One of the hallmarks of an MMO is a persistent world. That is, a world that is always there even when you are logged off, and many things are going on as the world is shared by numerous players. Technically, Dreamlords has a persistent world. There is land that can be fought over by players, and there are numerous players that share the world and fight in it, but even still, it doesn't feel any more persistent than, say, Battle.Net.
You cannot attack land that is controlled by someone else in any non-consensual way. That also means that you need someone online to attack to even have a chance of getting that land. You will never see another player unless you happen to see their avatar standing around on the PvP islands waiting for someone to challenge them to a PvP match, or unless you actually get into a match with someone else. This pretty much means that Dreamlords is persistent, but is really little more than a fancy lobby. You basically would get the same experience if you fired up any old RTS and looked at a server list for available players.
Also, the game is played in 'Eras' and when an era ends, everything is wiped. Your town is gone, your land is gone, your units are gone, etc... This is done to keep the game in some semblance of balance, so that one player doesn't get to the top and rule from then on - that is probably a good thing too. You also get to keep your Dreamlord and all of his statistics as you go along. However, even with that, it doesn't make the world feel truly persistent, since you know everything will be gone at the end of the era.
Tribute, Free to Play, and an Uncertain Future
Speaking of the end of an era, I was getting ready to lay into the subscription and microtransaction methods of this game. Dreamlords was set up so that you could play for free, but you could also buy a premium account. A premium account gave you a ton of benefits that would, effectively, make you more powerful than a free player. You could also buy tribute, which let you purchase items, build up stats, and other assorted things, that made you even more powerful compared to other players. So, technically Dreamlords was free to play, but if you wanted to have any hope of competing, it was anything but. Your money got you an awful lot more than just cosmetic items.
However, I was using past tense for a reason. This is no longer the case. In fact, Dreamlords is now 100% free to play, and there is no longer an option to buy tribute or get a premium account. Now, while that might sound great at first, you might also wonder how they're brining in revenue. The answer is, they aren't. Lockpick Entertainment, the developers of Dreamlords, filed for bankruptcy at the end of July. While they want to keep the game running, the future right now is uncertain.
I almost feel bad giving the game a low score in light of that, but at the same time, it also highlights the quality of the game itself. In all honesty, I didn't even find it to be that bad while playing, but when stepping back and looking at it, it really was a poor experience. The gameplay was far too RTS-lite, lacking much in the way of strategy, the presentation was poor, and it was just darn confusing. I still don't know what Wraiths do, other than the fact that they're "support" units. I think they heal my other troops, but I'm not positive. There's nothing to tell me one way or the other.
In the end, while the web game was fun, and the RTS was... well, it passed some time, I guess, I understand why Lockpick ended up in a bad financial position. I give them props for trying to tackle the MMORTS, as it is a daunting genre to go after, but this one is just another failure. In the end though, the game does do exactly what the designers intended for it to do, and it is solid. I never experienced a single crash, or noticed any real bugs. Regretfully, the design itself just wasn't good.