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Drakensang Online Column: Game Hopper Visits Duria

By Suzie Ford on December 21, 2011

In this recurring column at MMORPG.com, our goal is to take turns giving you brief glimpses at some of the games which just don’t get enough coverage for any number of reasons.  Look at our Game List.  Many aren’t MMORPGs, but almost all are MMOs of one form or another.  Then count the number of reviews we have for them.  We’re addressing this, as quickly and as efficiently as we can, but the simple truth is that a lot of games fly under the radar.  So, with The Game Hopper, we plan on bringing you a new game every week that you might not know much about.  We’ll do some brief impressions and an overview on the game and then let you guys chime in with your own thoughts.

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The open beta for BigPoint's Drakensang Online began in mid-August of this year with the laudable goal that players would be able to enjoy the game from the first moment they arrive. As a browser-based F2P online massive multiplayer action RPG, Drakensang Online developers hoped to step in line with other action RPGs such as Torchlight and Diablo II with the noticeable difference that players would not be limited to grouping in a lobby of sorts but would be able to see one another in quest areas and hubs. Drakensang Online is based on a series of single-player RPGs from Radon Labs takes place in the mythical setting of Duria.

Here's how it's described on the official site:

In this mystical world full of wonder and peril, long-forgotten creatures have started to re-emerge from the shadows of history. After witnessing the rise of humans, these creatures were pushed to the brink of extinction and forced into hiding. Their world crumbled and a new empire was born. Their world crumbled and a new empire was born. Yet time has broken the new order that was meant to last for an eternity, and dark minions have gathered their strength and unleashed humanity's oldest foe:

The dragon. Filled with a terrifying wrath built up over centuries, the dragon and its followers now wage a brutal war on the world. A deadly new era is dawning and humanity needs a new kind of hero to fight for the very survival of mankind.

Stepping into Drakensang is like entering the home of an old friend. As expected, the classes fall into familiar, if way overused, categories. Players can choose from the Dragon Knight, Spellweaver or Ranger classes with a fourth as-yet unnamed class to be added at a later date. Customization is a bit on the low side but, really, it doesn't matter. After all, players spend most of their time looking at the back of their character's head so there you have it.

Once class and gender are chosen, players are immediately placed into the game world and, as developers hoped, they are instantly able to play from the first baby steps in the world. The world is murky and dark and players are tasked with making their way to the first major quest hub with a short beginner's area in between.

Combat is standard point-and-click with a terrific and welcome addition. When targeting a monster, characters will continue to attack until it dies and then automatically move to the next closest target. For a ranged fighter, this was pretty awesome though those who are purists might find it a bit cheap. To that I say "meh". It's a nice feature though it could be argued that developers could make auto-targeting opponents a "toggle-able" feature.

Up to the point I played (level 10), there isn't a huge variety of monsters but what is lacking in uniqueness is more than made up for in sheer numbers. To say that players are swarmed every step of their journey is a gross understatement! Luckily, at least in the earliest stages of the game, monsters are pretty easily defeated when battled on commensurate levels. When they are defeated, some critters will drop healing balls that can be instantly sucked up by the player as needed. Bosses will drop healing balls at various stages of their decline rather than only at the end of the battle. This is terrifically nice since, as we all know, some bosses can take a good long while to finally die.

Loot is liberally dropped as well and most weapons and armor can be customized by filling available slots. Interestingly, Drakensang also uses 'cabinets' in cities where players can drop in four of any item to create something new. For instance, drop in four swords, get a new magical sword. If two swords, an axe and a shield are dropped in, the statistical chance of getting a sword drops to 50% with the other 50% being a randomly generated item. It sort of reminds me of the Diablo II Horadric Cube with less predictable results.

Drakensang is also peppered with dungeons that can be played on normal and heroic difficulty levels. These dungeons can be quest-related but can also be entered into at will. The dungeon I fought through contained a boatload of monsters, several treasure chests and at least three bosses. All in all a good time for the old action RPGer!

As stated earlier about the auto-targeting system, there are several really nice touches that are included in the game. The map can be viewed as an overlay very similar to Diablo II and it makes it very easy to see where you are and where you're going.

When logging in to the Drakensang Online site, you're immediately taken to your character's stat screen before entering into the game. That's just a nice touch. You can see how much currency you've collected, what your Glory (PvP) level is and much more. For some reason, that really appealed to me.

There are some things about Drakensang that might make players scratch their heads or slam their fists into the keyboard at times. None of them are game-ending but they can be annoying. For instance, pathing is very strange and it's easy to get caught behind things in the environment. Since there is no jumping, it's impossible to do anything except back up and go around. Obviously, this is nothing unique to Drakensang but it seemed to me that getting trapped behind a tree happened more often than I'm used to as a rule.

Something else that grated on my nerves a bit was how difficult loot can be to find in and among all of the dang healing balls that drop. There is not an auto-loot option, at least that I'm aware of, so dropped currency in particular is very hard to find if it's under the pile. Armor and items are a bit easier as you can see a visual representation of what is dropped.

Lastly, there is no quest tracker and you're forced to open your journal to see what it is that you're supposed to be doing. In a single quest at a time type game, this isn't a big deal but when you've collected 4-5 quests to finish, all with different locations needed, it gets a bit frustrating to have to constantly be opening/closing your quest journal. There also aren't any location markers to even give you the general vicinity to which you need to travel. Again, old schoolers will rejoice in this as it definitely isn't "dumbed down" for casuals.

For those who are ready to kick it old style, it is well worth the time to check out Drakensang Online. Don't cheat yourself by saying, "It's just a browser game." It's so much better than that and is worth the time to investigate. I loved every minute of my time there and have plans to revisit Anderworld. Perhaps I won't be there everyday playing obsessively but Drakensang is a terrific pick up game for a quick and satisfying action-RPG experience. I am impressed with Drakensang and look forward to the new class and the game's second expansion, Norselands.

Leap on over to the Drakensang Online site to get started!

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