Dungeon Fighter Online originally was released in Korea and Japan, in 2005 and 2006 respectively, developed by Neople and currently published by Nexon. Planned to be a small game, and developed within five months, the public's response to this game greatly surprised the developers, and so the game was expanded. Assumedly, because of the overwhelming popularity of the game, an English version was planned and released June 9, 2010, by Nexon America. Using 2-dimensional "beat-em-up" gameplay and detailed sprite-style graphics, Dungeon Fighter boasted 300 million registered users as of May 25, 2011.
Using sprite graphics over detailed backgrounds, Dungeon Fighter Online takes us way back in video game history with its art and style, using a look that is pulled straight from older fighting games like Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, and Marvel vs Capcom. Backgrounds are widely varied and themed very well for the dungeons they represent, from haunted forests to aerial fortresses and underwater lairs.
The game does quite a good job at differentiating between things you can and cannot interact with, as interacting objects, including environment, players, and enemies, are brighter and more detailed than their surrounding backgrounds, and seem to have an "outline" because of the difference in graphic styles between the sprites and the background. In addition, it is not too difficult to tell the difference between enemies in a dungeon and players you are cooperating with, as enemies are themed based on your location, and do not really share many physical similarities with the player character models. The sound in DFO is nothing spectacular, but at the same time, is more than adequate and certainly not something that needs to be turned off during play.
All of the towns and dungeons have background music and/or noises, and the combat sounds are distinct and slightly over the top, as to be expected in a "beat-em-up" style fantasy game. The user interface is very simple, taking the action bar style of most other MMO games, allowing you easy access to items in your inventory and abilities from your skill set. Navigating dungeons also uses a system relatively unseen in MMO games, however it is inventive and very easy to understand. Upon entering an area, all of the exits are locked until every enemy is defeated. This is reflected in the minimap, when all foes are slain, the adjacent linked map tiles will begin to flash, showing where you or your party can advance to. This also turns dungeons into a bit of a maze, as not all adjacent zones connect to each other, and some are complete dead ends.
Dungeon Fighter Online comes to us in a style very familiar to players of older video games. The game was developed in a 2-dimensional style, where movement is only achievable in 8 directions, and a character's facing is dependent on what direction they are actively moving in. This movement scheme was more commonly seen in older games, such as Double Dragon and the Golden Axe series, and is a welcome nod to this older genre. Keeping in with this general theme, the combat system in Dungeon Fighter is very simplistic, the core being a single-button combo for your character's basic attack.
As you progress in levels, however, you can purchase and increase the level of special skills, many of which can even be used inside a basic attack combo. Knockdown and juggling attacks are also common, giving the character a way to keep large groups of enemies incapacitated while also building up massive combo counters. Quests are extremely plentiful in this game, almost too much. You can very easily find yourself going back to dungeons you have out-leveled to complete the beginning portion of quest chains, slaughtering your way through weak monsters just to get yourself caught up. Once in a while this may not be too bad, but if you miss picking up early quests a few times, it can turn into an irritating practice.
The dungeons themselves, however, come in a variety of difficulties that you can choose as you enter, increasing the strength of the enemies within, as well as your experience gain, the number of rare "mutant" enemies, and the drop chance of better loot. Gear in Dungeon Fighter mirrors that which you will find across most MMO's. Each character has an array of gear slots for armor and weapons, as would be normal in this kind of game. These cover your basic armor stats, and come in several varieties depending on the class. From cloth, leather, light, heavy, and plate armor, each character has quite a selection to choose from. Everyone also has a class specific weapon that comes in several styles. For example, the Priest class can choose from things such as a giant crucifix, a scythe, or a massive totem.
Where gear differs from most games, however, is that these pieces of gear have no aesthetic effect on your character. To change your appearance past the default ones, you need "avatar" gear. While altering your character's appearance, these pieces also add benefits not found on normal armor, such as a boost to health or mana regeneration, or an increase in the level of a skill for as long as you wear the avatar gear. Dungeon Fighter gives you a few pieces with your new character, but these pieces are temporary in nature and will expire after 60 days. To obtain permanent, and new, avatar gear, you must either use the cash shop or get lucky later on in the game and find pieces as rare drops.
The crafting system is based mostly off finding recipes in the dungeons, reading what materials are needed to craft the item in question, and then running dungeons or trading with players to gather the components needed. As a character in Dungeon Fighter levels up, at level 18 they are presented with a few class specializations to choose from. Completing the specific quest for one of these closes off the other choices, but unlocks all of the advanced special abilities for the chosen path. At level 48, the character receives an "awakening" quest, changing their class type yet again, but this time there is only one choice, a change directly in line with the specialization chosen earlier in the game. This awakening unlocks a small number of new abilities.
Innovation - 6/10
Dungeon Fighter features few details not commonly seen amongst most of the more mainstream MMO games. The Blitz system rewards players for running dungeons repeatedly every day, increasing experience gained (but also damaging their weapon faster) the more they play. At the same time, however, it imposes a bit of a limit through a stamina penalty, though you can talk to a vendor and pay to have it removed. Whereas most games of this genre would have a 3rd-person camera following the character through a 3-dimensional world, Dungeon Fighter is a fixed "camera" offering a view of the zone you are in, while your character moves through the 2-dimensional world. Beyond this, much of this game feels like a lot of other popular MMO's on the market, requiring your character to be a certain level to access more areas, a crafting system based on finding various components, and class specialization, though Dungeon Fighter has you pick a permanent specialization, as opposed to only having to set points into a tree to make your character more unique. The avatar gear is also a nice change, ensuring that the appearance of characters is widely varied, offering a colorful array of options to make your character look however you want them to, regardless of the base gear equipped.
As Dungeon Fighter has been out, and running quite successfully for several years, the developers seem to have worked most of the bugs out of the game. They have a system in place to cause characters on the edges of your view to turn into white silhouettes when there is overcrowding, presumably to cut down on lag and graphics stress in heavily populated areas. Given playing for an extended amount of time, I have found little need to contact customer support or file complaints, or really anything of that sort. In my opinion, this speaks leagues about the game on its own, as the game runs smoothly enough that needing to contact game support seems to be a relatively uncommon occurrence.
Dungeon Fighter has a lot to encourage players to stick around and keep playing the game. The leveling system is on par with most similar games, the character gaining a lot of experience and leveling very quickly in the beginning. This allows you to access your class specialization quickly, making your character unique. Moving forward though, the level gain slows down, allowing you build the rest of your character at a reasonable pace. This is very good because it allows you to learn every aspect of your character as you progress, and even try out several different formats, relearn skills at different levels, etc. There is also no shortage of quests in this game, and they will keep you occupied and running through dungeons well up to the time you reach the highest level, and even beyond. For someone who wants to complete every available quest, they may find themselves becoming overwhelmed, especially since you can only have 10 active quests at a time, thus restricting how many quests you can complete at once. Dungeons vary in content, length, and even a player-set difficulty, and as you reach higher levels you also gain access to different brackets of dungeons, giving an ever-changing experience in PVE content. There is also an active PVP aspect in the game, giving players of all levels something else to do aside from running dungeons. Even at the end of the game, players can continue to run the most difficult dungeons to get better and better gear, and increase their power and wealth.
This game has a very heavy social aspect. From guilds to random dungeon groups, there is an overabundance of possibilities for players to interact with each other to reach mutual goals. Players are even rewarded for having powerful guilds, with constant buffs and skills granted depending on how many players in the same guild are online. Players can also interact with each other in an effort to acquire rare and powerful gear and crafting components, trading or purchasing from each other to get what they need. It is even possible to set up a personal shop in the game and sell your items through an actual storefront. Grouping, whether preset or random, with players to run dungeons, is the best way to plow through hordes of enemies and find the best loot. The synergies available amongst different combinations of characters and classes allows players to defeat much tougher enemies than they would be able to on their own. There is even an extremely difficult "Hell" mode available through both luck and a difficult side-quest that allows you to fight vastly powerful enemies, and have a chance at rare gear and avatar pieces.
Dungeon Fighter Online is, and has always been, free to play. However, there is a major cash shop within the game that allows you to purchase quite a few things to increase the power of your character. The cash shop has a massive selection of permanent avatar gear for every class, allowing someone with Nexon points to fully customize their character's look and bonus stats, or purchase a premade set of gear. You can purchase companion animals that level up and evolve in both appearance and strength, and items to allow you to test out new skill sets and then make them permanent. While all these small things are available, the cash shop does not have actual gear for sale, beyond the avatar pieces. This means that only certain advantages can be gained by using the cash shop, and prevents someone from coming into the game and immediately buying levels and all of the best armor and weapons. This is important to the success of a game such as this, because it creates a level of fairness and an equal playing field for players who both can and cannot afford to purchase things from the cash shop.
Overall, Nexon has developed, in my opinion, a very successful game in Dungeon Fighter Online. While it’s not a traditional take on the MMORPG, and more of an MMO-ARPG, allowing players a massive array of choices all throughout the game, from class, to specialization, even having a specific type of gear to change appearance, only adds to the unique feel of each character within the world. From first-time gamers to experts of both the fighting and MMO game styles, Dungeon Fighter Online has aspects and techniques ready to ensure a good experience for a massive range of people. With such selections available, it is easy to see why so many people continue to play Dungeon Fighter, and even easier to see why people would come back time and again to play new characters and try out even more aspects of the game.