done, but if you can manage the extra challenge, then you’ll get a better XP reward at the end. What I’m finding is that many of these objectives can change the flow of the mission — drastically or subtlely — and even present the element of choice.
For example, in one mission in the Sharn Syndicate chain, I had the optional objective to keep a brother of the barkeep alive. I did my very best, losing him only on the last part of the fight. Because this happened, I not only missed out on a bit of XP, but the ending of the quest changed. The remaining brother mourned his fallen sibling, and the DM narrated the death to me in detail. I genuinely felt bad that I wasn’t able to save him — although there’s always a repeat run, I guess.
In another mission, stealth was of the essence, and I had the option to bash down doors and go in crossbows blazing or find a hidden switch to access the room. The search for the switch took time, but it gave me the element of surprise and the satisfaction of doing things the harder way for better rewards.
Perhaps the most interesting optional objective I saw lately was when I was being taken on a tour through a bank vault. There were deposit boxes all over the place, and right as I was going to break them open to see what’s what, I saw the mission tracker tell me that I could get extra XP if I elected not to succumb to that most basic reflex of RPG adventurers and leave the containers alone.
That was agonizing. I really, really wanted to break them open then, all the more so that I was being told — or at least advised — not to. I resisted the temptation and got the objective, although now it bothers me thinking of what some of those containers might have offered if I had gone on a smash-and-grab spree all the same.
I really do applaud this approach to mission execution. The scripting and optional objectives of DDO quests make the story feel more immediate and the choices more real. Wouldn’t mind seeing that in other MMOs, to be honest.
Probably my proudest moment from this past week was beating “Proof is in the Poison,” which turned out to be an extreme challenge dungeon (DDO’s words). Very long, very twisty-turny, and very difficult. Must’ve killed around 200 mobs as I was skipping over acid, desperately trying to heal myself, and searching for keys in this place. But hey, I conquered it, and when I did I felt that rush of accomplishment and pride.