Daily Blogroll Oct 11: Can’t break the NDA edition.

Star Wars: The Crayon Republic

So yeah. I’d have a better screenshot, but somehow I’m the only person who did NOT get into the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta weekend. But I have MS Paint, and I’m not afraid to use it. Doesn’t matter. Game is going to be a hit — that’s not even in doubt. You can kill stuff with light sabers. Kiss a wookie. Visit Alderaan before it went to hell. And even though the game is set three thousand years before the events of the movies, everyone still wears the same frickin’ clothes.

That vest and farm boy shirt? Smugglers don’t mess with something that works! Seriously! Three thousand years pass, the galaxy convulses through light and darkness a dozen times over, and almost nothing has changed. By the time Han hooked up with Chewbacca, wookies and Corellians probably get paired for life at birth or something.

Well. On to the blogroll.

Continue reading Daily Blogroll Oct 11: Can’t break the NDA edition.

Dragon Nest: Resting at 24

Going berzerk on minos

I haven’t played Dragon Nest since I hit level 24, the current maximum, a few weeks back. I understood something about myself and my relation to MMOs at that moment; I like the leveling. I really do. Once I’ve leveled, I’ve seen the game, time to move on. The “end game” used to be incredibly important to me, but now there are so many games to play, that I just treat the end of leveling as the “end” of the game. I don’t know if I could deal with EverQuest’s year to level any more. Not that it takes that long to level in EverQuest these days. But if another game were to offer it, I doubt I’d go for it.

Like Maple Story, with its thousand levels or whatever. Just not feeling the need to even start with it.

There could be games where leveling wasn’t the primary goal (which arguably was true of the original pre-expansion EverQuest), but then I would question their need for levels at all, rather than some other way to mark progression. But, be that as it may.

Dragon Nest. I logged on to see if I could do the current Western end game dungeon, the Minotaur Nest, solo. It’s an “Abyss” mode dungeon, the hardest, group-required difficulty, so I had no illusions that I’d be able to solo it. I did want to see it, though. I’d even watched someone clear it on Youtube, in the Korean client, where levels go to at least 45, and the character — a priest, I think — was just destroying the place.

I sneak in; two minotaur guards are asleep. They wake as I try to tiptoe past, though, and it takes me a good fifteen minutes to kill them both. I enter the next room, and TEN minotaurs come after me. Half an hour later, they’re all dead, and I’ve used all five of my self-rezzes.

Then ten more spawn. And that was pretty much that. Dragon Nest will be letting people go to Saint’s Haven, the next city after Charderok Pass, and level to 32 sometime soon. I was hoping it would be today… not yet. Soon. Looks like the end of beta and the new city will be available September 28.

Someone was complaining the other day that combat in Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic was glacially slow and very much unlike the fast-paced combat seen in the movies, and that in fact the entire MMO genre was mired in slow, entirely unheroic combat.

I objected. Key to my argument was Dragon Nest, and the rest of the action MMO genre.

If fast paced combat and the ability to feel totally badass, killing dozens of things at a time with crazy animations and trying to keep half a dozen abilities working at their best efficiency while simultaneously staying alive is your thing… PLAY A MMO THAT LETS YOU DO THAT!

I’m really tired of articles that take WoW or its descendants (Rift, SWTOR, etc), despair at the gameplay, then go on to pronounce the death of the entire genre.

Not so. MMOs are changing; they have NEVER been as similar as people claim. In Dream of Mirror Online, you can mix any two classes and fly around on SWORDS, which is just as cool as you think it’d be. Wizard101 fights with card battles. EverQuest has (well, had) very few usable abilities, but was tactically extremely deep.

The only way you can call the genre dead of ideas is if you skip over the games that show true innovation — like the much-missed Chronicles of Spellborn. Almost nobody “got” that game.

Dragon Nest: Out of Power

Der Ritter, cleric

Dragon Nest has it’s own version of World of Warcraft’s “rest xp” — power. There’s a power bar next to your experience bar that slowly fills up over time. Each dungeon instance you do takes some of this power away; doing a low level dungeon on “easy” mode might cost 25 power. Doing a level 15 dungeon on “master” mode might take 300 power.

It didn’t take long last night to use up my warrior Obstacle’s power last night. I re-ran Valley of Mourning a couple times for side-quests and achievements, then moved into the Forest Ruins — a new spot — to advance the plot, complete some quests and look for higher level skill books. I didn’t find any skill books, but I _did_ find some good high level sparks, which are similar to adornments in other games — they add attributes to the gear you have.

Anyway, the show I was watching on Hulu (the premiere of the Syfy Heroes-clone “Alphas”) still had more to go, so I parked now-level 14 warrior Obstacle in Carderrock Pass, his current town, and logged Derritter in.

Derritter = Der Ritter = The Knight. Although a lowly cleric at the moment, Derritter can grow to become a Paladin (hence the name) or a Priest. I still haven’t decided which way to go with him. Like all class-based MMOs, higher level instances really demand a dedicated healer, and there’s almost always groups asking for one.

I didn’t choose him as my main from the start because the game itself warned me away from him. Warriors and Archers, says the character creation screen, are the classes for beginners. Sorceresses are medium difficulty. Clerics are for experts. Clearly day 1 in Dragon Nest, I wasn’t an expert.

While writing my original Dragon Nest article, though, I created characters for all four of the base classes and went through their intro missions to get an idea for how they operated.

Thing is, the cleric and the warrior aren’t all that different at the low end. I’ve gotten Derritter up to level 5 (and am enjoying the Mana Ridge storyline more than I did the Ironwood Village storyline) and it’s pretty much the same thing: charge into a group of enemies, lay in with the AE, focus fire on the enemies with special abilities (magic, shields) and use special attacks on staggered enemies. Clerics don’t get the sheer weapon abilities of the warrior, but they have magic to make up for it. It’s pretty much the same thing in the balance.

For the other two classes, Archers seem to be your standard ranged fighter, but they still have a lot of close-up attacks which leave me wondering how best to play one. Soften stuff up from range and then close in for the ninja attacks? Or just ignore the melee-range skills until you change class to Acrobat at 15?

With the Sorceress, same issue. You nuke from range, then wade in and slap things with your book. For classes that are explicitly weak in melee range, there sure are a lot of skills that keep you within reach. I suspect that Archer and Sorceress turn out to be the real expert-level classes.

They’ll all be much easier to play for me, though, because I have been sending all of my alts skill books and weapons and armor from Obstacle. I go through the low level instances on Master level and send the good stuff :) Because that’s another thing you can do when you’re out of power — repeat the instances that wouldn’t have given you xp anymore, anyway.

Dragon Nest: A Warrior, a Sorceress and a Priest walk into a bar…

Warrior in the Valley of Mourning

Wanna blow stuff up, defeat dozens of monsters at once, perform ridiculous combos and fall in love with an NPC? Wanna go to incredibly atmospheric locations again and again? Wanna read some of the most hilarious game text in any MMO? Want to look just like everyone else? Wanna have a crowd of thousands cheering you on in the arena?

Nexon’s Dragon Nest just might be your thing.

Archer, Warrior, Sorceress, Cleric

Action MMOs like La Tale, Dragonica Online, Fists of Fu and so on specialize in removing everything that doesn’t have you out in the world, killing things. Dragon Nest is the next generation of action MMO. It adds a third dimension to the often flat action world.

Typical of these games, you can choose from four different classes, each of whom can be customized in a very limited manner. Warriors chew things up in melee; Archers destroy things at range; Sorceresses make things go boom; and Clerics wallop stuff with maces, shields and spells. At level 15, Warriors can become Swordsmen or Mercenaries, Archers become Acrobats or Sharpshooters, Sorceresses become Elementalists or Mystics, and Clerics become Priests or Paladins.

All warriors are going to look like a boy with a huge weapon. All archers are going to look like lingerie models. All clerics are going to look like roughhousing bullies, and all sorceresses are going to look like demonic succubi. It’s just the way of things.

No matter the class, though, play is essentially the same. You choose from a ever-growing list of moves that knock your opponents off balance, stun them or otherwise incapacitate them, then follow it up with devastating following moves. Passive special attacks mapped to your right mouse button o various things depending on how you incapacitated the enemy. It all comes together to make a very fluid, almost cinematic contest of utter destruction. As you roll or leap away from opponent attacks to hit them from behind with a suitably meaty thud, then use a jumping side-kick to push them off a cliff… combat is sweet in Dragon Nest.

Dungeon screen

There’s two main plots in Dragon Nest. if you’re a Warrior or an Archer, a chance encounter on the road to Ironwood Village leads you to investigate the kidnapping of a woman who may be the key to ancient power. If you’re a Cleric or a Sorceress, a priceless artifact is stolen from a caravan of priests on their way to Mana Ridge, exposing a culture of corruption and misdealing in the highest levels of the church.

No matter the path, you’re going to be heading into dungeons to deal with it. Many times. Dungeons can be done solo or in groups; there’s a complete party-matching system in towns with which you can find people for the more difficult missions. While you can move the plot along through solo excursions, the best loot is found in the group-focused levels.

Each dungeon portal leads to several themed dungeons, which open up based on plot and level. Titles (which grant stats, and thus are desired), side-quests and general xp grinding/loot farming will have you repeating each dungeon many times. Regardless of dungeon or the difficulty setting, each run will take you less than fifteen minutes, offering an addictive sort of “just one more dungeon” gameplay which will keep you at your keyboard far longer than you’d expect.

The dungeon screen shows you what quests and achievements are available for each dungeon based on difficulty, gives an idea for the sort of special items might be found within, and tells you how much experience you’ll gain from completion.

Your run is graded on speed and style. The higher the grade, the better selection of random loot at the end. Naturally, you can spend real money at the cash shop to buy items that make the random loot a bit less random.

The Arena

At the cash shop you can buy appearance items which _do_ affect your stats. You can also buy the expected selection of potions, extra storage space, resurrection scrolls and courier birds. These little critters allow you to broadcast messages to your current location or to everyone in the world. In Dragon Nest, spammers have to pay money to Nexon to hawk their wares.

(And that they do. General chat in town is useless because of the gold seller spam).

You’ll be returning to town often in order to sell your loot, craft new items and enhance old loot. Most weapons and armor can be enhanced at the blacksmith; you can enhance any item to +6 without danger, but past that, a risk of failure can ruin your item (unless you have bought the cash shop item which guarantees success).

You can also make crests, crafted items which fit into a screen and grant you chooseable stat increases. You can build friendship with NPCs which will lead to more side quests and rewards. You can extract magic components from loot you don’t like. There’s a full skill tree system for each class and subclass. There’s a player marketplace.

Cleric intro

If you’re looking for an MMO where your unique character forms the basis for years of deep role playing and adventure, Dragon Nest may not be what you’re looking for.

If you’re just looking for a game that connects you with a decent plot, good writing and loads of action, give Dragon Nest a shot. It’s free to play, groups come easy if you want them but aren’t required if you don’t, and the fast pace brings an addictive, almost arcade sense of fun to the MMO genre.

I have not yet encountered any dragons. The NPCs warn of Dragon Cultists and such that _worship_ dragons, so I am forever hopeful.