It will probably surprise no one who's been following my love affair with Ankama Games that I like their flagship title, Dofus, quite a bit. Set in the same world as Wakfu, Dofus offers a more direct and traditional MMORPG experience than its more recent cousin, while presenting the same charming anime-inspired graphics and addictive turn-based gameplay. Featuring 15 classes, 22 crafting professions, pets, mounts, dungeons, PvP, and a quirky, humorous presentation throughout, Dofus is one of the most popular MMOs in France and endeared to thousands of players around the world. I recently got sucked back into Ankama Games' world to check out the new Foggernauts' Steam class, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to see how the game has been doing since we previously checked in.
I can't say enough about how impressive and charming are Dofus' visuals. The game sports cute, colorful character models and environments that manage to be reminiscent of fantasy anime archetypes while still presenting a unique and distinct style. I tend to be pretty glowy over Ankama Games' art styles across their various media, and while I know that the anime-inspired graphics aren't quite everyone's cup of tea, there can be no doubt that the attention to detail and lovingly crafted environments in Dofus are delightful. The game's sounds and music are likewise nice, although there isn't any voice acting or range of crazy sound effects outside of the clamor of battle. Dofus' music is just as charming as its visuals, and can be sometimes wistful, other times rousing, although the game could use a bit more variety here.
The user interface is more than functional, and is mostly intelligently laid out and easy on the eyes. First-time players will likely be a bit lost with all of the different stats and effects to keep track of, as the game has several very deep systems that can be overwhelming, with only a short tutorial area available at the beginning of the game. Also, unlike Wakfu, which can be played fullscreen, the aspect ratio of Dofus won't fit in most monitors' native display, meaning that even when maximized, the game client will run pillarboxed. It's not a big deal, particularly if you're used to playing older games on a big screen, but it's noticeable.
There are a LOT of systems at work in Dofus. You'll find quests, combat, dungeons, crafting, PvP, an in-game economy, player housing, and a bunch more to do. It's a much more conventional MMO approach than is offered through the more social, sandbox-oriented Wakfu, and I must say that I prefer the adventuring and action in Dofus much more. Dofus encourages player participation and grouping, without the vast open-ended social, environmental, and political systems of Wakfu, and I find that I like the more direct quests and streamlined content in the older game, although that may be personal preference.
Combat plays out like a turn-based strategy game with time limits for actions that help keep battles moving quickly. A more in-depth look at the technical aspects of combat in Dofus can be found in my Foggernauts' Steam preview, but suffice it to say that each class has a unique approach to battles, with a host of different abilities and spells to unlock and unleash. The game allows for character progression and customization by giving you characteristic points to spend as you level, and rewards utilizing different tactics on the battlefield. For better or for worse, however, unless you're a serious power gamer or theory crafter, you might find yourself discovering certain skills and rotations that work for your character and sticking to them, rather than trying to switch up your tactics based on the opponents you're fighting.
Outside of combat, there's certainly a lot of stuff to do, and I'm pleasantly surprised to say that crafting is one of the more fun activities in Dofus. I'm not usually big on crafting in MMOs, simply because of the rote involved, but there's something about gathering resources in Dofus that is so meditative and peaceful that it's actually pleasing and relaxing. The crafting professions are also suitably deep and are accessed through a very well-designed and easy-to-use crafting panel that makes the process of item creation simple even as the crafting system is itself complex.
Like Wakfu, Dofus doesn't offer direct control of characters, which means that you'll be pointing and clicking to do most of your adventuring. This type of control works fine for most of what Dofus does, but combined with the invisible grid that underlies all of the environments in the game, can sometimes make you feel removed from the action by a couple of degrees.
Dofus' innovation is through its presentation and world, which are remarkably unique and atmospheric. Ankama Games has done fabulously in creating a distinct style and universe that spans their video games, manga, comics, TV series, and trading card game. Dofus' presentation sets the game apart from the crowd, and puts its stamp on the developers' creativity and attention to detail in building lovingly crafted worlds.
The gameplay features in Dofus, on the other hand, are mostly designed in a conventional MMO fashion, about which many veterans of MMORPGs may already be feeling lukewarm. Dofus offers traditional "collect/kill X" tasks among more interesting, story-driven quests that are couched in funny text and kooky situations, and there's enough variety to make adventuring fun. The main issue is that things like low quest item drops and scarcity of quest-related mobs feel more and more like artifacts from MMOs of yesteryear, and can be frustrating after experiencing better options in more recent titles. This isn't a dealbreaker, but given that the point-and-click control scheme can make you feel disconnected from the action in the first place, having to run around looking for more monsters to complete a quest can detract from the generally engaging gameplay.
Dofus is a Flash-based game and runs excellently. I've encountered very few bugs or hiccups, outside of being locked out of my account for some weird reason. All of Dofus' systems are well-integrated into the game and easy to use after spending some time learning them, and Ankama Games has clearly been active in keeping the game polished since its launch.
As mentioned, there is a LOT of stuff to do in Dofus. If you're somehow temporarily bored with questing you can be sure to spend tons of hours gathering and crafting, heading into dungeons with friends, participating in the PvP Kolossium, or gloating over your newly obtained player house. The world itself is huge, and if exploration is your thing, it'll take a good long while to discover everything Dofus has to offer. Plus, the 15 different character classes play very differently, making the game pretty alt-friendly.
Dofus has a vibrant social community, which is enhanced by the in-game social features. You've got your basic friends (and enemies) list and guild panel, but the game also has a well-designed team search for dungeons, as well as a player shop feature for those interested in hawking their wares. Dofus also has an alignment panel to track your PvP Honour and Disgrace points and other character-specific information, and a spouse system for lovebirds.
Free players only have access to the starter areas of Incarnam and Astrub Village, and have limited access to most of the game's features, including classes, professions, guilds, and pretty much everything else. Subscriptions to the game run $6.90 per month, and will unlock all of the game's content, with some perks based on the length of game time you pre-purchase. You can also purchase Ogrines with real money to unlock in-game items and utilize premium services, or exchange them for Kamas, the game's currency, with other players.
The subscription is certainly a good deal, and there's a lot of content to explore for such a low monthly price, but I can't help but think that the game would work a lot better with an à la carte free-to-play model. I'd much rather purchase different areas of the game or new classes rather than having to pay a monthly fee, and perhaps that's because of the direction the F2P vs. P2P market is shifting. Still, $6.90/month is not all that much, and you'll get an even better deal if you purchase several months at a time.
I must admit that I was a bit full of trepidation when trying out Dofus for the first time, having liked Wakfu so much and being worried that its predecessor would turn out to be more basic or unpolished. I'm surprised and happy to report the exact opposite, and that I like Dofus' fun approach to traditional MMORPG gameplay even more than Wakfu's open-ended sandbox and social features, which is saying a lot.
It also helps that Ankama Games is very active in updating the game and encouraging player interaction and events. Dofus' player community is likewise active and friendly, willing to help out new players and team up for group content. Plus, the game's starter areas are free to roam as you please, so there's no reason not to try it out if you think it might be your thing. Dofus is certainly worth more than a try, and might charm you into loving its carefully crafted world and characters, and then convince you to grab your wallet and purchase all of the manga, trading cards, and other content as well.
What do you think of Dofus? Let us know in the comments below!