When Dragonica Online launched in October, its first major expansion was released just a few weeks later. While that expansion implemented the pet system and expanded the land, the team over at THQ*ICE is making sure to keep things fresh as more content updates were set to roll out on January 26th. I got to check out the current state of the game, preview some of the new content, and to take a peek at the new server.
For anyone who hasn't played, Dragonica Online is a free-to-play 3-D MMO sidescroller. The game contains many traditional MMORPG features, such as quests, crafting, weapon and item enhancement, and a class-based skill tree, all set in a fantasy world full of magic and conflict. Going beyond all that are gameplay elements that borrow from and blend several genres, all with a sense of fun and cartoonish humor. The emphasis is on fast action and there are combos to execute and unlock. Utilize these often and earn XP modifier bonuses. Just by attacking in different ways, combat changes. I especially loved the skill where my character jumped up, took out a giant cartoon hammer and smacked the unlucky foes in front of me to bits.
During my time spent on the new Dekard server, I got to check out a quest to find and eventually slay the mad scientist Dr. Farrell, who is mutating animals into something more sinister. The dungeon that leads to Farrell is full of poisonous gas, traps, and packs of enemies. It took me up ladders, across platforms via some tricky jumping (the game's keyboard-based controls do take some getting used to), bouncing up walls, avoiding spiky traps and giant lasers -- all while being pursued by a bunch of baddies. It all felt a little Indiana Jones to me, and not surprisingly. It was explained that dungeon design is intended to have a one-versus-many, heroic feel to exploration and combat. That definitely shows.
Each dungeon is structured this way, having several floors and sub-bosses to make it past before the final battle takes place. The game's 3-D setting really opens up various aspects of the environment. Most impressive were some powerful lasers moving around on the floor immediately before Farrell's lab, and during the battle with Farrell himself. The lasers were tricky since there was already a lot going on with the smaller enemies and Farrell himself, whose multiple attacks I had to avoid.
The dungeons in Dragonica Online are all instanced, with the experience customizable to each player's preferred degree of challenge and play style. Each has its own setting and challenges. For instance, getting through the dungeon and opening the portal to Farrell required five keys from five different tough sub-bosses. There are four difficulty level settings to each regular dungeon, letting players solo or choose to group with up to a full party of four. The dungeons, while keyed to certain levels, are also accessible beyond the recommended range. Time was also something the developers kept in mind, as these dungeons take anywhere from a few minutes to just about an hour to complete. Your reward is based upon the selected difficulty and on your performance during the mission, with the ability to return again to best your previous scores and earn better loot. I got to choose a ball at the end and received three items, including an item that enabled armor bonuses.
With the January debut of the newest server, Dekard, the new content that will accompany it focuses upon adding new challenges to the current game. The highlights are for mid-level characters and those at or near the cap of 65. The new mid-level dungeon for those around level 30 is called the Temple of Water. This dungeon, true to its name, takes place in an underwater temple and promises something nasty lurking underneath the waves to defeat. Also set to debut is the Van Cliff Mansion for higher-level characters that adds some spooky darkness to the game. Take a mysterious mansion, a creepy count, and a series of weird events that include people turning up with a sudden thirst for blood and you have Dragonica's new vampire-themed storyline and accompanying dungeon. Van Cliff Mansion will feature several new enemies, including Count Van Cliff himself, and an extremely tough Bone Dragon. It's a bit too late for Halloween, but with vampires so popular right now, it's end-level content that many will likely appreciate.
Overall, the game offers an extremely fun experience and is very polished for a free-to-play title. The new content should keep players interested and keep the game fresh. Dekard will feature the same content as the current server, but will give new players a chance to be level and current players a fresh start. In order to introduce the server, THQ*ICE will be hosting several welcome events, including XP bonuses starting when all the new features launch.