Dragon Eternity has always been a pretty neat browser-based game that drew me in more with its mechanics and UI design than with its actual gameplay. Frankly, the game is a grind. You'll be sent on quest after quest that is basically kill-ten-whatever, with the occasional gather quest thrown in for good measure. I wasn't terribly thrilled with it before, but I did find myself occasionally enjoying it. The artwork in the game is beautiful. That alone is a reason to poke my head into the title once in a while.
Now that a new iPad version has been released, I just had to give it another go to see if it felt the same as before. I have to say, how you interface with a game can really make a difference. Sure, the grind is still there, and the quests are generally the same at higher levels as they are at level one, but the iPad works awesome.
That's not all, however. I also participated in PvP combat for the first time and found out exactly where the game shines.
Let's talk about how the iPad actually changed how I previously felt about the game. The layout and UI remain basically the same, albeit a little squished for the smaller screen. But if there was an MMO that was made for a touchscreen, this is the one. Buttons are nice and large, menus slide in and out with ease, and interacting with almost everything is a snap. I've played MMOs on mobile devices before; they are often uncomfortable experiences either because of the need for holding the device up while also controlling a character on the screen or because a font choice or the UI was so clunky or tiny that it made everything a labor. Dragon Eternity is actually fun to play on the iPad. It makes me remember just how important tablets are to gaming and why. They are convenient, sure, but touch is such a basic way to play with a game that it automatically makes it better, at least in some ways.
The most common activity in Dragon Eternity is hunting down monsters for various reasons and fighting them. To find these monsters, you work your way through a series of scenes that look like literal paintings. You can zoom in and out of each scene ("zone" would be a better way to describe them) and find your quarry. Once you do, you click on him, and the attack is on. The scene switches and you are side-to-side with your enemy. Fighting in groups is interesting to say the least. You'll see only a few characters on each side at a time, but you'll be able to watch the other members of your group's statistics as they participate in their own battles. It's a little confusing at first, but the key is to concentrate on your own fight and keep up with buffs, spells, and using the best stance to cause the most damage.
If you fight using a standard stance, you'll cause damage. If you switch to defensive stance, you'll be able to hold off an attack longer. If you use a magical stance, you'll build up mana more quickly, which will result in your ability to cast spells. I was given a higher-level press account and so had a lot of different abilities to play with. It's obvious that getting to higher levels is important if you really want to get to the meat of the game. On my newbie character, combat is sluggish and a bit boring. There isn't much that is strategic about combat at the lower levels, but there are ways to improve combat effectiveness. Players can spend money in the cash shop for buffs and can find bits of treasure and loot during play, but in comparing my low-level experience to the high-level one, I have to say that being level 32 is much, much more fun than being level 5 or 6. That's sort of a given, but it's a bit sad that so many games make the first 20 or so levels a slog through bland content just to get to the good stuff.
Player vs. player is an entirely different game. The matches I participated in were quite fast and dangerous. I didn't notice when I received the account, but I was given an "admin" account. Players kept saying hello to me in the chat, and finally one player asked me why I -- an admin -- was attacking players. I felt horrible. I generally avoid PvP and especially do not give away free gear or in-game cash that I might have gotten with a beefed-up account (that's a big no-no), so when I found out that I might have ruined some player's character while I was playing on an account with a tag that made me look like an employee, I felt bad. If it's any consolation, the players I fought were not easy targets. They would switch out team members, cast mighty spells, and use buffs and potions like masters. Sure, I held off one party of what seemed to be four players all by myself (well, I had the help of a dragon pet), but they just kept taking the damage and eventually killed me. It was good fun. In fact most of the people in the community have been nice. Maybe it was the "admin" tag?
Dragon Eternity gets so many points from me for layout and design. It's like a sort of MUD meets a turn-based collectible card game meets beautiful, interactive art. It's perfect on the iPad, in fact I prefer it on the mobile device, and I can't wait to see a version for the Android. It's good for casual play, but it will take a lot of combat in order to reach the levels that are really fun. I would advise PvPing as much as possible. It will teach you more about gameplay than standard questing. The in-game story is interesting enough, and the music sounds great, but I tend to look at the game as a sort of glorified Magic: The Gathering with avatar-based customization. If you have the patience to get to a higher level, or if you discover a group of players to fight with, you'll have fun.
Sure, you can play it in your browser and it works great. But playing it on the iPad is much, much better. Grab it while you can.
Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.