I’ve had the pleasure of diving into the open beta and live game for Nexon and EyeDentity Games’ Dragon Nest over the past few days and while I wasn’t expecting much from this dungeon-crawling action-MMO I came away quite impressed with what I found. It’s not going to change your mind if you’re not a fan of this type of dungeon-romp, but if what you’re looking for is fun combat with tons of loot, a decent fantasy setting and story, and lots of people to play with then Dragon Nest is definitely a game to try.
During my first few hours with the game, I slaughtered a charging troll boss, a massive shielded orc, and took out a so-big-I-got-nervous-at-first minotaur in the depths of some creepy ruins. The setting and enemies of Dragon Nest are cliché, but the art work and presentation are anything but. With fantastically captured cinematic segues during the game’s dungeons, the games does a fantastic job of giving players a tale to follow without forcing them to read thousands of lines of text. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of text during the accepting and turning in of quests in town, but this “movie” approach to the action during dungeon-romps is a pretty cool way to add some flair even if it’s not 100% new.
The story’s pretty “Squaresoft” (not Square-Enix) if you ask me. The gist is that the creator of the game’s world is poisoned by her evil counterpart and sister. The only antidote must be made by using the source of the poison itself… a grail held by the evil sister Vestinel. The grail’s long since disappeared though, and as a Hero of Lagendia and Altera, you’ll spend your time working your way through the story on a quest to find the grail, wake her, and save the world from The Big Bad Evil™.
The character creation is fairly straightforward. Like so many games before it you’ll choose from a warrior, a sorceress, an archer, and a cleric. The classes are gender-locked, not unlike Nexon’s other action-MMOs, and the customization of their looks at the outset is limited. I’m assuming this changes as you play the game and get more loot, and of course access to the game’s store where countless costume pieces will wind up being sold. As you level, the four classes split into eight, as follows.
There’s also a long list of reportedly “to come” classes ranging from Sniper to Pyromancer and even an Academic class I believe. Though we’ll have to see how long it takes Nexon and EyeDentity to add these in, the eight eventual classes the core game has is more than enough for some solid dungeon-running fun.
The true shining point of Dragon Nest is easily its combat. Using a similar over-the-shoulder system to Vindictus, your characters attacks are controlled by left-clicking the mouse for weapon combos, right-clicking for special moves like kicks and flying elbows (you read that right) and the hotkeys for spells and skills. Throw it all together with the fact that you can actually dodge incoming attacks, and you have a very active combat system that makes dungeon-romping in Dragon Nest an excellent way to spend an evening. You can’t just dodge constantly though, as each time you do a special move such as a jump or a dodge, you have to wait on a cool-down so timing is key. Though admittedly in my first few hours I haven’t had much trouble with the difficulty, I’m told things get quite hairy on the harder dungeons and as you level.
In between all the hacking and slashing, you’ll of course be in town doing the normal things such as repairing items, trading things, enhancing gear (think enchantments) and making friends… with NPCs. That’s right one of the big things about Dragon Nest is that many NPCs in the game’s towns can be made friends with, and spending the time and effort to do so can yield some pretty nifty rewards, titles, and other bonuses. This is done by obtaining and gifting items to the NPCs as well as by merely talking to and questing for them each. It’s a nice little feature that gives each person in a town their own distinct personality, something lacking from many games.
Dragon Nest really surprised me with how fun it is, as all of Nexon’s games tend to do lately. They do the action-MMO thing quite well, and their item shops never seem too steep or cheap to boot. I can’t say yet whether this is a game I’d spend a significant chunk of time with, but I can tell it’s one I’ll gladly hop into now and again because it’s perfectly crafted for quick play-sessions and it’s easy to find groups as well. Based on the early experience, I fully expect Dragon Nest to be a blast all the way through. Look for our full review in coming weeks.