Dragon Saga: First In, Last Out
By Michael Sagoe (mikedot), OnRPG Journalist
Dragon Saga (also known as Dragonica) was one of the first original action MMOs to ever hit English speaking territories. Just recently, things got tuned up with an expansion called New Origins, featuring new story quests, a new race and many other goodies. While this title may have turned heads in the day, many other action MMOs are now out and about in this ever increasing MMO market, so it’s time to take a closer look and see if there’s enough here to make gamers want to turn their heads back.
For those that are starting out: There’s two races in world of Dragon Saga: Human and Dragonkin, each with their own separate classes. For humans: You got your classic MMO class types: Warriors, Magicians, Archers and Thieves, while Dragonkin have access to Shamans and Twin Fighters. All well and good, but for any new players that want play as a Dragonkin, you will be out of luck, as players will have to play and level up a human character to LV20 first.
Initial character customization gives out a handful of hairstyles, hair colors and face types. The handful of customization options is adequate enough, but it would have been nice if a couple more choices were available.
There doesn’t seem to be much difference playing as a Dragonkin compared to humans, as shamans play similar to mages, and the ability to control two characters at a time with the Twin Fighter class becomes somewhat of an afterthought due to the game’s average core gameplay.
There are many different weapons, armors and outfits you can earn, all of which can be enhanced to suit your needs. You can also enhance your items even further with “soulcrafting”, which is similar to enchanting, but uses the souls of broken down weapons and armors instead of enchant items.
Dragon Saga’s basic control scheme uses arrow keys for movement and ZXC for basic attacks, charge attacks and jumping. The ASDF and QWER keys are used for performing skills and using items. All of this works out pretty well if you plan to stick with the keyboard, but using a gamepad will put you at a disadvantage, since players will have less buttons available for performing skills. Some arcade style inputs to perform skills could have alleviated this issue, but are unfortunately unavailable.
While the graphics for Dragon Saga are fairly dated, the visual aesthetic more than makes up for it, with a style that’s reminiscent of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. Character and monster models have a cute, chibi anime look to them, and a strong use of bright colors really makes the game world come alive.
There’s also a cartoon vibe that kids (and kids at hearts) will enjoy, including lots slapstick action like being able to whack enemies with giant hammers, summon karate chopping grizzly gears and being able to send enemies flying into your PC screen.
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf…
Most of the music in Dragon Saga seems to be a bit out of place: While one area will have harmonious tunes to ease your mind, and in the next: Electronica and techno out of NOWHERE! The actual quality of the music isn’t too bad, but it’s not too good, either.
Questing in Dragon Saga seems to pretend like it has some kind of grand adventure in store for those that choose to accept them, but in reality the questing is a ploy to mask the simple and generic missions behind them. Both hero quests and regular quests revolve around the usual “kill this, bring me that”, and players will have to swallow these quests over and over again, as they’re the only way to earn decent EXP, items and money. Just from the first tutorial mission alone, the story content doesn’t seem to be striving for anything other than generic J-RPG clichés.
Sure, buddy… everyone else playing gets to be the “chosen” hero… *Yawn*
The combat in Dragon Saga severely lacks depth. Most enemies do not put up much of a fight, and even in large groups they attack players with one or two different moves. These moves are simple and easily avoided once you see the pattern. Staying alive in dungeons is a matter of not getting surrounded by baddies, and if you can manage that and learn not to be greedy with your own attacks, you can pretty much solo everything.
The PvE aspect of Dragon Saga relies too heavily on avatar strength rather than player skill. With this being an action RPG, it’s a serious issue since end-game combat doesn’t actually become more challenging so much as takes longer to defeat the same repetitive enemies. On the upside: Environments in Dragon Saga make full use of 3D space, allowing for some light platforming that breaks up the tedious grinding for a little while.
PvP in Dragon Saga doesn’t fare much better, as core combat holds very little substance against live players due to range abuse and skill spamming that results in excessive juggling.
Basic community features for an MMO, including party modes, guild functions and marketplaces are all here, but there’s nothing special about them. Even with the “marriage system” that allows players to couple up with another fellow player (of the opposite sex) to earn special skills and items, anyone with prior MMO experience will see that it’s all been done before.
The playerbase for Dragon Saga seems to be a bit on the light side, as finding players to party with (at least early on) may be difficult. When I did find people to party with, they were generally friendly and helpful as most smaller MMO player groups seem to be.
What worked for Dragon Saga back in the day is considered average by today’s standards, and while it may serve as a nice distraction for the kiddies, the shallow gameplay sure won’t be standing out in today’s generation.
Customization – 3
Controls – 2
Graphics/Presentation – 4
Gameplay /Features – 2
Community – 3