Dragon's Prophet, currently in open beta, is a F2P title centered around dragons. They are pets, collectibles, combat buddies, mounts, resource-gatherers and skill-givers, and there are over two hundred types of them for players to find and tame. There's also an MMO in there, so there's a lot of new stuff to learn in a short time. Here's a bit of a primer on how to get started.
First off: if you find images of scantily-clad women to be offensive, this may not be the game for you. What appears as bulky spike-covered armor-plating on a male character ends up being a chain mail bra and matching G-string thong on a female toon. The female villain introduced in the tutorial wears an outfit that leaves almost nothing to the imagination. Also worth noting is that the higher level you reach, the skimpier the female armor gets. The epic stuff sold in the cash shop is basically spike- and fur-covered chainmail postage stamps. And it's fairly clear quite early on (like, during the character creation process) that all female characters in Dragon's Prophet have "been to Brazil," wink-wink nudge-nudge.
On your first play-through, you can choose to start with the tutorial. The tutorial explains the back-story about the Osira army and their current conflict with the evil super-dragon Kronos and his legion of necromancers, and also gives you the basics for combat and dragon-summoning, so I recommend it for a first character. Or if you want to catch that glimpse of the evil hottie with the barely-there villain armor. Skip it for any consecutive characters, though, and just go straight to selecting your starting zone.
Combat in Dragon's Prophet is dynamic and action-oriented, like Guild Wars 2, TERA or Neverwinter. Enemy attacks are telegraphed, usually by animation wind-ups, and can be dodged or blocked. The character hits whatever is in front of him, either in an arc or in a straight line. Dragon's Prophet uses a type of "soft targeting" where individual targets are not locked in, but certain skills cannot be used if there is no highlighted target in front of the character
You have the choice of four archetypical character classes:
- The Guardian: "Guardians are heavily armored melee combatants who command a variety of weapons. Their reckless offense includes impact attacks and vicious strikes powerful enough to dismantle any opponent. Constant exposure to battle has made them resilient and able to withstand the risks of being on the front line. Guardians wield on- or two-handed weapons, with the capability to dual-wield and equip a shield."
- The Ranger: "Rangers are exceptional marksmen who prefer to engage their foes at a distance. Their uncanny speed and heightened senses allow them to strike first with deadly precision. Through excellent positioning and battlefield control they are capable of dispatching even the toughest aggressor. Rangers employ an arsenal of ranged weapons including guns and bows."
- The Oracle: "Oracles are spiritual followers of draconic disciplines who possess a keen battle prowess and harness mystical energy. They devoutly follow the instruction of their Dragon ancestors and strive to become a perfect embodiment of their ideals. Although they are lightly armored, their magical abilities provide enhanced defense and persistent rejuvenation. Oracles wield the dreaded colossus scythe or a magical focus as their weapons."
- The Sorcerer: "Sorcerers are arcane masters of draconic conjuration who invoke destructive elemental forces to crush their enemies. They channel the primal fabric of nature to rain fiery death on an opponent or protect themselves with an earthen barrier. Versatility and foresight are their assets in combat as they can adapt their fighting style to exploit the weaknesses o f their adversaries. Sorcerers brandish wands or staves in combat but their true weapon is teir incomparable offensive magic."
Once you haul your character through the tutorial, you lose access to most of the skills you had all through it (which is why I recommend skipping it for any new characters after the first one). You are given the choice of which starting land you want to go to: Hunak, Sibernia or Helmoth. Story-wise, it doesn't really matter which zone you start out in, but each of the zones has a different sort of flavor. Hunak, for example, has a bunch of dynamic public events - similar to GW2 - right out of the gate, whereas the other two zones have more standard click-to-talk chained quests. Sibernia is the zone with flying dragon mounts very early on, so if you want to start your collection with a flier, go there.
Early combo moves for an Oracle.
Your initial repertoire of attack skills will be limited to left- and right-click skills, which can be chained together into combo attacks. Timing combo attacks can be tricky - the attack durations seem to be tied to the combat animations, but that timing is imprecise and you'll need to do some trial-and-error testing to figure out the sweet spot. You will also want to keep your latency as low as possible, so pause your torrents and streaming videos for the time being. Reaction time is crucial, and a 200ms ping can make it hard to string a viable combo together.
Later on, you'll earn new skills that are tied by default to the Q, E, R, V and top-row number keys. These skills can also be used in powerful combo attacks, usually in concert with mouse-button attacks. More combos are unlocked as you gain levels, as well as additional skills, and capturing and training different dragons earns you Dragon Soul skills. For example, the big lumbering bull of a dragon I captured on my level 5 Sorcerer came with Life Calling, which is a handy little instant self-heal. My Level 7 Ranger, who has two different dragons, has Shell Protection (reduces the number of monsters attacking the character by 60%), Cure (a self-heal which also affects the dragon) and Downpour (a small heal-over-time for an ally).
Questing is the chief method of XP gain, and quests are available in two main ways: MMO-standard text-box quests issued by NPCs, which are the most common, and dynamic public events similar to Guild Wars 2. These are more common in some areas than in others. For example, the Hunak region has several of these right at the town gates and continuing out into the wilderness, but in the Helmoth region, you won't encounter them until much later. In the low-level areas, most general questing takes place on the open landscape, but a few quests will send the character into instanced spaces. These instances can be run solo or with a group, but take care: though it says it's meant for solo characters, some of the fights may difficult. The Helmoth region features a canyon crawl instance at around level 9 or 10, which took me several frustrating attempts to hammer through. Bite the bullet and run with a group whenever possible.
It's also possible to get overwhelmed by normal landscape mobs, particularly if you experience high ping rates. For the most part, my Guardian was able to survive two on-level mobs when fighting alone, or up to three when fighting beside her pet dragon and/or chugging potions and kiting. Anything more than that was too much, and Gunkarella would take a savage beatdown. Over time, with better gear, more practice and lower network latency, I would most likely be able to handle more enemies at once, but in the meantime I have to temper my enthusiasm with a healthy dose of caution.
When you level up, you get points to spend upgrading your ability scores on your character sheet. Dragon's Prophet isn't reinventing the wheel with ability scores - the ones they use should be familiar to anyone who has ever played any kind of stat-based RPG since the 1970s - and helpful tooltips describe what the abilities actually do for anyone who might be confused by them. Hit C to open your character sheet right after gaining a new level and click the little up arrows to distribute your points.
The interesting thing about this system is, it's essentially unrestricted. That is, there's nothing stopping a Ranger, say, from cranking all of his points into Strength and Constitution instead of into Ferocity (which is pretty much equivalent to Agility in any other game and would be much more appropriate). On the one hand, this allows for a much broader range of specialists and generalists than one might find in other games, and serious number crunchers can work out complicated formulae for the very best distribution of points for each specialist role for each class. On the other hand, it can also lead to unplayable mistakes that can't do anything well. Fortunately, if you do end up making a major blunder, you can buy Attribute Reset Powder from the cash shop.
After familiarizing yourself with the combat skills, it's time to get yourself your first dragon. Approach any creature with the word "dragon" in its name (or nearly any dragon - some are specifically aligned with the enemy and cannot be tamed) and use the Capture skill on it. By default, this Capture skill is mapped to the 6 key. Your character will do a high-flip somersault onto the beast's back and ride it like a bucking bronco until either the dragon is tamed or it resists your taming attempt and throws you off. If it resists your attempt to capture it, the dragon will begin attacking as soon as you are thrown off. You can either run away to avoid killing it, or kill it and try again on another.
Capturing a dragon involves a little mini-game, requiring the player to keep a moving marker centered in the little window by using the W, A, S and D keys (and additional keys for more challenging dragons later in the game). There are meters on either side of the capture window. The yellow one on the left represents your Dragon Soul points, and will gradually run out after a few seconds. The red one on the right is your success bar, and fills up when you keep the taming reticle centered. It fills up faster (indicated by the little number to the right) when you keep the icon in the center ring, slower if you let it slide to the outside ring, and stops if you let it fall outside of the grey circle altogether. If the yellow bar runs out before the red bar fills up, the dragon resists your attempt to capture it and turns hostile. If the red bar fills up before the yellow bar runs out, the dragon is tamed and added to your collection.
Higher level dragons are more difficult to capture, and lower level ones are easier. And once your Dragon Soul points have been drained after a failed attempt, you'll need to wait for the meter to refill before you try again by staying out of combat or calling out an already-tamed dragon and killing monsters with it. There's no limit to the number of times you can attempt to capture a dragon, so keep at it until he's in your pocket. You can also try putting more points into the Charisma stat, which gives you better dragon-taming ability.
You can only "carry" a limited number of dragons around with you at any given time. Up to 6 dragons can be equipped in the dragon stable - these are the ones you carry around and can ride or employ as combat pets, and whose combat skills (Dragon Soul skills) you share. Different dragons will have different Dragon Soul skills, and finding the ones that best complement your character may take some trial-and-error experimentation.
Up to a further six dragons can be housed in the Dragon Lair, which can be accessed at certain towns with a Lair Manager. The Lair is for training your dragons and for getting them to gather resources and such. On the Dragon Processes tab, there are 8 different processes they can perform: Special Process, Skill Training, Ore Collection, Herb Collection, Wood Collection, Leather Collection, Cloth Collection and Hunting Collection. The Special Process task seems to be mindless busywork that results in a large Training Experience gain.
Initially, you are limited to two slots in each (Stable and Lair), and the remaining slots can be unlocked with Station Cash, the cash-shop currency used in all SOE games. Should you run out of space in the Lair and the Stable, you can always move your excess dragons into the Dragon Chamber, which can store 96 dragons when you unlock all the slots (again, the unlocks require Station Cash).
The cash shop in Dragon's Prophet is called the Marketplace, and is opened with the ; key by default (or by clicking on the chest icon in the menu at the top, which becomes visible and usable when you hit the ESC key). While the shop itself is fairly unobtrusive, you will be provided with ample opportunity to spend Station Cash before you ever stumble across the actual Marketplace. Following the traditional F2P Upsell Strategem, players have essentially unlimited access to all content in the game, but have to buy a lot of unlocks to achieve anything efficiently. Inventory and dragon space is at a premium for several levels until and unless you buy slot unlocks, and even then you will likely find yourself making frequent runs to town to unload at vendor stalls. If you plan on playing this game for a while, these unlocks are worth the money.
A second currency, Dragon Insignias, are earnable in-game by completing daily quests, and can be used to buy most of the same stuff from the Marketplace as Station Cash. They can't be used to buy inventory unlocks or housing items, but they can be used to purchase stuff from all the other categories in the Marketplace. In other words, you might want to save your cash for major upgrades and important unlocks, and wait for the fluff stuff until you can afford it with Dragon Insignias.
This should be enough to give you a running start with Dragon's Prophet.
Obviously, there's a whole lot more to the game than the first few levels,
so get in there and explore it all from the back of your very own mighty