Dokapon Kingdom seems like one of Dr. Frankenstein's experiments at first - at its heart it’s a traditional, turn-based RPG, but its exterior looks more like a board game style party game. The two genres couldn't be further apart, but put them together and you get a highly competitive multiplayer experience in the guise of a party game, but with the deep structure of an RPG.
The goal of Dokapon is simple: whoever earns the most money wins. Up to four players can compete, each taking a turn spinning a wheel to determine the number of spaces his character can move on the board, which also functions as an overworld map. You can battle monsters to capture cities, spend money at various shops for items and equipment, and land on other players' squares to battle them one-on-one. Depending on how thoroughly you kick your friend's ass, penalties for dying can include sitting out for a few turns, losing precious items to the victor, and being sent back to the castle to start again.
In the game we played, the King of Dokapon decreed that someone fetch a piggy bank from some guy named Rico Jr. who was across the map from Dokapon Castle on a totally different continent. Starting at the castle, the four players raced to reach the piggy bank first, sabotaging each other whenever possible. The interesting part is that the game's dynamic totally changed once one of the players got a hold of the bank. What started as an every-man-for-himself race to the prize suddenly switched to a capture the flag style game, with the three other players desperately trying to stop the guy with the bank from reaching the castle to deliver the payload.
It sounds simple, but all the trappings of a traditional RPG are here - leveling up, turn-based battles with various magic and non-magic attacks, tons of equipment and items to choose from, and even different character classes - thieves can steal items from other players if they pass them on the board, magicians can use magic items twice per turn instead of just once, and so forth. But besides all the full-fledged RPG elements, Dokapon also has balance - something lacking in games like Mario Party, where last-minute upsets seem to always be the rule. It definitely feels more like a "real" game that requires skill and strategy to win, and it's easily the deepest "party" game we've played.
With millions of people playing shooters and casual games online over Xbox Live, gaming seems to be moving back to its social roots. But for a lot of hardcore RPG fans, the gaming life can still be a bit lonely. Dokapon Kingdom may fill that void for some (especially those who enjoy talking cat puns and Dr. Who references), and we're curious to see if it catches on. We'll have to wait until it releases this October to find out, so look for our review then.
Jun 30, 2008