Sunday, May 10, 2015

Remind Me Again? : Dragon Nest Oracle

Time was when Dragon Nest would get the odd mention around this corner of the blogosphere. Its biggest exponent was probably Tipa, who wrote about it a number of times. That was back in 2011, when, according to my comment in Tipa's thread there, I had reached the dizzy heights of "level 8 or 9".

That was probably about as far as I got, too. I played Dragon Nest a few times with pleasure but never with much commitment. I don't think I ever did a full post on the game although I referenced it once or twice while talking about something else. It would be fair to say I'd all but forgotten about it, having neither played nor heard about the game for several years, so it came as something of a surprise to find an email about it in my in-box this morning.

It began without pre-amble, as though I'd never been away:  

"After spending a few weeks on rates X2 and reading your suggestions, we have decided to pass on X10 for better gaming and fun!" 

Wow! Suck on that, Daybreak, you and your piddly five days of double xp! You know nothing about better gaming and fun. Although I have to say they weren't my suggestions. I didn't even know your game was still going...

There was more to come:

"To celebrate, we also added mounts available directly in shop".

Gee! These guys really know how to throw a party! I guess they need to know what they're doing though, seeing how they run

"the fastest action RPG game".

I mean, just look at what you get for your no money down. Can your MMO compete with this?

Server EXP X10 - GOLD X3 - DROP X3
Shop -50% permanent
Free Altheas Crowns voting system
(okay, I have no idea what that one means...)
DDoS protection

Not to be pedantic here but once you put a permanent multiplier on your xp, gold and item drops doesn't that just set a new base level? Only the players who used to play before you upped the ante will ever know they're getting a bonus. If you want to reward any players in future you'll have to increase it again. And similarly if you cut all your prices in half forever, well, those are now just your regular prices, aren't they?

Still, no need to get snooty about it. If the result is something that feels like fast xp , a good drop rate and a cheap cash shop then who's counting? And don't I wish every MMO I played had DDoS protection! Anyway, the mounts were what really sold me on taking another look. Those are some great rides. Look at that sheep!

I'm not entirely clear on whether Dragon Nest Oracle, as it now seems to be called, is supposed to be a whole new game or a revamp of the old one but I guess it doesn't matter all that much. The extensive wikipedia entry goes into way more detail on the history behind the whole thing than I could be bothered to plow through but it's there if anyone cares.

There's a much handier and rather spiffy website which reveals that this "new 2015 action RPG" is currently in beta.  It must be one of those notional F2P "betas" because it seems anyone can join and there's already a cash shop up and running (which I haven't yet looked at and almost certainly will never use). The most important question is: is it any good?

I so want to charge into battle hanging from a gyrocopter! That better be a thing!
Yes it is. It's great. It's just like it always was only slicker and smoother and even better looking. Dragon Nest always had a goofy, cheerful, good-hearted humor about it and that's not changed. Neither has the setting nor the mechanics nor the gameplay as far as my admittedly dim memories tell me.

There appear to be several new classes, all of which are handily tagged by difficulty-of-play at character select. Naturally I went with one of the ones flagged suitable for beginners, which meant a choice of Cleric or Academic. The thumbnail descriptions indicate they are both support classes but the Cleric "does less damage than most other classes" while the Academic has a "variety of attacks that hit a wide area from mid- to long-range" and "uses the power of science to control her enemies and summon robots".I mean, come on! That's not even a choice, now, is it?

Pigeon toes /= cute.
So, Academic it is. The class is apparently called The Tinkerer on North American servers, which leans towards its evident steampunk gloss but only Academic comes up here. I guess that means I'm on an EU server. On either side of the Atlantic, however, if you choose this class you get to play it in the form of a girl child. No ifs or buts. Deal with it.

I'd have said she looks about eight or nine years old but I'd have been wrong.  Even though NPCs in game seem to concur and regularly refer to her as a "cute little girl", early on there's a quest that involves answering True/False questions from a Lie Detector and the True answer to the question "How old are you?" turns out to be "I'm 13 years old".

Okay, so I'm playing a very-small-for-her-age teenage girl carrying a BFG that looks like it weighs more than she does. I can live with that. No robot pet yet. Yet to come, presumably. That should just about round things off nicely. Oh, and it turns out I'm from the future and I can talk to my sarcastic, studenty elder sister Jasmine through some kind of transtemporal thingummy-jig. I'm liking this a lot. Syp should play this - it'd be right up his street.

Its a translated game (into English and French, from Korean - I haven't tried the French version but I'd like to) and the translations vary wildly. None are idiomatically perfect. The best of them have that slightly askew feeling you get from earnest translations of text that would have been overblown fantasy even in the original. I love that vibe. The worst are barely comprehensible gibberish but mostly that's the explanatory system text not the dialog and this is still beta, let's remember, so that may get fixed. There''s some audio work too, mostly just a few lines here and there, which is, by contrast, universally solid; confident, knowing line readings by fluent English speakers. A couple made me laugh out loud.

My plan was just to log in and have a quick look around but I ended up playing for more than two hours, getting drawn into both the progression and the plot. There's no formal tutorial, a huge plus, although since the quests I'm getting at level 11 are still tutorialesque I probably haven't yet arrived at the game proper.

That's weird. Where did I get that axe from?
Dragon Nest Oracle calls itself an Action MMO and I'm not about to argue with that. As far as I ever saw it in its original incarnation, and as far as I've explored in this new one, it would seem to be one of those lobby-based, instance-focused MMOs like the original Guild Wars. If there are any open-world areas beyond the quest hubs it will come as a pleasant surprise.

Each "dungeon" has a difficulty setting, a feature of which I thoroughly approve. I did the first one on Easy, which led to my Academic taking no damage whatsoever even on the Boss. Thereafter I cranked it up a notch to Normal, which was still easy by anyone's standards I'd have said.

In the original you could hide the UI and your name. Doesn't seem to work any more so a lot of these shots are cropped very tight.

So far it's been fun all the way. I like the environments and the look and feel of the world (there's a particularly unusual graphical design choice that I very much like whereby your character is in perfect focus while everything more than a few yards away is slightly blurred), I like the music and the ambient soundscape. I'm already interested in the plot, fond of my character and curious to see where things are going.

Of course, I liked the first iteration of Dragon Nest a lot too but I still didn't play it very much or stick with it for very long. I'm easily hooked but harder to reel in. It's an encouraging beginning though. We'll see how much staying power it has.

1 comment:

  1. It's like Crit Hit Online, where "to maximise the thrill of combat, every successful attack [...] was a critical" (disclaimer: was humor).


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