Side scrolling MMOGs aren't anything new in North America, but they're
also not considered mainstream either. There have been others in the
past such as Maple Story, but THQ*ICE is the first to release a 3D side
scroller with Dragonica Online. It may have the look of a child's game
but in actuality its depth goes farther than most gamers would suspect.
Dragonica has dungeons, PvP, crafting, and plenty of questing.
Unfortunately, the game insists on using the same mobs and scenery over
and over in each area. Going from one portion of a zone to another and
another with the only discernable difference from one to the next being
the level of the mob you’re attempting to kill, is not my
idea of fun. In this day and age, this kind of repeatable gameplay just
isn’t going to cut it.
I grew up in these mysterious hangouts called arcades when I was a kid.
Back then, we lived by the quarter and died by the lack of continues,
because back in my day they didn't exist. For any other arcade dweller
of old, or even the modern gamer that may have parents who torture them
with some of those ancient games, it's impossible to not feel like the
combat in Dragonica Online is a cross between Street Fighter and Double
Twenty years ago, I had hand eye coordination and reflexes that would
make a Jedi knight or Sith warrior weep with envy. Needless to say,
that is no longer the case. Even spending more time than I care to
admit trying to set up the keyboard to my liking, I still spent an
inordinate amount of time searching for the right key during combat. No
matter how you break it down, that is simply *not* what you want
players doing at any point in the game. That goes doubly for when
they've just finished downloading the client, installing, patching, and
then creating their character. As former Ten Ton Hammer staff member,
Ralsu, once mentioned before he left, no game has the luxury of turning
it's players off at the start of a game, but the danger for this with
F2P titles is even more critical. Since there's no cost involved,
players can be turned off by a major aspect and have the game
uninstalled five minutes after logging in for a trial run.
The free-to-play genre has made the choice of four classes pretty
standard fare, and Dragonica Online’s developers apparently
didn’t feel any urge to mess with this magical rule. Initial
class choices include the warrior, magician, archer, and thief. As
characters level up though, they do eventually gain the ability to
choose specializations. My magician, for example, will become a War
Mage at level 20. All of the classes have a choice of two class
specializations to choose from at level 20, 40, and 60. This means that
even though you only start out with four classes, you have the
opportunity to access many more throughout the course of your
To kick off my journey, I started a magician (to the surprise of no
one.) I consider it my personal test for any impression piece. In most
instances, no matter how new you are to a game, you can easily make
your way through it with a fighter class of some sort. I like to do it
with a mage instead to get a feel for a game from a different
perspective because they tend to be a little more difficult to play.
This helps highlight issues in a game that may need improvement.
In the case of Dragonica Online, there was little difference between
the warrior and magician classes in the beginning of the game. No
matter what you're wearing for armor, you never want to let the mobs
stand there and beat on you. Damage was comparable as well. I know some
Dragonica Online players are probably screaming at their screens right
now. How can the two classes possibly play the same, or have the same
numbers? Amazingly, there's a pretty simple explanation. Trying to
utilize any skills in the heat of combat is beyond painful.
The control scheme for Dragonica Online is so confounding that
eventually I lost patience and just started using one or two skills
while relying on the normal attack key to get through the majority of
my battles. I honestly can't think of any other game that tries to make
you use the keyboard for everything. Using keys such as WASD for
hot-keyed abilities instead of movement is just asinine. Taking keys
that have been designated as movement keys for years goes against every
rule for player accessibility.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but why in the hell would you
purposely take away a gaming tool that is used by nearly everyone
constantly? How many times have players quit a game because they were
forced to use a mouse? I know there are some players that prefer to use
their keyboard for the majority of their MMOG gaming tasks, but don't
punish the rest of us because of it.
While I personally feel that this control scheme is extremely awkward,
unintuitive, and frustrating to use, I will give the hard working
development team at THQ*ICE a high five for the coolest key mapping
system I've ever seen. Up until now, the only option I've seen for
rearranging your key commands has consisted of the following steps:
Scroll through an ungodly long list of commands until finding whatever
obscure function you're searching for.
Reset said key to one you think it should be and curse the development
team with vigor for not already making it so.
Repeat steps one and two a billion times because every time you change
one key, it screws another up, so you spend more time than you can
stand in a vain attempt to have all the keys set to your liking.
What inevitably happens in these instances is that sooner or later you
end up having to use odder and odder key combinations to get the
results you want. Rather than put its players through more pain and
suffering than should be legally allowed, Dragonica uses a different
system altogether. When you select the key mapping selection in the
main menu, a virtual keyboard appears with every single key labeled. If
you want to change a key, simply move the key you wish it were to the
new spot and they'll swap right before your eyes.
For example, if you were to change the "Move Left" key from the right
arrow and dragged it to the "D" key, the ability key that "D" handled
would now be sitting on the right arrow key, while "D" would now be
"Move Left". It's an absolutely brilliant system and I'm looking
forward to the day when the MMOG industry adopts this new method as a
standard none of us will tolerate a game not shipping with. Enough with
the controls though, eh? Back to Dragonica Online!
Back in the day, we didn't mind side scroller games because, for the
most part, that's all we had. When Defender came out it was fresh, new,
and more exciting than anyone in the modern world could believe. The
only reason I would purposely choose to pursue a side scroller game now
would be if it were on my phone, or if I was in the mood to fire up my
old Nintendo. It certainly lends the game a nostalgic appeal, but
Dragonica Online fails as a modern classic.
Between the solid skill system tree, the added goal of gaining extra
experience points for chaining multiple combos together, and an
interestingly stylized look, there is some fun to be found within
Dragonica Online somewhere. Unfortunately for me, the control system is
so unnatural that I found it impossible to relax and enjoy the game.
Instead, I found myself frustrated with it. Even so, the game is free
to play and you’ve got nothing to lose by downloading
giving it a whirl