While most MMOs are RPGs, RPGs are not the only genre that can be MMOs. We've seen games in the past tackle other concepts, like the MMOFPS, PlanetSide, but one genre has proven to be elusive: the MMORTS. There have been only a small handful of games to try this and basically all of them have been smaller indie projects, and none of them have been successful. Dreamlords is another one of those smaller projects, but this one brings a number of interesting ideas to the playfield that, at least on paper, sound like they might be pretty interesting.
Dreamlords offers an interesting dual-interface, allowing you to interact with it from virtually anywhere. It also tries to create a somewhat-persistent world that allows players to expand their empires and wage battles against each other. It really does have some interesting ideas, however to say that they actually hold up would be far, far from the truth. While Dreamlords does what it claims to do, and on a limited level can be mildly entertaining, it simply isn't that much fun a game.
Setting and Story
Dreamlords; stage is set in a world that has been shattered. The people are plagued by beings created from their own nightmares, and only you, a Dreamlord, can help lead them to victory over their own inner demons. It is an interesting concept, although outside of some fluff on the website, the first mission you run, and a few quests after that, you'll never see a thing related to the story again. In fact, while there are "quests" in the game, they won't have any dialogue to set the stage. Instead, you'll just be given a few pre-set mission objectives that you need to complete.
If you're looking for a compelling story to run through, you will not find it in Dreamlords, period.
I should also note that Dreamlords is not a graphically impressive game either. Simply put, everything is very simplistic, the maps are not inspired, the animations are poor, and while the units themselves aren't badly designed, they are definitely short on the polygons. It isn't a good looking game, but if graphics aren't important to you, then they should be acceptable. I might as well mention along with this that the game world is also largely silent. Many attacks do not seem to have any sounds attached to them, and battles are an eerily silent affair.
The Web Game
When talking about Dreamlords, I really need to spend a bit of time on the interface. As a strategy game, the interface is going to be an important part of your play experience, and Dreamlords isn't entirely bad in this case. In fact, it does something that I've always wanted to see online games do: it integrates itself into the browser. That doesn't mean that you play the entire game in the browser, but you can access certain parts of it from any computer with Internet access, without having the client installed. You can build new buildings on your land (called your patria), assign workers to various tasks, research tech trees, gain abilities for your Dreamlord, check out the market, craft, and chat with your guild, all through the web browser.
I'll be perfectly honest: I liked the web interface. I thought it was well done and even looked pretty good. Although when it comes down to it, it is little more than a standard text-based, online strategy game, which are a dime-a-dozen, but it does a good job of being one. Of course, it lacks the ability to create military units and attack other players, but that's what the RTS client is for.
The RTS client looks petty normal, with standard controls and shortcuts (like double-clicking a unit will select all units of that type). However, the nature of Dreamlords prevents the RTS side of the game from being particularly good or compelling.
Dreamlords doesn't feature any sort of an overworld for you to run around in like a traditional MMO does. Your only way into battle is by moving over an area of the world - each one with a level range - and clicking 'Attack' which throws you into a random battle against foes of that level range. The higher level the area, the harder the foes you will fight. The higher level the area... still pretty much the exact same objectives you had in lower level ones.
In fact, these battles are downright boring. You'll come across a few NPCs that wander around a small area of the map, and make absolutely no attempt to attack you unless you are close. If one group of NPCs attacks you, other groups will not come to assist them. Basically, imagine playing an RTS with enemies that have the same AI as an MMO mob, and you'll have a great idea of what each of these missions are like. Kill all the enemies, maybe collect a few items from the map, and you'll be victorious.
Of course, you can play against other players as well, but even this suffers from the other fatal flaw that the game has: there isn't enough strategy in it. There are no resources to manage. There are no buildings to construct. There are no units to build. All of this is done before you ever enter into any sort of a battle, and that means there is basically no micromanagement in the game. Now, this works for Total War games, because there's a lot you can do with your individual units, and those games do not play like your traditional RTS. In Dreamlords, however, the gameplay is set up like any old WarCraft or Command and Conquer game. Suffice to say, there isn't much strategy. If anything, Dreamlords is more like an RTS-lite.