If you’re a PC gamer and enjoy free-to-play dark fantasy MMOs you might want to try the beta for a game called Drakensang Online.I’ve only played for a few hours so far. In short it kind of reminded me of Diablo II and Titan Quest. It has that same dark atmosphere like Diablo with lush and colorful looking visuals that Titan Quest had for most of the environments. It’s a hack & slash MMO so it operates the same combat wise too. You break your index finger on the left button and eventually learn new skills to apply to the right. There are only three quick attack slots and the button config appeared broken. The button is there, but it wasn’t opening up the UI to allow me to change anything. You also have the good old action bar at the bottom of course.
The game itself is being developed by Bigpoint Games and uses the famed Unity Engine. It’s also browser based so there is nothing for you to install. You literally just register and select “Play Now”. As long as you have the latest java updateyou can start playing the game almost immediately. Being that it takes seconds to start and it’s F2P, I think it’s worth giving it a shot. Just like all the other F2P MMOs you can purchase large amounts of in-game currency or items starting at $2.99. During battles enemies will drop very small amounts of copper. Of course doing it this way will test your patience because items, equipment, upgrades, etc. seem to require quite a bit VS the amount of loot that drops. There is the auction house though so I’m sure you can make it up there as well. There seems to be two types of currency in Drakensang. There’s copper (I assume it builds up like WoW – copper to silver to gold) and then another form called Andermant which is used to bring yourself back to life or buy powerful equipment through their online purchasing system. The normal in-game currency will get you basic equipment (common) and new skills it seems.
You can also choose between a warrior and mage but that’s all there is to it. There are customization options but don’t expect anything like Aion =) It’s very limited so far though again, this is just beta. I will say that the character appearances matched a dark fantasy world really well in my opinion. This is more my personal taste talking of course. I’m not a fan of playing a character with a mohawk in a Lord of the Rings type setting. I just can’t picture Mr. T making a good Aragorn or Legolas. Or maybe he would…hmm. Maybe I’m just a FOOL. Maybe AngryMrBungle is lurking about getting ready to say “Yeah but you’re stupid. Thanks!”
The mechanics behind the warrior combat also reminded me of WoW. A warrior will use “rage” to execute abilities for example. The caster uses mana like every other game out there and had more of a Diablo feel. There didn’t appear to be casting times and long drawn out animations. You assign a spell, press the button and immediately a fireball is tossed out. Of course there is the animation for casting the actual spell…you’re just not waving your hands around in the air for 3 seconds while getting stabbed a hundred times before that.
Graphically it certainly isn’t the cleanest and shiniest you’ve seen but they did a pretty good job. What I really like about the 3D world they put out was the amazing detail put into the areas you traverse. If you take into account that it’s browser based it certainly wipes the floor with other browser based games and it definitely stacks up against Titan Quest for sure. It also depends on YOU as well. The game looks good to me, but others may think it looks fantastic or perhaps not impressive at all. My wife claims to see no real difference in blu-ray movies and could care less about it all together while I think she’s completely insane.
Graphically though, the lighting and shadows are very well done. Click the image for a much better view. There’s lots of different and colorful looking plant life, trees, and natural looking rock formations put in just the right places. Ruins actually look like they were once a temple or burial chamber while caves / caverns looked naturally carved into a mountainside. In a lot of MMOs / rpg games I’ve played, dungeons are simply large rectangular rooms with pillars. Maybe they put couple of alters and coffins, add some low lighting effects and call it a dungeon. That’s definitely not the case here. Bottom line – Bigpoint did a great job with making the terrain / environment appear vivid and realistic inside and out.
Animation is also extremely smooth and fluent. Being that its just beta, I also didn’t find that there was any lag or performance issues period. In the past, betas have been the opposite for me most of the time. I recently played Heroes 6 and although the game was fun, it had its share of screen tearing and occasional lock-ups among other little things. It was great to get my beta key and jump on a brand new game in 5 minutes.
The only time the game seems to hiccup is when going into a different area all together. For example – You start out in the wilderness and eventually come across a giant blue arrow. By stepping on the arrow the game loads into a small village. At the start of loading your character is floating on top of a blue square while the rest of the environment is just gone. All you see is a greenish tinted screen and your character waiting as things begin to pop up. It takes a few seconds but nothing serious.
Sound isn’t anything amazing but it gets the job done well enough. Sound effects in general reminded me a lot of Titan Quest for those of you who played it. Equipping different weapons didn’t yield different sound effects. It was just one sound for every melee attack. Creatures sound a bit muffled at times too. Maybe it was done on purpose? To me it just sounded slightly distorted.
Exploring and questing (at least so far) appear to be the same old same old while the game throws waves of enemies at you. And I mean WAVES. There are certainly plenty of quests to take up and it had a WoW feel to it though I guess it’s become more of a standard nowadays in MMOs. You don’t care who you’re helping and what the story is as long as you get the XP, gold and equipment they have to offer. Drop rates are alright. I had to kill an army of gremlins in order to get 12 quest items though. Luckily you can one shot most of them. And of course objectives are all the same. “They stole my tools”, or “save my son” and lets not forget “Go kill 100 of these guys and bring me their left testicle as proof!” No surprise there though right?
The only thing I’m not too crazy about in terms of combat / quest grinding is how the enemies just show up. They appear out of thin air and there doesn’t seem to be a specific respawn zone. I was standing around looking at my inventory when 6 undead soldiers appeared in front of me. As I fought them off, more and more just kept “appearing” from all corners of the screen within seconds after killing the others. I mean, they literally just kept coming until the entire left and upper portion of my TV was covered in zombies knights. I ran like if the Black Beast of “Aaaaargh” were chasing me but more showed up right in front of my path. I felt like the GAME itself just wanted me to die.
In other words, no spot is safe unless you’re in town. Games like WoW or Rift always had that rock or hill you could scout out from. There were spots that were always clear 100% of the time. Not here lol so don’t leave your guy standing around while you run to the little boys / girls room. Your toon will be eating dirt when you get back. Oh, and you can’t swim lol. So if you’re running for dear life don’t think you can get away by retreating into the water like the old WoW days when enemies some how didn’t know how to swim.
Thankfully you can escape mobs pretty easy. I HATED when I was a mile away and that stupid wolf still managed to bite me in the arse because he was still aggro’d. Not here though. As long as an inch or two separates you from the enemy, you won’t take any damage. Enemies also don’t follow for too long and will run off the screen and vanish off the map. Not sure if that’s a glitch though. Your health regenerates slowly, enough to help keep you from getting killed until your stomach can handle another potion =) I’m not sure if the regeneration rate changes later as you reach higher levels.
If you do happen to get your face shoved up your wazoo, the game gives you the option to either resurrect in the same spot for a price OR you can come back to the nearest graveyard. Equipment does take durability damage but it wasn’t clear to me if your gear took additional damage when dying. There is a cool down on healing / mana potions which seems to be about 30 seconds. I know in Diablo you could keep popping them as you took a monstrous beating without vomiting red healing juice all over the floor afterwards. In the beginning it’s not so bad because you can take hits from the little guys. As you progress further though you have to be careful since the game pulls a Dragon Age II on you with the whole ‘endless thugs appearing out of nowhere’ thing.
Just for the record…and I’m sorry, but I thought Dragon Age II was a big disappointment. I stuck the case under my basement window so at least Hawke helps me get a breeze when I have work to do. And no sadly, I’m not kidding. It’s getting better use than it would otherwise. Even with the release of Legends, I’m just not interested in putting anymore money into it. I feel like I would be promoting EA to release 1/3 of a game at the full price of $50. Was it $60 for consoles? I had it on PC and I barely went through the game once.
Anyway… the dungeons in Drakensang allow you to choose either normal or difficult before entering. I didn’t try difficult but on normal the enemies don’t seem to be “elite”. They are just a couple of levels higher than you at the start but you definitely need to find a few people to accompany you unless you’re a higher level of course. There isn’t much room to escape from what I have seen so far and you will quickly be overwhelmed.
I won’t bother going into inventory much because its exactly the same as any other MMO / RPG whatever. I also can’t comment on skills or special abilities as I lack the cash to learn anything yet. I’m only on level 4…so not much excitement there. I also didn’t bother looking into online purchasing system of gold and equipment too much. This is really because I just never had any interest in using real hard earned money to buy virtual items for in game.
Quite honestly it would be a waste to spend your cash on in-game equipment especially since Drakensong is not a game I can see myself playing for even a few months. It strikes me more as filler during the time it takes for Skyrim or Grim Dawn to be released. Torchlight 2 is coming out pretty soon as well. For others of course, its a different story all together. Maybe you’ll enjoy the game far more than I give it credit for and play it for a much longer period of time.
Getting back to equipment though – Enemies DO drop the occasional rare / uncommon item but they followed the whole “unidentified” thing with that like in Diablo. You get these magical talismans used to “identify” a piece of equipment. Not doing so still allows you to equip the item, just not with the magical benefits and buffs. There is also a tab on the top left corner of the screen that takes you to the Drakensang site to buy anything you need. You can do this at ANY point in the game.
The music is more like a background noise just put in to make the environment sound foreboding. Diablo II had individual full tracks for each area. The music was pretty good in my opinion. For Drakensang Online although technically it is “music” playing, the only way that I can describe it is: Monotonous – repetive and dull. From a certain point of view, it does fit the game well since the game is a literal non-stop battle against dark creatures. Perhaps that’s simply what Bigpoint wanted. It changes slightly as enemies appear but its not anything I’d ever have playing in the background like Wrath of the Lich King.
The monsters are another positive mainly because they’re different which for me at least, is very refreshing. The game doesn’t start out with giant rats, bees, bears or even wolves. I haven’t seen kobolds or gnolls or any of the standard things I’m used to seeing in an MMO. Instead they start out with gremlins attacking you that actually look like the creatures from the movie…Gremlins. Also further in I was attacked by a giant bloated version of Swamp Thing. In other screen shots on the Drakensang site I’ve seen a few pretty awesome looking creatures. I also fought the entire legion of undead soldiers…or so it seemed. Those guys are pretty standard of course…but then again you can’t have a good dark fantasy game without the skeleton crew, right? =p
Overall if you’re into these types of games it definitely seems fun. I wouldn’t push it on anyone who isn’t a fan of the genre simply because there’s nothing new and unique the game offers. It’s just a mixing pot of old classics and some modern rpgs thrown in together. It’s a good attempt though and being free it may be a fun way to end the last half hour of your evening before you go to bed. It’s also the best browser game I’ve seen period. The screenshots should attest to that.
If you’re not an IGN Prime member and you have the $6 a month to burn, I’d give it a try. They also have pro videos to watch such as StarCraft II training videos for example: Learning the best build orders, timing, etc. There’s plenty of other stuff you get as well and I’ve got nothing negative to say about IGN Prime. I’m not really a hardcore gamer either but I like having the option to watch the videos or try out games in beta. Plus there’s other cool stuff that IGN has to offer as well like discounts on digital downloads. If you do decide to give Drakensange a try, then I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading!