Dragon Nest: The Start of a Revolution
By Thomas vonWolffradt (SomePlatypus), OnRPG Tech Wizard
Co-Written by Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
Now it's rare that I go out of my way to spend 30 hours in a game to write up a game review. Normally these time intensive projects are given out to one of OnRPG's writing staff to do over the course of a month. However, in Dragon Nest I see the potential of a new way to play MMOs that prior to it has never been fully perfected. Dragon Nest represents the beginning of a new horizon in MMO gaming in which MMORPG fans and action console players can unite under one banner of gaming greatness. And since many of its brethren in the action revolution are still quite some development time away from release, Dragon Nest gives us an opportunity to experience the future of MMO gaming today!
Dragon Nest takes place in a world that has been ravaged by war many years ago and has just recently reestablished peace. Although everything seems calm on the surface, a hidden war rages in the shadows between the Dragons and their Cultists and a small group of freedom fighters known as the Adventurer's Guild. Though the Adventurer's Guild is nearly powerless against the Dragon Cultists, an ancient elf with a bad attitude named Argenta stands alone as the only warrior with the power to prevent their aims. That is, until you enter the fray! Now you must enter an uneasy alliance with Argenta to save a descendant of the ancients from the clutches of the Dragons.
There are currently four starting classes you can choose from. In terms of PvE prowess, they are all virtually equal and yet specialized enough to make each unique and fun to try. At level 15 you are able to take a test to unlock your second class upgrade and further specialize yourself into one of 8 total classes.
Sorceress: These AoE masters bring immense pain to the battlefield but require meticulous timing and aim to do so effectively. Some of their long channeling times with long cooldowns make it important that they have protection so as not to waste their potential. At level 15 they may become Elementalists or Mystics. Elementalists specialize in harmful status effects like slow and wield unimaginable destructive AoE power. Mystics can follow the path of light or darkness, gaining insane armor piercing damage and gravity controlling AoE spells that can decimate an entire battlefield in one spell.
Cleric: This isn't your dad's cleric. Clerics in Dragon Nest have a nasty bite in addition to their support magic. They fight on the front line with weapons like maces, dealing holy light magic that stuns their hapless foes into submission. Those who go the path of the Paladin will become nearly invincible tanks that sacrifice some of their support status in exchange for rendering enemies useless in battle. Priests on the other hand take support spells to an entirely new level, making their allies invulnerable and bringing massive AoE holy magic down around the battlefield.
Archer: Archers are medium to long range dps that are effective at sweeping the enemy off their feet. While also specializing in AoE damage, theirs tends to be higher damage than mages but with a smaller range of effect. At level 15 they can follow the path of a Sharpshooter or Acrobat. Sharpshooters gain immense mobility, range, and are one of the most active classes in the game for attacking an enemy while in mid-air. Acrobats abandon their range safety and instead become a localized whirlwind of damage, knock ups, and knock backs.
Warrior: What warriors lack in damage, they make up for with impressive comboing abilities. They can run, dodge, roll, and slam to keep on top of an opponent until they die. Though restricted to only melee weapons, said melee weapons have such large hit areas that you practically can't miss. Mercenaries are the most heavily armored character in the game, specializing in one-on-one confrontations in which they simply outlast any opponent blow for blow. Those seeking more active combat can follow the path of the Swordsman, engaging in long damaging combo attacks that are nearly impossible to break free from. At higher levels, Swordsmen can also learn wide sweeping AoE skills to give them range damage as well.
The world of Dragon Nest is broken down in a similar fashion to another action game published by Nexon called Vindictus. In hub towns you learn about the story, adjust and enhance gear, pick up quests, and learn skills. Then you set out, alone or in groups of up to 4, into the instanced outer world in which you can pick up further quests, break down gear into crafting material, and select instanced dungeons and difficulty settings.
The dungeons themselves start out simple and then grow progressively more challenging. Simple run and stab goblins eventually lead to sword and board goblins that will actively blow against attacks. Slow casting lightning mages eventually become fast teleporting massive AoE casting ice mages that can really ruin your day should you fail to dodge a single spell combo. And then in the expansion, Saint's Haven, you will face fire mages that bring a whole new meaning to the term DoT.
So what makes this all so revolutionary? It's 100% based on your reaction speed, knowledge of your character's skills, and aiming every attack FPS style. Every class is provided enough utility to get through just about any situation thrown at them, assuming you know your class well enough to do so. Acrobats with fast reactions can jump and roll through a barrage of spells to disable the caster. Mystics can hold off legions of goblins with a few well placed gravity wells. Mercenaries can stand toe to toe with heavily armored ogres and break their defenses with a few well placed rolls and axe slams. Or you can get your face smashed in after a 5 second duration of enemy combos that leave you sitting in the corner frantically drinking potions.
Where this system of combat really shines in the boss battles. Some of the best designed bosses can usually fly or teleport, have unique defensive abilities, and are able to smash your attempt to combo them apart with strong AoE skills. A gargoyle you face early on will zoom around the map, constantly summoning goblin minions to delay you. After shooting blasts of homing energy orbs he can land and turn into stone, increasing his defense infinitely and rapidly regaining hp until you stun him out of the stance. A later boss hovers over the arena out of reach and sprays the battlefield with poisonous stingers. Just as you think you've dodged them all he slams down on top of you dealing massive damage, forcing you to divide your attention between dodging darts and timing a jump to get out of the combo alive. I can honestly say I have never had so much fun fighting bosses in an MMO, and even in console games bosses were rarely as exciting as this.
The Friend Factor
A downside to Dragon Nest that I have seen all too often on the forums is people who claim 'I got bored and quit at level 2x.' Even with a game as fun as this, inevitable boredom will always set in for some people. Oh wait that never happened to me because I played with my friend DizzyPW every time. If you aren't playing Dragon Nest with a friend, you are depriving yourself greatly of the true experience Dragon Nest has to offer.
By teaming up with friends, not only do you have someone to share the experience with, you can take on the harder challenges in Dragon Nest much earlier. There is just an insane thrill taking on Abyss mode dungeons with your friend when you are level 19 and 18 and the recommended difficulty is four level 21s. Teamwork is put to the test as you constantly rescue each other from hordes of enemies, and set up ultimate team combo attacks to devastate a legion of monsters with a 500 hit combo. Our best example was our Mystic Acrobat team. DizzyPW would roll-jump into a group of 40 monsters and hit Marionette to shoot out a string of arrows that pulls enemies towards him. I would then cover the ground with poison and begin opening up a massive gravity well above DizzyPW as he danced around the legion of mobs.
Once the gravity well opened I would blow all my cooldowns launching every magic spell in my possession as the enemy's were pulled into a central point. DizzyPW would blast then with a fan shaped archer skill and then proceed to bounce on top of the heads of enemies, culminating in the extremely powerful Acrobat skill 'Eagle Dive' in which he flies to earth at maximum speed dealing huge damage figures to all in the area upon landing. Seeing the ground covered with a legion of loot where a legion of zombies formerly stumbled is intensely satisfying.
Besides the intangible satisfaction from zombie hunting with a friend, there are also many benefits offered for teaming up. The most particularly important is the PWR system. PWR is a system that allows casual players to not fall as far behind hardcore players by giving you experience bonuses for the first few dungeons you run in a day. If you team up with friends and run multiple dungeons successfully in a row, the game gives you discounts on how much PWR is spent on each dungeon run to keep you going at this bonus level longer. Also players running Abyss mode will only have to spend one key to unlock the bunny chest at the end, providing very useful goodies such as NPC gifts.
Events and Fun
This game goes beyond the call of duty to give players tons of things to keep them occupied. Every dungeon has a dozen or more achievements to be obtained, some giving titles with special stat bonuses. In addition billboards reside outside every dungeon to give players additional challenges (and rewards) for performing certain actions like collecting skulls from graves. An addicting side quest exists in which you can make friends with NPCs and improve relations by running quests or giving gifts to them. Eventually the NPCs will start to give you gifts back to help with your equipment strengthening. Also by befriending NPCs you gain faction points with one of three groups that can later be traded for all kinds of goodies in Saint's Haven. Various recipes exist for mixing lesser gifts you obtain to make greater gifts as well, and it really adds some flavor to the side quest when you have an item that two NPCs both love and you have to decide who to befriend and who to ignore.
A circus also exists in which you and your friends can take part in crazy mini-game events to earn tickets. Some notably fun ones include a treasure hunt in which you and your friends are locked in separate rooms and must battle until united in the main room to face a super boss. Another epic circus event is the Goblarta Goblins in which Xerxes orders you to destroy the 300 Goblarta goblins in an arena style death match! DizzyPW is working on bringing a video of this epic event to OnRPG in the near future.
This.. Is... Goblarta!
Most MMOs would consider this enough for a launch title. Dragon Nest pushes the envelope further. You can take part in the arena to face other players in PvP battles or the Temple of Darkness where you team up with 3 friends to face an endless gauntlet of increasingly strong monsters, with prizes waiting for the heartiest of adventurers.
I wouldn't be able to talk about Dragon Nest without mentioning the arena, considering this game won E3 2011's best PvP award. Personally I have some gripes to say about the arena.
At E3 things were fantastic because it was essentially a LAN party, and when everyone shares the same ping the PvP in Dragon Nest is tough to beat. Each class is really well balanced at most levels, and artificially increased defense and HP helps prevent people who cash shopped to power or hardcore power levelers from dominating the game too heavily. Team PvP is especially fun because, as explained earlier with the Mystic Acrobat super combo, you can really perform some impressive combos on your hapless foes. Also in team PvP certain classes like the Mystic and Priest become much more viable as they require teammates to effectively unleash some of their greater attacks.
Now enter the officially sanctioned ladder matches, that are fought only on a one-on-one basis. In this situation the paladin and swordsman classes hands down destroy almost any opponent with their superior combo abilities, endless knockdowns, and overpowered stuns. This only gets worse when you introduce ping issues and classes like Mystics and Acrobats with hard to land attacks are aiming at a shadow of where an enemy actually is. The swordsman and mercenaries especially have such large hit targets with their melee swings and fast movement speed that you will often begin to fly through the air from the opening of a combo attack long before the actual melee fighter is visually within range to harm you. Not to mention you better bring some heavy hitting skills if you even think you are going to stun these opponents as they charge haphazardly through a barrage of fire with little care for the tiny amounts of damage it inflicts.
As such I recommend players stick with the team battles. As long as you have a teammate to interrupt, endless combo attacks aren't possible. With more targets on the battlefield, you will also have an easier time of landing attacks, and the fun factor increases for support classes as well. Best of all is you still earn medals from non-ladder matches that are used to upgrade weapons with special enhancements!
Dragon Nest has so many nuances going for it that it's impossible to sum all its parts up in a single review. I will just mention that the crafting system is quite in-depth and will ensure players spend hours in every part of the game to build the greatest weapons and armor possible. Even after 30 hours in the game I'm still discovering new features like this and at level 25 there is plenty more to be seen in this game.
Graphics are simple enough and customizable enough that almost anyone should be able to experience the joys of this game. The cutscenes, side quests, and main quests are also some of the best written in MMO history and should keep all but the most hardcore power levelers delayed a bit to read through them. The cash shop doesn't present too much of a power gap to players though I would recommend picking up some inventory and bank expansion slots before anything else or you will go mad trying to manage all the nick knacks you pick up in this game. If you are one of the few that haven't experienced Dragon Nest yet, then grab a friend (or three), divvy up the class selection, and get to cracking some Dragon Cultist skulls!
Graphics – 3 (Watered down character models are balanced by impressive spell effects)
Controls – 5 (For a front runner in the action MMO genre, Dragon Nest controls flawlessly)
Features – 5 (I never felt wanting for more things to do in this game)
Customization – 4 (While graphical customization is minimal, skill trees and armor crafting balance things nicely)
Community – 4 (While I didn't talk with the community much, there always seemed to be things going on around me)