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Drakensang Online review

Drakensang Online review

The long and short is that Drakensang Online totally delivers on its promise. The graphics rendering is spot-on comparable to some of the best visuals that can be witnessed among the competition. 


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Drakensang Online "The graphical capabilities of Drakensang Online have set a new upper standard for in-browser MMO games"" reviewed by Jeffrey Davis, Written on Rating: 4.5 stars

For comparison purposes, I grabbed a random developer’s screenshot from the strategy game Darkspore – which has a comparable graphics style – and plopped it alongside a personally-captured screen shot from Drakensang Online review. The comparison is aesthetically successful in matching up to both games’ images.

Of course, the real visual test is against one of the big-name middleware engines – and Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3 platform is among the best choices on the market as of this writing – so I grabbed a screenshot of Gears of War 3 for comparison purposes. (-Yeah, I know that’s a shooter against an MMO on a site pertaining to MMO games but I obviously needed something here.) As it turns out, we have yet another visual comparison that matches up with some of the best that any other game can provide, regardless of genre.
Drakensang visual comparisons Drakensang visual comparisons

The game has to be relatively simplified in function in the playability department as well, and Drakensang Online manages to deliver on all fronts here. Controls are relatively quick to learn and you don't need a Drakensang Walkthrough, as they require only a few left-button mouse clicks to get moving to the next location. Combat is relatively simple, and left-clicking functions as your basic enemy attack during the heat of battle. Simply point to an enemy until it turns red, and then click the mouse button to hit the enemy with all you’ve got. Of course, you also turn red upon being attacked yourself, so use caution when talking to other players or performing any screen captures you may wish to save. In all fairness, I was pleasently surprised at how well Drakensang Online catered to noobs that have yet to play a MMORPG in regard to just how difficult the first sets of enemies can be (or not). Some of the weakest foes in the game (such as the bunch of gremlins that you encounter in the first area you enter upon starting a new chatacter) will take only a single hit before they’re dead, while others take even more damage to kill as you run into tougher competition as you progress. Sometimes you’ll even get stuck in a crowd of enemies if you’re not careful, so try to get rid of as many foes as you can if possible.

Drakensang battle action

NPCs also respond to left-click targeting, which in turn will open the requisite NPC chat window, complete with quest options in addition to whatever else can be provided thereof. NPCs are identified by their names in addition to general functions thereof (such as quest keeper NPCs) through a banner line that pops up in the upper area of the game screen. During an NPC conversation, the options provided are relatively intuitive to select, placing the available choices in single-hierarchy format, meaning that you don’t need to open a separate conversation group for quest access – everything is right there upon beginning your chat with the NPC. In fact, shopping menus are the only functions that require a submenu during an NPC conversation; and besides, it’s certainly not feasible to pack the shopping functions in with the quests anyway.

 

Although there are only two class types in Drakensang Online (being the spellweaver and dragonknight, of which I have been playing as the latter selection) the upper levels of avatar customization is relatively extensive. A wide variety of selectable weapons can be purchased using currencies of gold, silver and/or copper, or by using special Andermant currency for some of the more powerful weapons that can be purchased through gift card, credit/debit and/or PayPal, much as you can with other premium currencies in the freemium ethos. Unlike with some of the other “cash shopping” formats that I’ve seen, the Andermant purchasing system follows a conventional shopping cart format in that you can stack dollar values for your purchases like you do with books and video games (among other items) when shopping on Amazon.com.

You can still do just fine with the basic equipment if you prefer, however; and you do have a choice of one- or two-handed weapons if you should prefer one such choice against the other. That being said, Drakensang Online requires the use of Andermant currency for on-the-spot revival if you get killed in battle – though such a requirement is not that much different from other games in the freemium sector of MMORPG games, anyway. So if you expect to run an important quest, then you may literally have to pay up from inside your pocketbook if you like to play solo more than in party formations. In that respect, Drakensang Online is essentially better suited for teamwork in most cases so player beware.
The skill functionality is exceptionally well done, and though you’re limited to five rows of skill categories (and four skill essence types) your ability to customize the power of your skills is relatively intuitive and takes very little adjustment to understand. Starting the process of upgrading your skills requires only a visit with a battle trainer NPC that serves your class type; and from there, all of your customizations are limited only by your current level and upgrade capacity requirements.

As for the storyline, the general idea is viewed from the background information that your initially-selected avatar class provides. In my case, the background lore states that long before the events of Drakensang Online, there was an empire that spread across the land where relative peace endured and the protection of the dragonknights upheld order and prosperity. Unfortunately, that empire has long been felled and the order itself has been split up, and your personally-selected avatar is one of many dragonknight heirs set with the task of reuniting the order.

One nice touch with Drakensang Online is the ability to check your stats before punching that big green “play now” button to start heading into the game world. Your avatar’s class, sex, XP, level and currency reserves are right there in front of you upon logging in, so you don’t have to fully connect to the game server it you’re just checking stats rather than beginning a full game session (which is great if you need a quick check of where you stand if you don’t immediately have time for actual gameplay).

Drakensang Online review
Drakensang Online review

I did run into the occasional glitch, though. Occasionally I would hit the “play now” button to start, only to end up with a “no free server available” message before the game could even fully boot up. Other times I would be clicking around to move, only for my avatar to stop moving around for whatever reason thereof. Additionally, my first gameplay attempts were riddled with sporadic viewpoint jumps that made the game unplayable for a short time by virtue of the frequency and severity of the problem. Sometimes the game wouldn’t even make it past the “connection is being established” screen without even a single error message, and I’ve even heard of a player who’s avatar literally got stuck in walls during gameplay as well just by checking the game’s community forums. Thankfully, some of my initial gameplay problems cleared up after I started a gameplay session off a Wi-Fi hotspot (or whatever resolution may be of use for the active situation). Contextual messages have occasionally expanded past the boundaries of the relevant dialog windows every now and then, but such is only slightly annoying when it’s usually still possible to get the message from other visual elements anyway.

GAMEPLAY: 8.0; CHARACTERS: 9.0; STORY: 9.5; VISUAL: 10; AUDIO: 9.0

To conclude this Drakensang Online review; Regardless of any issues thereof, I was relatively pleased with the design, presentation and functionality of Drakensang Online. Bigpoint has managed to pull off a visually-pleasing top-down MMORPG while preserving the all-important playability of even the most graphically-demanding of traditional MMO software client installations this side of your average Java technology MMO engine. The graphical capabilities of Drakensang Online have set a new upper standard for in-browser MMO games that can hold the line against even the most demanding middleware of any game, MMO or not. Drakensang Online clearly lives up to its “next generation of browser games” mantra, and the bar is definitely at a higher elevatation than it has ever been seen to date. I would highly recommend Drakensang Online to anyone who has even the slightest interest for MMORPG experiences, regardless of what they have seen before. You will not be disappointed here, so give it a try and see for yourself.

Jeffrey Davis

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