With a week off due to E3 getting in the way (darn you, new awesome games in the pipeline), I’m back into Auratia grinding my way through Runewaker’s Dragon’s Prophet. I say that not as a turn-of-phrase, but as the truth. Into my 20s now, I can truly see that folks who enjoy killing mobs as a way to level through content will be right at home (as will those who like the typical kill/collect quest system). But for me? Well, it’s boring me to tears right now and that’s a real shame given DP’s other redeeming qualities. But let me elaborate in this week’s Review in Progress: Dragon’s Prophet.
Let’s start with the bad from this week so far: questing and all around adventuring in Dragon’s Prophet is a chore, folks. Like TERA before it, there’s just not a lot novel about the way you comb through the game’s content. You run to town, collect a bunch of quests, run out to marks on your map, kill a bunch of stuff, and then go back and repeat. If you’re a fan of the old school grinding away on mobs, and don’t mind running back and forth, you’ll be fine in Auratia’s content. But me? After a week spent playing games like Elder Scrolls and WildStar, and seeing and hearing the future of MMOs in Destiny, EQNext, and The Division... same old-same questing just doesn’t really cut it anymore.
ESO manages to present the “theme-park” in the same vein as the TES games: you’re not running errands, you’re partaking in a story and doing stuff that matters. WildStar is the same. There are exclamation marks in Carbine’s game, but the mechanics of each quest are usually unique enough that the method in which you receive the task aren’t really an issue. In Dragon’s Prophet? It’s very clearly the designer’s decision to just put a bunch of NPCs in the world, give them meaningless tasks, and have you complete them to progress through the game. Heck, at some points, you’ll notice that to make sure there are enough quests, special “daily” ones are in each town. But they’re not daily. You can do them as often as you wish, and they reward about half as much XP as regular quests.
Heck, this is the first time I’ve wished there was an XP increase potion to buy and speed things up. There are little items that clone and store your mob-kill XP. Once filled to the brim, you can use it and get a nice hefty bonus of XP. The downside to this is that the bonus isn’t immediate, but 50K bonus XP in one fell swoop is a nice little booster. Add to that that the entire progression through the zones is so overtly linear, and I can’t help wanting to skip all this early content to get to the housing, and eventual Frontier PVP that’s coming down the pike in an update (hopefully before this review is finalized in a few weeks). There’s no exploration, no sense of story or intrigue to mask the linearity, and it’s not long after the tutorial before you realize you’re just being led along through herds of tightly packed mobs to slay.
You’ll also quite quickly find yourself under-leveling content. By the mid-twenties, you’ll run out of regular quests faster than you can gain levels. And then you’ll have to resort to the dailies or just grinding. Or you could spend a few bucks on an XP bauble, right? Clever, SOE, clever.
The downside to all my complaints about the questing is that it detracts from the rather redeeming qualities of Dragon’s Prophet: the dragon system and character progression. Both are deep and addictive, and easily the game’s shining points. But they’re overshadowed by the lack of novelty in the game’s core adventuring and the fact that there’s little to no explanation of either system. In fact, a lot of the more complex parts of DP are left unexplained. That’s not a bad thing for some, but tutorials for something as integral to the experience as the Dragon Stable would be really welcome. Crafting is another such system, and one that you can really make some nice gear with if you have your dragons farming a lot of materials for you. But again, you’ll have to puzzle out its intricacies yourself as there’s no real guidance on how it all works.
Okay... this one was all negative, but I guess that’s how I’m feeling right now about Dragon’s Prophet. A lot of good stuff, overshadowed by mundane questing and poorly detailed systems. I’m going to keep slogging through the content, and I’ll use some of my free XP doohickies to do so if I must. But if I get to the point where housing and PVP begin and it was all for nothing, I’ll be one sad panda. Nothing quite like plowing through the slow parts of a game only to be confronted with a reward that’s less than exciting. Runewaker and SOE have some really promising features in Dragon’s Prophet... it just needs more spit and polish. Heck, I can't even give you new screenshots from this week because Fraps still doesn't work with DP. I just get black screens. The game really shouldn’t be in Open Beta and taking money just yet, but I know everyone needs to make a living. I just hope they manage to apply some coats of paint and fast before the gaming world stops caring about how to train their dragons.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.