By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Dragon's Prophet is an up-and-coming MMORPG that offers elements of the traditional themepark MMOs we're all used to, and the sandbox genre that is beginning to take over the market. It is developed by Runewaker, who has previously developed Runes of Magic, and is being published by Sony Online Entertainment in North America. The game is filled with a diverse array of dragons that players can find and tame. It also has the "Frontier System" where players can take control of floating islands where they can build and decorate their homes. Altogether it looks like it will provide an exciting experience for fans of monster-capture games, dragons, and player housing.
Building Your Character
Like most games, you start out with making your character. There is currently one race in Dragon's Prophet, so everyone plays as human. The first decision you make is your class and your choices are Guardian, Ranger, Oracle, and Sorcerer. Guardians are melee fighters who can either focus on defense or damage output. Rangers are non-magical ranged fighters that can dish out a lot of damage in a short amount of time. Oracle is a magic-based melee fighter who makes up for his lack of heavy armor with buffs and other magical abilities. And Sorcerer is a magic-based damage dealer.
You might notice that all classes in the game have been designed to be damage dealers. I believe this is so all classes can experience the fun of destroying their enemies with over-the-top attacks, while still having plenty of options available to them. Between the talent trees and dragon soul abilities, which I will talk about later, each class has a nice selection of choices to make themselves unique. That's the theory of how it will go, anyways. The game hasn't been available long enough to tell if that's how it will play out.
After choosing your class, you are taken to the customization screen. Runewaker has provided us with a lot of options for our characters. Everything from your eyes to your legs has a slider. You also get a selection of colors for everything, including your skin. You can create a pale-skinned beauty or a purple Popeye-armed monster.
Once you've spent a good twenty or thirty minutes designing your character, you will be asked to choose which continent you would like to start on. After that, you are thrown into the familiar cycle of going from quest hub to quest hub and leveling up your character. Each level you are given three points to spend on your stats and at level fifteen you start getting points to spend on your talent tree. You don't get unlimited points for either, so you will need to choose wisely.
Dragon's Prophet takes place in a world with a rich lore. You are of the Osira, the first humans and the blood that courses through your veins allows you to bind with the dragonkin. The world is an interesting place, filled with many lands with their own distinct feel from deserts, to forest, to floating islands. Auratia has both a fantasy and a steampunk feel to it, as there is lots of magic but at the same time there are airships, trains and other steampunk-looking technology around.
Unfortunately, the airships are usually static or act as transportation between zones. Speaking of zones, there are currently seven of them. The monsters and NPCs that inhabit them are given routines to do so that they seem more life-like. Animals will walk around and eat the grass or munch on the corpse of another dead animal, or even take a nap. NPCs in towns will roam around completing their jobs and even stop to have silent conversations with each other. However, putting in some voice acting would do wonders with making the game feel more alive.
There was one glaring problem that I ran into. A majority of the world, or at least the part where you spend the first thirty levels or so, feels like it wasn't designed with flying dragons in mind. Due to the massive cliffs that you can't get past, the areas that you can fly in feel very cramped. I feel like the devs made the dragons fly slower than I would expect them to fly for this reason and I feel that it hinders the game a lot. In a world inhabited by amazing dragons, a lot of which have wings, it should largely consist of wide open spaces.
That's not to say every area will make you feel claustrophobic. There were a decent number of spots that actually had a lot of room to fly around in. I just feel that there were too few of those areas and too many of the restricted areas. I shouldn't have to follow a set path to get to a village when I have a dragon that can fly, just because there are large cliffs on either side of me and a low flight ceiling. Hopefully this will be changed later on, but I doubt how likely that would be.
The controls in the game worked fairly well. There are some areas that could use work in the way that targeting things works, but I'm sure it will get smoothed out as time goes on so I'm not worried. The only thing I disliked about the combat controls was that it was hard to tell if your combos were working correctly. Later on after you've put several hours into the game it's easier to tell, but you have next to no idea what you're doing at the beginning. This results in you not making as much use of the combo system.
Before we get too far into Dragons, let’s discuss how they are tamed. First, you will want to know that you have a bar under your health and mana, which is yellow and represents your Dragon Soul Points. These points are consumed when taming a dragon, or using a Dragon Soul ability, and are replenished over time or by fighting enemies. If you want to tame a dragon, it is a very good idea that you are the same or higher level, and that your Dragon Soul Points are maxed out. Trying it without those two things will make it very difficult.
Taming itself is done by jumping on the dragon’s back and playing a mini-game as it struggles against you. The point of the mini-game is to use the WASD keys to try and keep a dragon head icon within the inner-circle shown in the screenshot below. While the head is in the inner-circle, the red bar on the right goes up and the goal is to fill the red bar. As this happens, the yellow bar on the left, which represents your Dragon Soul Points, is depleting. If the yellow bar is empty before you get the red bar to where it needs to successfully tame the dragon, you will fail.
There is a variety of dragonkin available for players to tame. Some dragons can only run on the ground, some can glide, some can swim, and some fly. There are even dragons that can do a combination of those. Dragons can look like what you would expect from traditional European fantasy, like lizards, or they can even look like birds. Some even kind of look like Tonton's from Star Wars. If you can imagine it, the developers probably already have and put it into the game.
Dragons provide a number of roles. You can use them as combat companions or mounts. You can turn them into laborers to gather resources for you using the lair system. When you tame a dragon, you will find that it is not the same as every other dragon of that type. Part of the fun is trying to find the dragon with the perfect stats and the best Dragon Soul abilities.
Speaking of Dragon Soul abilities, there's a wide array of them. I've found buffs that increase your armor, damage, or stats. I've found a number of different heals, too. From heals that will replenish your mana as well as your health, to abilities that will allow you to heal yourself and allies over a wide area. Having a dragon in your dragon inventory will give you access to any of the Dragon Soul abilities they may know, and you can have a maximum of six dragons on you at any time.
I mentioned earlier that you can use dragons to collect resources for you. This is done with the lair system. You will use the lair system to store your extra dragons, to train your dragons, to transfer Dragon Soul abilities between dragons, and many other things. Almost every town seems to have a Lair management NPC in it. It's a good idea to set your dragon up to train while you're offline before you log off for the night.
The one thing that I do not like about the dragons is that you can only have them out for a few seconds at a time. It is possible to put points in a certain stat to increase the length of time that they can be out, but I feel like we shouldn't have to do that. The selling point of the game, at least for me, was dragons. And limiting the amount of time I can fight with them just turns them into some novelty that you will often forget to make use of unless it is a hard boss fight. You can have your dragon out as a mount for as long as you like, though.
I'm going to start off with the negative here. First, the game has yet to show me anything original in terms of questing. You do your typical leveling up questing cycle that can be found in every other quest-based themepark game. You will start in a town, and then move down a linear path of quest hubs, complete all the quests in that area, move to the next, and repeat that. Occasionally a dungeon shows up and you get to fight an epic over-sized enemy, but that's not enough to make it fun.
Crafting isn't anything new either. There are six crafting schools that everyone has access to. The most efficient way to get resources for crafting is to have your dragon do it for you, but you can also gather stuff from the world as you quest. This doesn't require any special skills or tools, so you can just run up and start gathering. Basically, it's your typical “Collect X and Y to make Z” type crafting. I haven't been able to tell how important crafting will be in the game yet.
Now that this disappointment is out of the way, I can discuss what I really liked. The combat in Dragon's Prophet is quite fun. Usually, I prefer ranged magic users in MMOs, but I found myself enjoying the Guardian class the most. I've jumped into fight after fight with pure enthusiasm, throwing enemies up into the air and then raining blows on them while they fall to the ground. I enjoy challenging myself by seeing how many enemies I can take on and stay alive.
Combat is an interesting mix of targeting and action combat. I'm not quite sure how to define it. Unfortunately, there is no dodge ability, but it is possible to run out of the way of an enemy’s attack. You can also hit multiple enemies with your attack if they're standing close enough together. Everything is solid, too, so you will find yourself being thrown or stuck in the middle of a group of monsters if you're not careful.
I can't say anything about PVP, as I haven't gotten to try it yet. I did notice a PVP Status button in the abilities list, so I assume it's something you can toggle. I'm not sure if all PVP is consented to via this toggle, or if there will be some areas in the game that force PVP. I also did not get a chance to check out the Frontier, so I can't mention anything on that either, which sucks as a lot of the game’s most interesting features take place in the Frontier – such as player housing. However, I will be covering it in great detail in my full review of the game that will be coming later, once I get a better feel for the game.
The Cash Shop
Something that has been worrying everyone is the cash shop. I can say that Station Cash (SC) has a hand in almost everything in the game. If you die, you can pay a few SC to revive right where you died. You can also pay SC to make upgrading equipment, crafting, and just about everything else more easy. Anything you can do with SC, you can do with in-game methods as well, but with more effort involved. I also noticed that there was an option on the Auction House to set it up so you sell your items for SC. I do not know if this means that players can receive SC via selling stuff on the Auction House, though.
It's a bit too early to really judge Dragon's Prophet. What really has me disappointed is the very linear quest progression, it's the same system MMOs have been using for over a decade now and I wish the cycle would stop. However, features like the Frontier hold incredible promise and the fact that the diversity of dragons available for taming will probably rival that of the first generation of Pokemon help it a lot. After pouring tens of hours into the game, I'm still as excited about it as I was when I first heard of it months ago. I will continue to play and will be sure to share what I find later on.
Be sure to catch the latest MMOHuts First Look to get a visual look at Dragon's Prophet courtesy of JamesBl0nde.