Dragonica Icon A Preview of Dragonica

Dragonica is an upcoming MMORPG with side-scrolling gameplay in a brightly colored 3-D world. We were lucky enough to be able to play in the Closed Beta but European readers can still get a quick look if they act fast – there is a stress test taking place today and tomorrow which simply requires a gPotato account to join in.

A Few Hours of Dragonica

Note: These observations were based on the European Closed Beta in May 2009 and may not reflect the final gameplay at launch.

The first encounter with a game is the download and installation which can’t help but affect the overall experience. The Dragonica website is beautiful, clean but informative with flash used as an addition and not a requirement. It is what a good MMO website should be like and responds very well. The download options were to be expected as that of a free game hosted on filesharing websites, although I prefer a direct download without the hassle, I must admit the option I used (gamershell.com) was painless.

The splash program is fast to load and appears to include an updater. When first opening the game I was treated to a lavish trailer which I assume is part of the storyline of the game when you reach a higher level. It is good looking and sets a strong fantasy feel for the game and introduces the stylization of the characters.

Character Creation

Creating your first character is a bit daunting. After logging in, I was faced with a page full of spaces for servers and channels (still not entirely sure what the channels are) and then moved on to the character select page. Creating a character is based around a variety of presets of class, gender, hair style, hair color and face. The options weren’t amazing but there was enough variety to make me feel my character reflected my choices and was not simply another clone in a sea of clones.

There are 4 classes:

  • Warrior – The main tank and melee attacker of the game
  • Archer – A physical ranged attacker
  • Magician – A magical ranged attacker
  • Thief – A physical melee attacker

Characters

Later in the game these base classes split into two different paths with differing abilities to allow you to further customize your character.

The tutorial is quite informative although slow-moving. It will help enormously for those whose first computer game is Dragonica but can be frustrating for the average player. I felt held back by it, especially as it is difficult to skip long passages of text. I enjoyed looking around the game despite this: everything looks polished, colorful and vibrant. The character and enemy models have great animations and the kit designs suit the classes well. There is also a nice skill tree system based on your level and skill points which are obtained though leveling your character. It is a hierarchical tree with certain abilities requiring certain skills or levels before they become available which offers a nice easy system of upgrading your character.

Quest Complete

Combat is the bread and butter of this game. The MMO element is present but at heart this is a side-scrolling arcade action game in the same vein as classics such as Golden Axe. You can move your character left and right and closer or away from the screen though most of the attacks are generally performed to your left or right side depending on the direction your character is facing. The control of the movement of your character is almost as important as the use of abilities.

Initially, you have your basic attack using the “X” key: a spammable attack that requires no mana to perform. It can be used as a single attack or as part of a combination of attacks that you learn as you progress through the game. You also are given your first ability. My warrior received a charged ability which launches a wave of damage in a short space in front of my character. These two abilities saw me through the tutorial with ease and into the first section of the game. As I progressed, I unlocked more abilities and improved the ones I had by spending points in my skill tree.

Partying is the core of what makes this an MMO as opposed to just another arcade action game. To progress in the main story quest of the game you will need to find a group to complete missions that, whilst probably possible to solo, are generally far easier to complete as a group. Missions are equivalent to dungeons or instances in other games. You and your group enter a zone separate from the other players.

Boss EncounterYou complete sections which progress to a boss who is generally much tougher and has special abilities. I cannot comment on higher level content but at lower level it seemed to be a case of dealing damage whilst trying to stay alive. The players around me were generally using the same tactic: spamming simple attacks where possible. Pulling off the impressive combos seemed to be above the level of most of the players I encountered, especially me.

The social aspect of this game is more difficult to take part in. Although there are community features integrated into the game, the basic social interactions don’t feel natural when you are focused on gameplay. Much of the game seems time-dependent which does not lend itself to waiting on a slow response. In addition, I found it difficult to find safe areas to communicate with other players outside of the towns. It felt as if I was having to interrupt my game to use the chat features and often left myself vulnerable to attack.
Accidentally hitting the enter key whilst fighting caused me many problems as my character froze and my frantic typing simply resulted in all my attacks landing into the text box of the chat window.

One specific feature that intrigued me was chests rewarded for killing a quantity of monsters. Curious to see more of the chests, I farmed one area for quite some time in what undoubtedly looked like bot-like behavior as I was simply repeatedly killing the same mobs. I was impressed to see a window pop up requesting that I complete a CAPTCHA style question based on colors, digits and numbers. I believe this to be a very good method for excluding bots and one I have not encountered before in an MMO.

Overall, I am very impressed with the game as a whole, especially considering that it is still in beta. It runs smoothly and is very nice to look at. My primary concern is that the social aspects do not relate well to the fast-paced action of the game.

Posted by Sweenster on http://mmorpg-info.org.

 

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