Testing Your Might
Beneath its PvE-friendly exterior, Dragon Oath is, in fact, a PvP-oriented game. Players can attack each other anywhere outside the cities, although this doesn't mean they will. Killing players will, in most cases, add crime points to the character in question. Some events will lock players out if they have any crime points, and garnering enough can land a player in jail or cause a loss of equipment, so players are often content to leave random encounter PvP alone. Players will not be able to fully escape the chance of PvP, but by staying out of no-crime zones and events, they can reduce the chance that they have PvP encounters.
Instead of taking place just anywhere, PvP often focuses on special event maps and areas where players are not penalized for drawing blood when competing with each other. These areas are free-for-all zones, and players won't hesitate to be brutal in their search for glory. Guilds of high-level players may patrol these zones, killing any in their path, so as with most open PvP, it's wise to never travel alone or unprepared.
Of Chess and Pawns
One thing that certainly isn't missing from Dragon Oath is a community. Although the volume of discussion on the community forums may seem a little low, the in-game community is bustling. This may be due to the fact that Dragon Oath currently only has a single server, but if that's what it takes to have a community alive and active at all hours of the day and night, there isn't much to complain about.
It takes a little while to get used to Dragon Oath's chat in-game. The chat window is constantly scrolling, partially due to gold spammers (which can, thankfully, be reported and ignored in a single click). Some of the abbreviations aren't standard to the MMO community; it took me a while, for instance, to understand what "5x/6x q123 si" meant. Thankfully, people are pretty helpful even without needing prompting.
Grouping is fairly common in Dragon Oath, not due to heavy group content in the regular world, but instead due to scheduled automated events. Every day, a whole list of events takes place around the clock, from invasions of clan areas and zones to the popular Chess event. These events often offer extra experience and highly valuable loot, and there are always dozens of players waiting to participate. Players are quick to be friendly to get groups for what they need, not caring much about group composition or character information as much as putting together a group of people committed to completing the event. My first daily chess event ended up slowly falling apart until we failed at the end boss, but despite that, there were no hard feelings and those of us who were left at the end were jovial toward each other. No one seemed to care that we failed; no one questioned pet choice or skills; it was simply getting together to have fun and get a nice experience boost for the day.
Measuring the Free in Free-to-play
It's nice to know just what a free-to-play is going to really cost you before you begin enjoying it too much. Surprisingly, Dragon Oath's cash shop is a balance of high prices on cosmetic items (rare pets being included, as they offer no significant advantage over a well-trained or bred pet) and medium prices for items that provide advantages. With a high level cap, Dragon Oath's experience curve does begin to steepen, making experience potions a valuable asset at a price of a few dollars each; these potions can also be obtained in-game without the use of the cash shop, though. In fact, while everything from skill books to power ups are available in the cash shop, there is no real feeling of dependence on anything. Like other free-to-plays, the cash shop helps enhance the gaming experience; unlike them, however, Dragon Oath's cash shop has no intent of extorting players.
Dragon Oath is not the most unique free-to-play in the market. The graphical experience won't stun you, and the kung-fu movie sound effects may wear you out after a while. Despite seeming a little generic at times, Dragon Oath offers an incredible amount of game play for a free-to-play game; enough to rival many subscription-based titles. What it lacks in uniqueness, however, it more than makes up for with engaging gameplay with both depth and character. If you've been looking for an enjoyable martial-arts free-to-play, or even a free-to-play with diminished cash shop emphasis, Dragon Oath will be the perfect fit.