E3 2009: Dragonica Online impressions


Continuing the somewhat recurring theme at E3 2009 of "what was old is new again," Dragonica Online has taken the traditional 2D side-scroller format and transitioned it to 3D. The resulting environment will be friendly to any of the Night Elves you see endlessly bouncing around World of Warcraft and fans of nostalgic action RPGs like Secret of Mana.

The game sports fast and furious real-time combat, crafting, guilds, dungeon raids, PvP, and a light-hearted atmosphere. It didn't take us long to realize that Dragonica doesn't take itself too seriously. For example, in the demo, we saw an archer battling shark pirates who were wielding swordfish. We're obviously not in Middle Earth here.
%Gallery-64948%Dragonica is the first joint venture between THQ and ICE and their current "preview beta" has had a tremendous response. The game is a PC-only title, however, it will support game pads. That familiar console feel will come in handy when you experience the rapid combo system -- the more enemies you kill in a row, the higher your combo bonus gets, which results in extra XP.

There are four classes in Dragonica:

  • Archer: ranged DPS
  • Warrior: melee tank
  • Magician: magic and healing
  • Thief: melee DPS
There are instanced encounters for parties of up to four players. Each instance has four difficulty levels and completing each will unlock a fifth difficulty level that is related to the game's storyline. Partying with friends earns you "friends points" that you can exchange for experience.

The social elements are emphasized further by guilds, guild quests, and guild ranks (levels). We even heard there will be PvP options and guild vs. guild brawls.

There are three types of maps in Dragonica:

  • Open: The world at large where everyone can interact
  • Mission: An instance with a boss at the end
  • Boss: An instance with just a boss
Your performance is rated at the end of mission maps and you can get extra loot based on your rating. If you are higher level than the mission, your rating will take that into account. THQ plans to host in-game events and participation will grant you event coupons that can be traded for prizes in major towns. There will even be an achievement system call "Accomplishments."

We saw two crafting skills in the demo. Enchanting increases an item's value, e.g., adding damage to a weapon or defense to a piece of armor. Creating enchantments on an item requires enchantment powder found throughout the world. Better enchantments are more difficult to do and have a chance to fail. Some of the higher level enchantments we saw have cool glowing effects. Soulcrafting allows you to disenchant or salvage and item for materials that improve other items via soulcrafting. This will improve an item's overall quality, called "item grade."

The RMT element of Dragonica features a cash shop where you can buy items for additional enjoyment, not necessity. There will be costumes, XP enhancing potions, and other small conveniences. There will also be a player-based market economy. You can sell items for in-game currency and it sounds like you may then be able to convert that in-game cash to real life cash or potentially cash shop currency.

Dragonica Online's "preview beta" ends on June 7th and THQ is planning a closed beta at the end of June, followed by an open beta. When the game launches, THQICE will operate the North American servers and ICE will operate the China servers.
Massively is on the ground in Los Angeles this week and covering all the latest E3 MMO news coming from the convention. Check out our breaking coverage (or all the Joystiq network E3 reporting) and keep your eye on Massively's front page for the latest developments.
This article was originally published on Massively.