The Open Beta for Dragon’s Prophet begins tonight at 5pm Pacific time for anyone who has the ability to sign up for a free account. Founders were given a 24 hour head start, and I want to be forthcoming in stating that SOE provided me with one of said packs to review the game. As such, I’ve dabbled for a few hours so far, tamed some dragons, cooked some minced meat, and quested my butt off. Our series of Review in Progress articles will begin next week (because, as with Neverwinter, the cash shop is up and running), but in honor of its Open Beta launch I thought I’d write up a few first impressions now that I’ve begun my adventures proper and not with a buffed character for a press tour.
The first thing that took me by surprise about Dragon’s Prophet was how in-depth the character customization is. It’s quite like Aion in that just about every bit of your character’s looks and body shape and size can be altered. It’s a welcome change of pace when you compare it to other MMOs which give you a few sliders and call it a day. I will note however that you might not want to bother with worrying about armor dye colors, as you’ll wind up replacing those starting armors within minutes of beginning the game. You’re all humans though, no dwarves, elves, or anything like that here. The variety is in how you can craft your look and your dragons, and that will be plenty I’d wager.
The tutorial is quick and painless, and sets up the story of the game. Big bad dragon named Kronos trying to do bad things... got it. The character models are actually pretty nice, when graphics are turned up, but the run animations are somehow stilted. You’ll see what I mean when the soldiers in the tutorial start running around in their hotpants.
Once the tutorial is over, it’s great to see that Dragon’s Prophet offers three distinct areas to begin your quest in. Most MMOs these days seem to have forgotten that in a theme park multiple paths through content is a good thing. It’s nice to see Runewaker hasn’t forgotten that. Questing itself however is about as basic as you can get: an endless series of kill this, collect that, and so forth. The combat, which is something between skill-shots and soft-targeting, is fast-paced and fun enough to make doing these chores entertaining. If it were still tab-target and 1-10, I’d be a sad panda. In this regard, DP reminds me a lot of TERA and in a good way.
You’ll aim in the general direction of your target, and it will be highlighted to let you know you’ve got it in your sights. Your left and right click, like a good ARPG, have two different basic attacks. But these change based on how many times you click, so that different combinations create, well... combos. There are quite a few to be discovered, and in combination with skills assigned to Q, E, and R you’ll pull off a lot of really fancy maneuvers. The game tracks all of it in the UI as well. The actual combat can feel floaty and disconnected at times, but that might be an issue with lag more than anything. You'll shoot an arrow, it'll hit, and the hit will register a second or two later: that kind of thing.
The UI had better be comprehensive like that too, because there’s a whole lot of systems tied to it in Dragon’s Prophet. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of dragon taming, training, collecting, skill-upping... oh, and your character gets attribute points to spend every level too. Plus there’s all these different enhancements you can put on items, crafting, item leveling, dragon armor, dragon leveling... this game may wind up a control freak’s dream. There’s just so much you can alter and tweak about each dragon, as well as your character.
But what about the cash shop, you might ask? Well, you’ll be happy to hear that prices seem really reasonable so far. Like everything SOE, DP uses Station Cash, and you can unlock bag space, dragon stable slots, and stuff like that for just a dollar here or there. Re-specs of your attribute points, as Rob pointed out to me, will cost you roughly $3.75 but are free until level 15 (which you’ll pass within a few hours). Everything in the shop is aimed at convenience over power, really. Die in a place you’d rather not have to trek to from town? Spend fifty cents and rez on the spot. Want to increase the amount of resources your dragon comes back with? Spend a buck. Want to look shiny in some cosmetic armor? Spend ten bucks. (Note: I bought some of said armors, but with the station cash that comes with the free founder’s pack. I know, I’m a freeloader.)
I will only briefly touch on the fact that SOE lowered the cost of their Founder Packs at the last minute, giving people who waited longer a much better deal than those who bought in early. In short? It was a crappy move to smack your early adopters like that, and hopefully SOE will somehow make it up to those players with more than a 24-hour head-start on Open Beta.
Now, back to the Station Cash store. Some might call it store "nickel & diming”, but really none of it is necessary to your enjoyment of the game. It’s all just geared towards making things more convenient for you. You can increase your crafting success chances with pennies on the dollar, for instance, but not by any great deal. The jury’s still out of course, as I need more time to play, but right now nothing in the store is screaming “greed” or “overpriced” It all seems fair so far. I know these guys want to make money to feed their families, and as a truly F2P title, they seem to be going about it the right way and without exorbitant prices. Maybe after another recent F2P release I'm just coming into this one with low expectations, but still... it's nice to be able to see myself actually spending money on DP because the prices are more reasonable.
One final note before next week’s first Review in Progress: localization is definitely still a work in progress with this “Open Beta”. Voiceovers don’t quite match the subtitles in many cases, and tooltips often have bugged indicators so that “null_NONAME” or some other such nonsense is what you see instead of the proper stats.
I’m really intrigued to keep digging into this one. Crafting seems simple, but diverse, the dragon system as a whole is incredibly deep, and I’m really curious to see what the housing and large scale PVP at the elder game is all about too. One interesting thing that seems to cater towards SOE/Runewaker’s philosophy of letting their players play however they want to play is that the very first dungeon in the game has two modes: a solo “exploration mode” that is easier and has less rewards, and a 3-person difficult mode that may be harder but has much more to offer adventurous groups. I hope this is something that actually continues throughout the game. This way anyone can see the game’s content, in whatever way they choose.
Oh, and taming a dragon might seem easy when you try to do it to a regular old random world dragon... but watch out for the rare ones. He beat me bloody, drained my dragon taming juice, and had me spend 200 SC on instant revives...only to make me kill him before I could tame him. Wild Thresher, you will never be mine.
Dragon’s Prophet, at first real glance into this Open Beta, seems like a very deep and enticing experience. But it’s certainly in need of some polishing, client optimization, and localization before review time hits. We’ll tackle all of that in our review in progress pieces to come. For now, let’s hope the team is up to the task.
Have you started playing Dragon’s Prophet yet? If so, what do you think so far?
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.