Dragon Nest hands-on preview

Combat in most MMORPGs isn't terribly flashy. Generally, players run up to enemies and stand still while selecting the skills they're going to use to take them down. From an outside perspective, fights don't look terribly exciting. So when I first sat down to take on some vile harpies in the upcoming free to play massively multiplayer action title Dragon Nest, I was pleasantly surprised. Fights are fast, frantic, and most importantly, you won't be planted in the same spot while you're fighting. It's definitely a welcome change of pace.

Players will enter the world of Lagendia, a world created by the Goddess Altea. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Altea has been poisoned by her evil sister Vestinel and is now out of the picture. Her world immediately becomes corrupted by evil beings that can only be banished by waking up Altea and purifying the world. In the meantime, players will have to take on the role of adventurers fighting their way through hordes of enemies while looking for the cure to Altea's poison-induced slumber.

Each of the four classes has a similar goal: get your combo counter as high as possible so as to score highly and get the best loot at the end of the dungeon. The over the shoulder third-person shooter style aiming is a departure from the traditional single-target MMORPG combat, and Dragon Nest takes full advantage of it. Archers shoot tons of arrows into groups of enemies, Warriors use huge swords to hit multiple enemies at once, Sorcerers throw AOE spells, and Clerics use quick magic-infused melee attacks, just like you would in any third person action game. It's all very fluid and quick. Getting the proper timing on when to use each skill is required to build the combo counter, and there will certainly be lots time spent on figuring out the most efficient spell rotations.

Of course, it being an action-oriented RPG, there's customization of characters in the form of skill trees. Skills can be obtained and upgraded through points tossed into the skill trees, allowing for players to choose exactly which way they want to take their characters. At level 15, you'll be asked to choose between two sub jobs within your class. Clerics can become the more ranged attack-oriented Priests or, if they're more into getting up close and personal, they can up their melee attack skills by going down the Paladin specialization tree. Figuring out exactly what role you'd like to play in a dungeon-looting group is a major part of the game.

After leaving the persistent state cities, players head into randomly generated instanced dungeons to take on whatever abomination that they've chosen to take down today. Dungeons usually break down into several different segments, requiring players to defeat all the enemies before moving on to the next area. Once they reach the end of the dungeon, they're met with a big boss that has a high chance of dropping what they really came for - some really awesome gear. Everyone loves really awesome gear, right?

Dragon Nest has some new takes a bunch of old ideas and brings them together to make something fairly novel. Oh, and did we mention that it's being released by the same folks that put out the ever-popular titles MapleStory and Dungeon Fighter? Fans of loot fests inspired by the Diablo series with a little bit of anime and third-person action thrown in should certainly take note.

May 10, 2011