By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Yesterday I was invited to attend a press tour of Runewaker’s upcoming F2P MMORPG, Dragon’s Prophet. Being published by SOE in North America, they were the hosts of the event and took several journalist into the game. This is great as I’ve had my eye on this title for quite a while so I was excited to finally get my hands on it. Better yet, the journalist who attended the event are not bound by NDA and are allowed the chance to write a preview of the game based on their experience in the tour. This is my account of what I found during the hour or so I got to play.
A Beautiful World
Dragon’s Prophet is a great looking game, I don’t think anyone can deny that. While they may not be as high quality as what you would get from a single player experience, they are on par with other F2P MMOs coming out this year. I took a lot of scenery shots during the tour and filled up my screenshots folder to the brim and I’ll include some of my favorites in this article. The dragons look great, and each one I saw had its own unique design. They weren’t just re-skins of the same model, either.
That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have its graphic-related problems, which is to be expected from a Closed Beta title. In one area that I was taken to during the tour, I saw a propeller up in the sky, just turning away. It wasn’t attached to anything, but there was a very nice looking airship right above it. Another thing I ran into was a giant green exclamation mark floating above my head whenever I got on my dragon. I am sure these issues will be ironed out soon enough, so I am not worried about them.
Speaking of Dragons…
There are a lot of them. I was told that there are currently over one-hundred-and-fifty tameable dragons that players can capture. On top of that, there are also over a hundred more in the world that can be fought. Keeping in mind that these are all fairly unique, it’s an impressive number. It kind of reminds me of Pokemon with all the variety.
There are a lot of different types of dragons, too. There are ground-based dragons, flying, swimming, big and tanky, small and agile, all of the ranges are covered. To give even more variety, each dragon offers helpful abilities that you gain access to when you tame them. And just because two dragons are of the same type does not guarantee a certain set of abilities; I tamed two of the same type and found that they had access to different abilities for me to use. I’m glad it won’t be as simple as taming a dragon and moving on, you’ll want to try and tame and maybe re-tame until you get the abilities you want.
Dragons can act as mounts and companions in a fight. Although, some dragons cannot act as mounts, from what I saw. I am unsure if some dragons serve as mounts only but so far I haven’t come across any. When you summon a dragon to fight with you, it begins consuming a pool of points called Dragon Soul. This is shown as a yellow bar under your health and mana, and can be regenerated over time or by hitting an enemy.
Taming dragons also consumes your Dragon Soul points, and is accomplished by playing a mini-game. You jump on a dragon’s back and struggle against it. During this struggle, your Dragon Soul points are consumed, and you try to keep the dragon head icon inside the inner-circle so that you generate more of the red bar on the right (as seen in the screenshot). If you reach a certain threshold of red bar, you tame the dragon. When asked about the difficulty of taming dragons, we were told that the higher level dragons get harder to tame, and the lower level you are compared to the dragon, the further difficulty grows exponentially, so you won’t be going out and taming some epic dragon right after making your character – you’ll have to work towards it.
After taming a dragon, you can take it to your dragon lair. In the lair, you will be able to train your dragon using an interesting system where you pay money to have your dragon complete processes over the course of a few hours. This means you can train your dragons when you go to bed for the night, or when you know you won’t be getting on for a while. And training is not the only thing you can set your dragon to do; you can also make it go gather resources for you so that you can craft. Another interesting feature was the ability to transfer skills between dragons.
It’s actually quite fun. It uses an action-based system that feels somewhat like a target-based hybrid. The enemy that is directly in front of you becomes ‘targeted’ with a red glow and that is where your character will try to hit. However, any enemy nearby can also get hit by your attacks, which makes for some great fights. One thing that took a tiny bit of getting used to is that your character will not move while attacking, but you can easily move between attacks to change your position and avoid enemy hits. I noticed that the ranged users on the tour stood still a lot more than the melee users, and that they had abilities that could knock enemies away from them.
We got to take on a couple of epic bosses as well. One was spawned at the end of a zone event, and the thing was colossal. Just as everyone in the zone worked together to complete the event to this point, everyone joined in to kill the massive dragon in front of us. To be blunt, the encounter felt epic. We also got to take on another dragon that was within an instance. It required us to swim through a semi-hidden passage to get to it, and was just as big or bigger than the guy we had fought outside the cave instance.
My concern about combat was that the limited amount of time you can have a dragon out combined with the fact that you aren’t able to move while attacking, would make for a lackluster experience. However, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the combat and did not notice any issues. I am guessing the developers have their own reasons for choosing this system, and I’m guessing there is some merit to the choice considering that Neverwinter is also going with a stand-still combat system. Movement in combat is still a big part of the tactics; I could quickly move away if I needed to, and I even had a dash move that I could use to get away from a blow. Yeah, standing still while you swing your weapon or cast you spell doesn’t sound too fun on paper, but it works well in the actual game.
Progressing Your Character and Dragon
Progression seems to be accomplished primarily by quests, which you can find by looking for exclamation marks over the heads of NPCs. When asked, I believe we were told that the level range would be in the sixties. It was said that for a regular gamer who is putting in a few hours a day, it can take as long as a month to reach the lower-forties in level, with the amount of time and effort needed to get that far still being tweaked. When you level up, you get some points that you can spend on your character’s stats and after a certain point you begin getting points to spend on a talent tree, which you will be able to fill up approximately halfway by max level.
When looking at the lair, I also saw that there was the ability to choose the stats of your dragon. You gain experience to level up your dragon by having him train at the lair, and you can spend the points gained by leveling up into five stats. This means you might need to spend some time away from your dragons so that they can reach their full potential. I like the idea of this type of progression for dragons, as it gives you the chance to continue to progress even while you are offline. It seems like it would be quite convenient.
I didn’t get a chance to actually try crafting in the game, but our tour guide did walk us through the basics. There are six crafting skills that range from alchemy, to cooking, to blacksmithing. You get the resources from crafting by either collecting them from nodes spread out around the world or by sending your dragons to collect it for you. I noticed a Station Cash icon on the crafting window, but I am not sure what effect using the Station Cash has on the crafting process. To be honest, it looked like your typical “collect X of X to make Y using Z” system that almost all MMORPGs have, so there really isn’t anything new here.
The game seems to be coming along quite nicely. While the Frontier still isn’t present in the game, and likely won’t be until open beta or full launch, the rest of the gameplay is solid. I feel that Pokemon fans, or people who like the monster-capture genre in general, will have a blast in this game. Hopefully the questing-progression for your character will not make the game boring, as the combat is fantastic and the dragons are a blast. Be sure to check out OnRPG at DP’s launch as I’ll be giving the game a detailed look at how far it’s progressed.