Monday, June 1, 2015

Dora The Accidental Explorer: Dragon Nest

My love affair with Dragon Nest: Oracle continues. I came home from work on Sunday (yes, Sunday, grrr!) to a lengthy and intense evening of World Vs World in GW2, mostly spent defending our borderland as Fort Aspenwood attempted to recoup an unexpected and heavy points deficit inflicted by forty-eight hours of sustained pressure from Yaks Bend.

As bedtime approached I was about ready to play something relaxing to wind down. My first thought was a little light leveling slaying gnolls on Ragefire. As I sat looking at the wealth of MMO icons on my desktop, however, the mouse pointer seemed to move as if of its own volition to the Dragon Nest symbol.

I haven't played DN:O for a few days because of an annoying bug that hangs the game every time you try to pass through a portal. Since you have to pass through a portal to do pretty much anything that tends to put a bit of a damper on things. It's a beta though so these things happen.

This time everything was fine. Dora was able to continue her search for the snarky apprentice sorceror who stole the communication device she needs to speak to her even snarkier sister fifty years in the future.

DN:O has a complicated plot that I am struggling to follow, not least because much of the translation is almost incomprehensibly bad. And yet I find myself involved and interested. It may even be that the fractured dialog enhances the mystery. It's as though I'm adventuring in a foreign land where my grasp of the local language is barely sufficient to make myself understood.

Dragon Nest has a lot of plot and a lot of quests. A good proportion of them are funny enough in the terrible translations to suggest they may be genuinely witty in the original. The following sequence in which long-suffering storage operative Warehouse Keeper Rupert finally blows his stack made me laugh out loud. Recognition humor at its finest.

There's so much going on in that sequence that speaks to why I appreciate DN:O so much. It has an attention to detail and a delight in nuance that few Eastern F2P's I've played can match, with the exception of the much-missed and wildly under-appreciated Zentia. Everything, from the choice of a word like "meiosis" to the spot illustrations suggest writers and creators who are genuinely invested in their work.

I love the hyperbole Rupert uses to try and get his point across; the way the writer pre-empts what should be Dora's option to respond with a description that suggests Rupert is ranting so hard she can't get a word in edgeways. Best of all, when he finally runs out of breath, all she can manage is a helpless ellipsis because, y'know what, he's right and she knows it!

That's not even all he had to say. It's about a third of it! He was really stoked. Rupert's was a truly exceptional rant but almost all Dragon Nest NPCs have a lot of dialog and I'm having a great time reading it, even if I sometimes have to wrestle with it to get it to make sense.

The humor extends well beyond the quest dialog too. In the screenshot above my character is proudly displaying the title she earned when she bit off more than she could chew, dying to a boss much higher than her, in an instance well above her level. He jumped in the air and came down heavily on top of her and up popped a "hidden" achievement that gave her the right to use the title "Squished". Which she does. With pride.

She was apprehensive that something similar (the dying part, not the getting an amusing title thing) might be coming up when she was tasked with chasing down a Minotaur Boss that the head of the Adventure's Guild himself seemed unwilling to tackle. Send a little girl to do a Big Man's job, why don't you?

I nearly fell off my chair when I passed through the portal and the Minotaur spawned in front of me, started up his crazy sound-system and challenged me to a dance contest. Which, somehow, I managed to win, two dance-offs to one.

It goes on like this. It's hyperactive, silly, imaginative and just downright fun. Played on "Normal" the fights are unchallenging, which is how I like them, but you can crank that up several notches if that's the kind of thing you go for. Even at the default setting the fights are too fast and frenzied for me to take screenshots. I did try but all I get are close ups of the back of my head or the inside of some monster's barrel chest.

The evening's entertainment ended soon after I curiously clicked on an NPC near the airship. I'd been running a series of quests for Airship Engineer Hubert which had left me under the impression that the airship had been out of service since little Kevin tried to take it for a joy-ride and snapped off the starting handle, so I was mighty surprised when a cut-scene fired up and the airship transported me to the capital, Saint's Haven

That was all a bit too much for after midnight so she found a quiet corner and camped out for the night. What will happen to Dora next? I have no idea but I'm willing to bet it'll be good for a few laughs.

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