I made it back from a conference (to which my recent lack of posts can be attributed) last night. Despite my jet lag, I decided to spend some time messing around with DDO's update five. I’m sure that the higher level features such as the new guild airships , the class spec line changes, and the new module are fine and dandy. However, on my (maximum of level 8) toons, the only real difference I've noticed so far is that dual wielding has been nerfed to hell and back.
[Beginning: technical details, skip down for the main points]
As it stands, with the first level of two-weapon fighting, you are giving up 2 attack bonus and very likely a shield (even at low levels easily 6 AC) for a 40% chance to proc an attack with your off-hand when you swing your main-hand weapon. Should the off-hand attack proc, you still have to make your to-hit roll or it is wasted. For my low level rogue, this means I get one successful offhand hit in roughly once every two or three attack cycles (based on looking at my combat logs), where before I was reliably getting one or two hits per attack cycle with my offhand weapon.
For low level characters that can use a shield, the benefit of TWF (two weapon fighting) doesn’t seem to outweigh the attack and AC penalty. Particularly when you consider the fact that shields which do damage to foes that strike you are fairly common. Add in that that your main-hand weapon is more accurate, and I suspect you are looking at similar DPS to dual wielding using a sword-and-board while having significantly higher defense. Even for classes like Rogue that can’t use shields, it’s iffy. Such characters tend to have low attack bonuses to begin with, so a -2 main-hand attack penalty for an off-hand attack that may or may not proc seems questionable.
The offhand proc chance can be boosted to 60% and 80% by getting improved and greater two-weapon fighting at higher levels. But that doesn’t help out any of my low level characters, or any new player that excitedly tries out dual wielding only to discover that it’s next to useless (until much higher level). In order to slightly reduce the DPS that TWF builds were putting out at high levels, Turbine essentially completely trashed dual wielding at low levels.
[End: technical details]
DDO seems to have a problem in general that the low level and high level game are at odds. One symptom of this is that very often a build that is optimal at higher levels starts off quite weak. For example, endgame focused builds of hybrid classes often use the primary spell casting stat as a "dump stat," in some cases eliminating the ability to cast spells at all until the teens. Now we see this problem extending even to overall balancing of the game. Turbine apparently can't figure out a way to balance dual wielding save to cripple it at low levels, when squishy melee classes like Rogue and Ranger need a DPS boost the most.
Oddly enough, Turbine's stated reason for modifying two-weapon fighting wasn’t primarilly to reduce the DPS it does. Supposedly, they did it to reduced combat lag in raids. They claim to have nerfed one of the most popular fighting styles across the board to address an issue that the majority of players will never encounter. My reaction to that is (A) we are not stupid, we know that the main point likely is to reduce the DPS of TWF builds, and (B) if combat lag in raids really was their main reason for the change, they just nerfed the hell much of the player base…particularly low level players and new players… to improve the endgame. That would be an abysmally stupid approach to the problem.
New players are the lifeblood of a MMO. Making their gameplay more difficult to help out the end game vets that are already committed to your game is poor business. The vets really don't give the first crap about the low level game. New players, on the other hand, will stay or quit based on it.