I have a fondness for War of Dragons, a sort of two-dimensional action-based MMO from Mail.Ru. When I looked at the game before, I enjoyed the design elements and artwork more than anything, but the grindy nature of the game basically turned me off. Still, there's something cool about a semi-graphical MMO that runs in a browser. So when I took a second, deeper look at Dragon Eternity, an MMO that resembles War of Dragons in many ways, I expected about the same outcome.
I came out of this week with a bit more of an appreciation for both games mainly because I was able to see Dragon Eternity as what it is: a simple game that can become more complex with time. It's not exactly a "fun" game, but it's different.
From your first steps in the world, you will be fighting. Fighting. Fighting. At first I thought it was really just a combat grind, but after a while and a dozen or so quests, it's obvious that the game is more like a collectible card-based game like Wizard101. The idea of the game is to level and discover new items; slowly, you discover how strategy and understanding abilities can make or break your experience.
Don't get me wrong -- the game is mostly a combat grind. As in, 89% grind. There are some interesting crafting and gathering abilities, though. I was able to leave my fishing net in a certain spot on the map and return later to pick up my haul. Also, I opened my inventory and was impressed by how many different items there were in it. My avatar could be outfitted with better and better gear, and each item was a boon in combat. Sometimes the number of items was a bit overwhelming, especially considering the low level I remained at for most of the week. I couldn't imagine hitting a higher level and trying to balance my skills or keeping my inventory organized. But when I looked at it just right, each item was potentially a key piece of the combat pie. It's a bit tedious to keep up with all the tiny numbers and repeating effects, but they often made enough of a difference to make it worth my while.
So most of my week was spent in a sort of in-between state of enjoyment and boredom. The fighting animations that popped up whenever I confronted a mob were nicely done but generally remained the same most of the time. I would swing; the enemy would swing. I'd take another swing, and then he would. I would take yet another swing, and then he would again. Lastly, I would finish him off with a blast of magic. Occasionally I would die. I know that if I played to a higher level, the combat would take on a much more urgent pace, and I saw the pace quicken when I would join a multiplayer fight, but overall the rhythms of battle remained the same.
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I don't know how I feel about MMOs that obviously become a much cooler experience as you get much higher in level. It doesn't take much experience with MMOs to figure out when a game will ask you to play for a long, long time before the really cool stuff sets in. It's disappointing when I play a game like that because I know I will most likely never have the patience to spend that much time grinding just to finally see some real strategy. Why not throw in some of that cool stuff at the beginning? Sure, there's some real fun to be had at the beginning stages of Dragon Eternity, but it sort of pains me to know that the really cool stuff probably happens after hundreds of fights and hours and hours of gameplay.
"One thing I am not confused about is how nice the artwork in game is. I love the idea of playing the game by navigating a series of wonderfully crafted pieces of artwork."
One thing I am not confused about is how nice the artwork in game is. I love the idea of playing the game by navigating a series of wonderfully crafted pieces of artwork. There are animated mobs walking across each scene and even some interactive buildings like a barbershop that allows players to customize their avatars. If you zoom out while playing, it looks exactly how I described, and it's almost like each scene or zone is literally a painting hanging on the wall. It's an odd but elegant design. I love the simplicity of its delivery but would love to see it do more. Instead of non-stop fighting, I want to change the landscape or own a piece of it. Perhaps in the future?
Maybe I can best explain my week with Dragon Eternity by saying I was charmed by the artwork and how uniquely I interacted with the environment. But I wish the never-ending combat were broken up more often with collection quests or exploration of new areas. The lore is there, but it rushes by in quest text that really has no impact on the game. If I wanted to, I was literally able to skip quest text, follow the links to the next zone, and attack the several monsters needed to complete my goal. Watch the embedded video and you'll probably understand better. Or just try the game. If you like combat, don't mind grinding a lot, and are OK with a slow climb to a more powerful character, go for it. Even if not, the game is worth checking out for the unique design.
Next week I am playing Family Guy Online. Yes, seriously. It pains me to play a game that is based on one of my least favorite television shows, but the MMO actually looks sort of fun. Watch me play it live on Monday, the 23rd of July, at 5:00 p.m. EDT on our Twitch.tv channel! See you then!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!