Nexon bust the F2P market wide open in the West with Maple Story. But that was only the tip of the iceberg it seems, as their recently released Dungeon Fighter Online is currently sporting the most registered users (over 220 million), and the company isn't keen on resting on its laurels either. There are two more titles forthcoming from the publisher in the near future, and all three have a singular focus: fast-paced action and RPG character development at the lovely price of "free". At this year's E3 I had the pleasure of sitting in on Nexon's presentation highlighting three of their most exciting games on deck.
Dungeon Fighter Online
Of the three, this is the only title players can currently get their hands on as both Vindictus and Dragon Nest aren't quite ready to debut on North American shores. DFO is a throwback to the fighting games of old. If you can recall hours spent enjoying Battletoads, Double Dragon, Final Fight, and the like... then you likely have every reason to get excited about Dungeon Fighter if you haven't already. The game's engine sports impressively animated 2D sprites and animations with an art style that's distinctly anime as well as both serious and over-the-top in tone.
I watched and laughed as the trailer we were shown displayed a Gunner who called upon a massive robotic arm to come in and clear the screen of enemies. It literally took up 90% of the screen real estate, and reminded me of the specials in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. But aside from all the crazy action and console-esque fights, there's a wealth of class and character customization. Like in any MMORPG, you level up as you fight, gaining access to new spells and skills and combos, as well as new gear and items to equip your player with. It may not be the deepest of experiences out there for those looking for their next great time sink, but for players looking for something quick and fun to play it's hard to deny the appeal of DFO.
Known as Mabinogi Heroes in the Asian territories, Vindictus is westernized name of Nexon's incredible looking F2P Action-MMO. Using the Source Engine, Nexon has made a truly gorgeous game. The physics allow clothes to react accordingly to your character's movement, and the scenery and set pieces to crumble and fall as it should when you destroy it with a swing of your sword. As with all the titles in the presentation, the focus of Vindictus is all about action. Players won't be using hotkeys to trigger abilities, and instead will have to rely on their own skill and reflexes to make it in the world. Nexon is promising a wealth of character customization through enchantments and craftable items, and considering that too much damage can break your items, chances are you'll want to be on the lookout for the ingredients necessary to craft yourself some good equipment. Garrett had the chance to play the game on the show floor, and will be fill you in later on just how Vindictus plays.
The last game previewed at the presentation was Dragon Nest, developed by Eyedentity Games. Currently released in Korea, Nexon will be bringing the game to North America later this year or early 2011. Featuring a more cartoonish anime art style with a dark, twist Dragon Nest is also a game that prides itself on the Action-MMO moniker. The game begins with four classes. The melee of which will be up in the action using at the press of a button in a sort of hack-n-slash manner, while the ranged classes will often find themselves using an over-the-shoulder view to fire projectiles at the enemies. Nothing is handled with a highlight-targeting mechanic; it's all in real time. In addition, the game's dungeons are randomly generated much akin to titles like Diablo, and players will do most of their socializing in designated hub areas where they can trade, obtain quests, and sell gear and items. Look for more on Dragon Nest as the game enters the beta phase later this year.
The tone of Nexon's presentation this year seems to be "Action for Free". All three titles on display had a distinct focus on action-packed gameplay and titles that can be played for fifteen minutes at a time or several hours. As with all Nexon games, when you purchase points to spend in one game they'll be spendable across all their titles, and CEO Daniel Kim assured me that the item shops will focus more on optional bonuses and cosmetic items as opposed to "Pay-to-Win" items that could give players a competitive edge over others. The main thing I took away from the show was that Nexon seems to have a real commitment to quality in their titles. Both Vindictus and Dragon Nest seemed like the kind of games I'd gladly pay a box price for (though not necessarily a subscription), and players will be able to download and play all three for free without ever spending a dime. If things play out for Nexon the way they hope, players will have a hard time ignoring the F2P market in the next year or so.