I'm glad that over the last week I found the time to finally get me some Dungeon Fighter Online by Nexon. I knew that it has quite the following, and I knew that it's supposed to be a blast, sort of like an 8bit Vindictus, but I was still surprised at a few things while I played. The game isn't what I thought it would be in several ways. NPCs have voices and hand out actual quests, the world is more open than I thought it would be, and the graphics feel snappy and fluid despite their primitive nature.
Don't get me wrong -- there is plenty that needs to be tweaked or fixed before the game smells of anything near perfection. Much of it is beyond the ability of the developers, but many of the problems with the game could be fixed relatively easy.
Click past the cut and I'll tell you what I thought during my time fighting in dungeons... online!
The graphics of the title are probably the main thing that truly sets it apart from other fighting titles. Not only is your character reminiscent of earlier arcade-style fighters, but the side-scrolling combat feels like those arcade fighters. I was immediately ushered into a dungeon where I was tasked with smashing goblins and other critters in the face, and I later gained the ability to literally grab them, pick them up and otherwise destroy them. I even had the ability to smash parts of the environment, from trees and stones to poisonous flowers. Combat in Dungeon Fighter Online is fun and offers a variety of monsters to pound through. Picking up loot and other items is as simple as standing over the items and pressing attack again. I nabbed every bit of the loot I could find. It became an obsession.
Unfortunately, combat wasn't perfect. My ranged character was frustrating to play because enemies must be lined up with your character perfectly or attacks miss. It's as though there are a series of tracks on the play field, and if your character is even a smidge off of alignment with the enemy, he'll miss or waste a special move. It was frustrating. Also, in a more minor quibble, attacks needed to complete before my character could turn around. If I kicked in one direction and the enemy slipped past me, I had to wait until the move finished before I could turn and face the enemy again. Again, it's a minor complaint, and one that might have a solution once I level up more, but it is still a bit annoying.
The game is a true MMO from what I can tell, but the definition is getting cloudy these days. You can meet with other players in scores of towns and areas, then form groups or go off on your own into dungeons. Really it is no different than any game that might have zones and instanced dungeons, and definitely not any different from MMOs like Guild Wars (yes, that is an MMO). There's persistence across all characters and in the ability to communicate and trade with others. The world of Dungeon Fighter Online goes on without you or your avatar, even while you're logged off. That's an MMO.
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The main issue I have with the title is the fact that it must be run in either a tiny, tiny window, in a "windowed" fullscreen, or in an actual fullscreen. The latter two choices are really the same thing and look absolutely horrible when used. The game is built to look like an old arcade fighter, and it does. That means that stretching it across 24-inch monitors will make it look like, well, like an old game that has been zoomed in really close. I am completely OK with pixels and 8bit style, but viewing the game like that forced me to play it in the tiny window-mode. It reminded me of something Min Kim of Nexon America said to me at GDC Online this year. I was joking with him about the new, "larger" screen option (a hefty 1024x768 pixels) for the beloved MMO MapleStory, and he smirked and said, "Yeah, the HD mode!" We both had a laugh. The fact is that many players depend on the lower-resolution modes in order to run on older or weaker systems, but I would love to see an option for at least some slightly higher resolutions for those of us who have access to a decent screen. To be fair, Dungeon Fighter Online looked fine and ran beautifully in fullscreen on my 10-inch netbook. It was really fun to play on the tiny device.
Another more minor problem I had with the game was the community. I've found Nexon's community rules enforcement to be sort of hit and miss. Mabinogi only recently gave players the ability to right-click and report someone, something that was needed for a long, long time. Other games need that option simply because players will take advantage of the lax rules, even though most won't. It only takes one kid spouting out hateful things in chat to ruin everyone's good time. There was no obvious report option for Dungeon Fighter Online. Instead I could either block someone or just turn off the chat channel since it was overwhelming me. One session my chat was so filled with hateful, racist and homophobic chatter that I simply logged out. I can't even remember whether I figured out how to block or remove a channel!
In spite of the horrible community experience and blocky fullscreen graphics, Dungeon Fighter Online is a blast to play. It truly did remind me of an 8bit Vindictus and those arcade fighters from the '80s. I find it pretty ironic that many of the young people who seem to flock to 8bit-style games and cartoons never lived in the time that 8bit was an actual necessity, but it just goes to show how attractive the extreme style is.
It works for me, as well. The graphics and combat make up for the lack of options in the game. Hopefully those few issues will be fixed one day and I will have almost nothing to complain about.
Next week I will be taking a look at 1100 AD, an MMORTS published by Aeria games. Join me on Monday on our Twitch channel and you can watch me play, live!
Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook!