First Impressions: Dungeon Runners

Dungeon Runners is a game by NCsoft that trades off of the popularity of Blizzard titles WoW and Diablo II, but does it with a sense of humor. I'm not going to rehash gameplay mechanics here, but I'll give you my impressions of the experience of logging on, creating a character, and playing for about an hour. Maybe this will give you an idea of what to expect; whether or not this is something you'll want to invest any time in pursuing. Remember, this is not meant to be a strategy guide, nor an in-depth look at how to optimize your stats. This is one person's take on what it's like to play Dungeon Runners.

We'll start with character creation after the jump.

So, out of a whopping 3 choices of character class, I chose to be a Ranger, which meant that I'd get to use a crossbow. Not a standard bow, mind you, but a crossbow, which I assume had more to do with NCsoft wanting to establish some sort of resonance/distinction between DR and WoW -- it's just enough for you to make the comparison without being too overt. And what a crossbow! You get unlimited ammo and full auto rapid-fire capability; it's like owning Rambo's own weapon stock! More on the weapon later.

So, I chose to be a female -- as I always do, and I'll appreciate y'all keeping your snide comments to y'selves, thanks -- and this customization screen looks like WoW's. In fact, at this point it might be worth pointing out those bits of DR that are different than WoW, as this whole game looks like Blizzard's little brother wanted his MMO to look just like his big bro's, who he idolizes. But back to character customization: Your choices are as limited as WoW's, but the faces and hairstyles are much odder. I finally picked the Emo Special: Eyepatch over one eye, hank o' hair over the other. I don't expect an issue with aiming my weapon; call it instinct.

This is my crossbow; there are many like it, but this one is mine

Dropping in-world for the first time, I'm struck most forcefully by the supersaturated palette of the environment. And when I say 'struck', I'm not hyperbolizing at all. These colors are so strong I keep checking my hit points to make sure they're not actually hurting me just looking at them. This becomes a problem a little later, when I'm trying to find the dropped items from killed enemies; they blend right into the scenery. Or maybe it's just that by the 5-minute mark, I'm seriously colorblind.

Hovering the mouse over an NPC turns the cursor into a little text graphic. When clicking on the NPC, I'm treated to a frankly hilarious bit of dialogue -- the guy I clicked on sounds like a nerd of the Android's Dungeon type, but with a serious lisp. And the quality lasts for each NPC I listen to; these bits are funny and well-acted, which makes me just want to keep clicking on them to access more dialogue. Let's face it, this is also akin to the Blizzard Way, but because it made me laugh, I'm gonna let it slide. The best of the bunch, clunky pixellated hands down, is the Merchant, who sounds just like Krusty the Clown. A couple of choice bits of dialogue: "Ahh, God, whaddaya want?", and "All my stuff is crap."

DR apes the 'I've got a quest for you, and you can tell because there's a yellow exclamation point above my head' standard. That's fine; some things just work, and why reinvent the wheel? Unless it's a +3 Wheel of Non-Skidding, in which case, meet me in the Auction House.

After a visit to Samford the Hermit (also known as Krusty the Clown), I have a look at my Inventory. Hey, check it out: It's gridded just like the Diablo II Inventory! Coincidence? It's here that I get to see further evidence of the snarkiness of the DR team: Items are labeled Diablo II-style, with names like 'Baby Seal Skin Gloves of the Newt' and 'Health Potion of the Daring Noobosaur'. Aside from this, a further oddity: the aforementioned health potion provides 45% health over 5 seconds, whereas the presumably stronger Major health potion provides only 50% health over 5 seconds. The Major health potion, besides not having a funny name, is only usable when the player becomes a paying member. That's hardly an incentive in my mind, unless that membership also unlocks an even funnier name, like the 'All Your Health Are Belong To Us Potion of the Overused Meme', or 'I CAN HAZ HELTH NAO, PLEEZ?' On second thought, let's leave that alone.

Half-length sleeves are SO 12th century

Another poke/homage to WoW: I notice that one of my items will be Soulbound to me ... but in 10 minutes?

I'm ready to fight the good fight! Let's wander out of town (or hamlet, I should say, as this 'town' is ridiculously tiny) and enter the Forest, not through a door, archway, or even bridge, but a teleportal that blocks off This Side from That Side. I stepped up to it, experienced a couple of seconds of load time, and bam, I'm in the Forest. It takes me a few seconds to locate the first group of enemies, as they're just as color-saturated and sharp-outlined as everything else in DR.

I right-click to use my special ability; in this case, I fire off a poisoned bolt upon an enemy, which appears to be a standard grunt of the kobold-like variety -- scrawny, long-limbed, bestial-faced. When you hit one of them, the entire group lopes over to fight you all at once. This would be a problem in WoW, where your enemies are roughly as tough as you are, but here it's no problem. Why? 1) Half the time you escape taking damage, 2) Your crossbow fires nonstop and you never run out of ammo, and 3) You have an area-effect poison cloud ability, which affects your enemies to the tune of almost 50% damage over time. Why is this game so easy?

Remember: He who smelt it, dealt it

When you clear your way through the Forest and return later, none of your enemies seem to have respawned, so you spend a lot of time running back through areas unchallenged. I'm sorry; Dungeon Running back. You can, however, take advantage of another Diablo II-ism, and employ the Town Portal scroll, which takes you back to your starting point, but doesn't leave the portal open, meaning you have to run back through all those empty areas again anyway.

I stopped my adventures in Dungeon Runners right at the point where I made my way to the first actual dungeon, so here's where this First Impression ends. And let me say this: I enjoyed playing, despite the mysterious familiarity of, well, everything. It has a loose, pick-up game feel to it that's immediately rewarding. No need to worry about managing a ton of stats; just login and start killing things. And if nothing else, kudos to NCSoft for teaching me what 'spaulders' are; any day you get to learn a new word is a day well-spent. Will I keep playing this MMO? I'd have to say yes, I'm curious about what happens at the higher, presumably more difficult levels of gameplay. Tell you what: If something notable pops up, I'll be back to write it up for you, 'cause you're all just so special.
This article was originally published on Massively.