Runewaker is the Taiwan studio best known for the “WoW-alike” Runes of Magic, a F2P game that has enjoyed a great amount of success over the years. Say what you will about the WoW model of MMORPG, it’s durability over the years and Runes of Magic’s venerable success across the globe are nothing to scoff at. Ergo, one might expect Runewaker to do little more than make Runes of Magic 2: Electric Boogaloo. Color me surprised that when I logged into Dragon’s Prophet (to be published by SOE here in the West), what I found instead was a game that’s startling different from the rest of the also-rans out there. There are plenty of fantasy tropes (the game is entirely based on dragons), kill this and fetch this missions, and your usual loot and gear grind are ever-present. But what drew me in, aside from the action-based combat, was just how free I was to make what I could of my character and his dragons. Dragon’s prophet is a surprisingly enticing MMORPG with a good mix of theme-park and sandbox to please fans of each. Color me interested, and I’ll be watching this one from now on.
A little while back, I was able to go on a tour through the current beta build of Dragon’s Prophet with SOE Producer Todd Carson. Todd and I spent most of our time experimenting with the combat, going over the basics of the game, and exploring the dragon taming and training. For those who are unaware (I’m being facetious here), Dragon’s Prophet is all about collecting and taming dragons. The basics of the story, which I’ll admit is not something that jumped out at me, is that a big bad dragon one tried to wipe all other dragons off the face of the map. Now, though there’s a fragile peace, evil is stirring and it will of course be your job to defend the world from Kronos (the bad dragon, duh).
There are four classes in DP: the Sorcerer, the Oracle, the Ranger, and the Guardian. Each of them have their own unique combat mechanics, weapons and armor. But there is no Trinity in the title. Dragon’s Prophet is a sort of action-MMO in that everyone performs the role of DPS, but based on your skills selections for your class, and those of your dragons, you can fill other roles as well. For instance, the dragon that Todd gave my press character in the beta video below had a special soul-attuned skill that allowed my Ranger a self-heal. There are deep and varied skill-trees for each class, and you can unlock and save several “builds” with Station Cash so that you can switch between roles at will.
Yes, SC will play a part in Dragon’s Prophet, but considering there is no purchase and no subscription, I’m quite pleased to report that as of our beta test experience and per Todd’s words: most (if not all) of what you find in the cash shop will be convenience items. The teams at Runewaker and SOE are both committed to making sure that you can get the entire experience of DP simply through playing. It’s broadening that experience (more dragon slots to keep and train more dragons at once, more skill build slots, more bags, more character slots) that will cost SC. They’re also going to allow players to pay pennies on the dollar to instantly resurrect from where they fall, as opposed to running back to where you were from a waypoint. This is something that will be cheap, Todd says, but I can certainly say it’ll wind up being something I’d be willing to spend money on in a pinch. I don’t mind this kind of transaction, as long as it doesn’t tie into PVP as well.
The dragon’s themselves are one of the game’s greatest features. With hundreds ready for taming in the game at launch, all with their own unique skills and abilities, plus the ability to wear certain armor and gear, there’s a lot of depth to each one you train. But that’s not where the fun ends with the dragons. You also can use them to harvest crafting materials, train them up while you’re offline or they’re not in use with your character, and you can choose what stats they excel at as well. Need a tanky dragon? Make one. Need a DPS dragon to help your tanky hero? Figure it out!
What’s more is that each and every dragon you tame in the wild has its own randomly generated stats and skills. Some will have very basic abilities, but the very one next to that might have some epic skills you could use (like the self-heal I mentioned earlier). And maybe you find one dragon that you like the looks of, and another you like the skills of? You can try, with varying degrees of success, to use one to train the other and then release the one you didn’t want. For though there are hundreds of dragons in the wild, you can only ever handle a total of twelve per character. You’re effectively tasked with building a “dragon deck” based on what you like to do as a player.
I haven’t even begun to talk about the combat, but if you’ve played TERA, you’ll be at home here. You can only have handful of active skills on your hotbar at any one time, and your left and right mouse buttons each perform different attacks. What’s more is that you can combo them together. Click the left mouse (basic attack) once, and your right mouse attack changes. Click it twice, and it changes again. It’s simplistic, but delightfully fun to play with. Add in your more limited use abilities on the hotbar (think of them as special skills) and you have the makings of a very fun way to kill ten whatevers. How deep the combat goes in groups remains to be seen, but Todd tells us there are a host of dungeons in the game, and without the trinity he believes you won’t have trouble finding people to play with.
Lastly, though we only touched on it briefly in the first video above, there’s a big focus on sandbox MMO-ing in Dragon’s Prophet as well once you’ve leveled up your character a bit. The Frontier System will allow you to claim your own plot of land, build a house, decorate it, and defend it from onrushing usurpers as well. No instanced housing here. Now, that doesn’t mean every house will be susceptiblee to attack. If you just want a place to call your own in the peaceful areas of the Frontier, that can be the case. But there are also going to be floating islands where your guild can form alliances with other guilds and lay claim and construct fortresses. These plots of conquerable territory, according to Runewaker, will make up the larger portion of the game’s elder-PVP.
Overall, I’m quite impressed with Dragon’s Prophet so far. It really needs a good heaping helping of bug fixes and localization before it’s ready for prime time here, but if SOE and Runewaker continue to polish the experience and don’t screw things up too badly in the Station Cash store, we could all be in for a Free to Play game that’s worth diving whole-hog into.