Saturday, April 10, 2021

Open The Door, Dora

Anyone remember Dragon Nest? Maybe Dragon Nest Oracle? Dragon Nest Europe? Dragon Nest R? Dragon Nest M?

I've tried them all. There are twenty posts tagged "Dragon Nest" at Inventory Full and at least half of them are mainly about my experiences playing those games. Or trying to.

I started playing Dragon Nest before I even had a blog. In this post from 2015, which is actually about Dragon Nest Oracle (try to keep up at the back - it's going to get worse before it gets better), there's a link back to a post Tipa wrote for West Karana in 2011. It seems I left a comment on it, saying I had a character who'd reached "level 8 or 9". 

It's a good thing I mentioned it in my own post five years later because all the comments I left at West Karana are dust in the wind.  The West Karana domain got hijacked and turned into a shill for some dirt-heel property developer, which is why I'm not linking to it now. This is the problem with the internet (one of them): you can't trust things to stay the way they were.

Wait... I'm in a guild?

And one of the things I've never been able to trust to still be where I left it when I get back is Dragon Nest. Any version. All those posts I wrote are a litany of love for the game itself mixed with frustration over the way it keeps being kicked from one careless owner to the next.

The very first version was so long ago now I barely remember it. I think the gameplay was a little more simple and the quests had even worse translations. There were fewer classes, I think. I'm not sure if there was any English voice acting back then but I seem to remember a lot of high-pitched squealing. 

I can't have been all that impressed. In December 2011, under the heading MMOs I am thinking about playing, but not actually playing, I wrote "Dragon Nest: Thought about logging in. Couldn't remember my account or password details. Couldn't be bothered to look them up. Didn't log in." Then again, the other mmorpgs in that section were EverQuest, Vanguard, DCUO, LotRO and Allods, all of which I am still playing, at least occasionally, ten years later. Read into that what you will.

Borin! Did you miss me?

The version I remember best is certainly Dragon Nest Oracle. That one appeared out of nowhere in 2015 as a revamped, revised and genuinely improved edition. I was both surprised and increasingly delighted. Skeptical at first, I ended up falling in love with the whimsical insanity of it all. 

In any of its various incarnations, Dragon Nest has always been a game I've played at best sporadically but that was my longest and most concentrated run. It might well have gone further had the then-owner, Shanda Games, not gone and messed it all up. I called my post about how that happened "One Careless Owner". If only it had just been one!

It seems to me that all Dragon Nest has ever had is careless owners. It's a genuinely fine action mmorpg. One of the best I've played. It has a committed and enthusiastic fan base. And yet no-one seems to know what to do with it.

Okay, that I don't remember...

In addition to the serial neglect by successive owners the game's always suffered from divisive regional factionalism. About the worst thing you can do to an online multiplayer game is cut it into pieces and hide them behind IP checks. I started out playing on the North American servers and ended up on Dragon Nest Europe courtesy of Steam. Not my choice. I just followed the game wherever someone would let me play it.

A couple of years back Eyedentity, who created the game and had been operating it in Europe, closed it down. I think that's what happened. They were part of Shanda, reportedly. I started trying to unpick it and then thought better of it. Had enough of that with Daybreak.

Whoever it was in charge, the game ceased to be playable through Steam in the U.K. although, as I found out today, you can still download it there. It just won't run.

Sis! I've missed you!

After that, there was the mobile version, Dragon Nest M. I was hopeful. I played it in October 2019 and didn't hate it. I said "It's not identical to the original but it's very similar. Visually it's a fairly faithful translation." Sadly, less than a year later, typical mobile bloat had all but wiped out the charm of the original game : "I get the impression the game I used to play has gone somewhere else, probably into a dark corner where it can rock backwards and forwards and whimper... Oh, for a Dragon Nest Classic..."


The game is still running as a version of Dragon Nest Oracle (I think that's right) in the U.S.A. You can play that one through Steam if you live in the right part of the world or can fool the servers into believing you do. It must be doing okay. They've just moved to a 64-bit client and I don't imagine you do that unless you plan on being around for a while longer.

It's not much use to me, though. But this is

Add another to the list: Dragon Age Origins. With the strapline "Bringing back what was lost" this one's an emulator or a fan project or maybe just a plain, old-fashioned private server. In fact, that's what they call it: "Origins is currently a 50 cap private server dedicated to bringing back the classic T4 experience in PvE and PvP".

And today, one of those fifty people was me.  

I made an account, downloaded the client, patched up, logged in and played for nearly four hours straight. By the time I finished to come write this post I was level 15 and I'd gotten as far as the second town, Calderock Village

I'm home!

I have no idea what that "T4" in the description refers to but "classic" it certainly is. It was fantastically nostalgic even if I'm not one hundred per cent sure which version I'm being nostalgic about. I loved it. I will be playing more. 

No, really, this time I will. Although how long I'll have the option is another matter. At this stage I am not only not counting my chickens I'm not even counting on there being any chickens. Private servers don't inspire much confidence when it comes to longevity. But then, neither do professional games publishers when it comes to Dragon Nest.

Whatever happens, I'm happy to have another chance to to visit Altea. It's a delightful place and I've never seen enough of it. I'm playing the same character I've played since I began all those years ago, reincarnated yet again as accurately as I can remember her.

A cannon called Angela.

She even has her real name this time. She started out as Dora, became Dorah and Doradella and now she's plain old Dora again. She still wears shorts, has her hair in bunches and carries a gigantic cannon that's bigger than she is. She's one of my favorite characters in any game now, not least because of the sheer number of times she's bounced back from oblivion.

If the private server holds up long enough, though, I might even try another class. I keep getting gear only a Sorceress can wear. Maybe it's a hint.

And Dragon Nest Origins ought to be a hint to anyone who's missing their favorite lost mmorpg. There's always hope. These things are damned hard to kill.

Just like Dora.


  1. I think you were actually the one who got me trying this game some years back. I still think it's rather interesting and surprisingly mature in places. I also quite liked the charm and soundtrack (we have a Battle Bards episode on this btw!). :D
    I had a dancer or whatever they were for a time but then that big hacking incident happened and they changed all the servers. When I got back, all the items on my character were gone, including a store outfit. This bugged me too much to return.

    1. Late reply, sorry! The dancer might be the class called Kali, I think? They just added that to the Origins server. I've only played the Academic. I'd like to try the other classes but not so much I want to play through all the same content again. And yes, the music is pretty good.


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