The phrase “free-to-play” was initially considered to be a somewhat sinister term in the gaming community. A title which used the free-to-play payment structure, mostly driven by micro-transactions and advertisements, was once thought to be less of a game and more of a money-making scheme. However the growing popularity of micro-transaction games such as League of Legends and Dungeons & Dragon Online has opened the door for many publishers to release free-to-play games of their own. One such publisher, Nexon, is known quite well for being one of the most prolific producers of free-to-play online multiplayer games around today. Including such games as MapleStory and Combat Arms, Nexon has over six online titles under its belt already and is looking to add another title to its catalogue in the form of the upcoming online action-RPG Dragon Nest.
Gamers already familiar with Nexon’s existing library of games will be immediately familiar with the concept behind Dragon Nest. In classic online role-playing game fashion, players in Dragon Nest will accept quests and join together with other players to gain experience and equipment which will in turn allow them to complete more difficult missions. As in the case in most free-to-play online games, quests are designed to be smaller in scope and not to be particularly demanding of one’s time. Players will band together before the mission, complete objectives together, and maybe fight a boss or two before being returned to the in-game lobby. It’s a simple structure, but it definitely works with the generally casual nature of free-to-play online games.
While it sticks to an established formula, this isn’t a game that feels at all dull. As players progress through missions and level up, they will be constantly gaining new abilities which can be used in battle. The game’s combat is entirely skill-based and players will be able to ready a hotbar of their own preferred abilities in combat. Attacks can be chained together to form combos resulting in heavier damage and enemy attacks can be evaded with good timing.
In fact it is Dragon Nest’s focus on combos and skilled play that makes it a rewarding experience. As the party makes it way through each mission, points are accrued according to how well they play together. Mashing buttons will do little to build these points up, but players in groups can work together to build up their team’s score by combining attacks and piling on the damage. At the end each mission, the final score is tallied up and a letter grade, ranging from a very mediocre D to a phenomenal SSS, is handed out to the team. Earning a high grade at mission’s end is incredibly important as the level’s reward is significantly better depending on which mark is received. Players not satisfied with their final grade can always do the mission over to get a higher score and earn better rewards.
While Dragon Nest is not yet available for final release yet, the title was playable at this year’s PAX East. Convention goers who waited in line at the Nexon booth were able to play through a brief hands-on demonstration of the upcoming online RPG. In this demo, players were allowed to try out one of the game’s four classes: warrior, archer, cleric, or sorceress. After making their selection, each player was grouped together and progressed through some of Dragon Nest vibrant and colorful environments before finally confronting a boss monster. Although this demo didn’t take particularly long to complete, there was always a line of people waiting to play and lots of positive feedback afterwards from those who played it.
Fans of free-to-play games will be happy to know that Dragon Nest will be available this summer for download.