DK Online (Dragon Knights Online) is the latest title from Aeria Games, the F2P publishing giant behind titles such as Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine. It’s billed as one of their premier titles and is focused on a heavily PvP-oriented world. But behind the promotion and the bold billings, what you’ll find in DK Online is a game that you’ll play for ten minutes and no more.
DK Online is a well-crafted game, I’ll give it that. It’s full of color and creativity in its design. Although the engine isn't quite up to speed with what is on the current market. But for those who can look past this it’s a comfortable entry among other MMOs of this calibre. Clipping bugs and sound bugs are also apparent. The UI is very easy to navigate and is similar to TERA. Aesthetically DK Online is not quite up to scratch with some of the titles we have on the market at the moment. But it is a fitting addition to the free-to-play world, in that aspect.
Let’s get this straight before I delve further into the gameplay: DK Online is a theme park MMO. It’s a grinder and by no means is it a PvP centric game, even though it is promoted as this. Starting with character creation, classes and races are gender-locked. It’s disappointing, and from this, I was uninterested in character creation and just wanted to jump straight into the game. It’s odd to see this in a modern MMO, as these kinds of things used to happen four or five years ago. To me, it feels like the developers have rushed the game, minimizing the timeframe from development to release. Character customization is also incredibly minimal, with really no customisation whatsoever. Choosing from a set of faces, hair, accessories and face decoration, doesn’t really give any sense of individuality.
For a MMO that has just released, you’d expect to see it filled with players. I saw a couple on my travels but not as many as I thought I would have. Maybe they realized early what they were in for?
From creating my character, I logged in and quite typically you’re pitted on a “beginners island” so to speak. Here you’ll get to learn the basic mechanics of the game and get to grips with the quests, up until around the tenth level.
Questing isn’t anything interesting either: it involves you picking up quests from different NPC’s, requiring you to fight numbers of monsters. When I say numbers, I mean a lot. This is where it becomes quite a grind. To the point where you are receiving multiple quests that require you to slay up to twenty monsters at a time. Combine this with the tab-targeting combat system and it doesn’t make for anything new or interesting.
Again the gameplay is very basic and unchallenging. Advancement is carried out through talent trees. All classes have two trees and are generally based around defensive or offensive builds. To some degree this does provide variety. Each tree has a different tier which is unlocked when X amount of points are spent in the previous tier. The skills that you get when progressing are often just rehashed versions of previous skills, with the same animation but a different name. Again this gives off the sense that the developers intended to minimize the time they spent developing the game.
You’ll find leveling towards the end of the game a chore, rather than enjoyable. Lack of quests towards the end of leveling force you to grind the a lot of the way. Open dungeons practically force you into this, with what seems endless repetition inside.
Throughout DK Online the gameplay isn’t anything special. In fact it’s full of Korean influences, with its limited character customisation and grind-focused gameplay. It may appeal to those who have hours to spend, but for the MMO player that is looking for depth and consistent gameplay throughout, this isn’t for you.
Innovation is a key thing in MMOs. It’s something which can either help an MMO become huge, or completely flop. As you’ve probably assumed by now, DK Online isn’t anything special and neither are it’s supposed innovative features. Castle Sieges were the feature I was most looking forward to playing.
They were fun in the onset, storming a castle with a boat load of players, vying for control of points, until the entire thing was taken. But after a few runs, what at first glance was fun turned into an unorganized and pointless mess. It’s a good feature, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re looking for solid siege battles, go have a crack at Guild Wars 2.
Shapeshifting is DKO's other innovating feature, but it's more of a gimmick more than anything else. Much like the Castle Sieges, it becomes a fun novelty to use. You can shapeshift as early as the first level and the first set of 1-10 monsters are available in your registry as soon as you start the game. Each has their own stats and special abilities, which helps in a variety of different situations. I’d compare this alongside Final Fantasy XIII-2’s monster system, but instead of fighting alongside them, you actually become the selected monster. It’s a great mechanic, but eventually there is no real core use for the feature, so it just fades into the background, just like everything else in DKO.
DK Online is in a good need of a scrub up. It could use a graphical overhaul, in things like added shadows, lighting effects and particle effects. Each could make the game look and feel a lot prettier. Additionally, separate skill animations could also be implemented, instead of using the same standard animation for different skills. As explained previously, the Castle Siege system would benefit greatly from an overhaul. Organization and separate goals would make for longer and more interesting sieges.
DK Online boasts a raw, PvP-centric, experience in its marketing buzzwords. But what it offers is a bland leveling system and troublesome PvP. I don’t think we’ll be seeing this MMO on the market for much longer. By all means if you’d like a half-decent time waster, give DK Online a shot. But don’t expect to get lengthy amounts of content from it.
Again, I’m staying in the middle with my scoring of DK Online. Socially, it is neither good or bad. At the time, I must have caught the game as it was going down the slope. I didn’t run into that many players on my journey, and by all means were they not keen to stop and group up for a while. At times it became a bit of a chore; I don’t think anyone loves grinding on their own.
Among all of this, the game is rife with gold sellers. Even on starting, the chat box is spammed with messages from different gold selling websites. A big F2P publisher such as this should have some form of system put a stop to this. Even so, DK Online isn’t the place to find new friends.
As it stands, DK Online, is a game that offers you some pretty good stuff for a free-to-play title. At the moment, there is no Item Shop, so there is no reason why you’re going to differ from any other player in the game. On top of this, the Castle Siege offer a good time waster, if you’re able to get into them that is.
There is an item shop to come at some point. But whether it will become a pay-to-win game, I do not know. EDIT: (At the time of my writing, there was no active item shop, but it was added recently, and this is what I've found. It does not alter the overall score for the game.) DK Online's item shop is as you would expect with these kinds of MMOs. Items such as mounts and costume pieces can only be purchased for a period of time, which seems excessively restrictive. I'm sure if you're going to put money into DK Online you'll want to have these items permanently. None the less, the item mall featured also offers: stat boosts, crafting boosts and items to knock off death penalty. to make your experience in-game all the more smooth. None of these are "Pay-to-win" pieces, so that's a relief.
DK Online is a frustrating mess of a game. It has its good moments, but mostly is a chore. Its grinding and generic leveling system are straight out of Korea and will likely make you switch off almost instantly. Castle Sieges and the Shapeshifting system breathe some life into this bland game, but only for a few brief moments. The Sieges themselves often become disorganized and pointless, while the Shapeshifting system, although useful at first, ends up fading into the background just like any other gimmick. DK Online is not worth a fuss over.