Drakensang Online

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Bim
Author: BimWebsite: http://geekout.ph
Bim is a socially adjusted geek with an unhealthy obsession for burgers. Follow him on Twitter (@TheBim) if you like high fives and nonsense.

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Do you remember Friendster? If you were around computers in 2002/2003, they were the biggest name in social networking. Recently, they made the move from being one social media's pioneers here in the country to powering through as a game publisher/ platform that caters to multiple markets in Asia. Friendster has been partnering up with top game developers and publishers, and one of them happens to be Bigpoint Games. Bigpoint is a developer and publisher, with titles such as Icefighter and Battlestar Galactica Online under their belt. They are also developing an F2P MMORPG based on George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, called A Song of Ice and Fire.

Last September 19, 2013, Friendster and Bigpoint announced the open-beta launch of Drakensang Online FX in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore. Right now, it's available to play on Friendster. Click here to start playing. FX means "Friendster Exclusive."

Drakensang Online is a free-to-play browser based MMORPG that runs on Java. Since it's on a browser, you can play it anywhere, on any desktop. Requirements to run it are very minimal. Recommended requirements aren't that high either, so practically anybody can run it.

Windows XP; Windows Vista/ 7
Pentium 4 2.8 GHz
1GB RAM for Win XP; 2GB RAM for Win 7
nVidia 6800GT with 256MB  RAM or better
DirectX 9c sound card
Updated browser (IE, Chrome, Firefox)
Updated Java

There is no mobile version yet, though, as the team explains that UI is a very important part of their design philosophy.

In Drakensang Online, you take the role of a warrior who belongs to 1 of 3 classes. A 4th class, a dwarf-looking character with a shotgun, is to be added soon (probably plays like an engineer class). And you go on adventures in the world of Dracania, a world that sort of looks like something ripped out of the imaginations of Dungeons and Dragons dungeon masters.

Friendster and Bigpoint Games team at the launch of Drakensang Online, at Dillingers, GB3

Hearing about it wasn't enough, though, so I tried to play it a bit. Now, as some of you might know, I'm not exactly a big MMORPG fan. I play DCUO every now and again, but I don't obsess over it like most MMO players would. However, I've been playing Drakensang Online (DO) for over 8 hours now, and I find it very fun and wildly addictive. It's like digital crack.

I picked out the Ranger, just for the heck of it. I normally go for the melee characters just because I tend to heavily pour my points into my damage stat and don't really bother with anything else. But for a change, I decided to go gangsta Legolas on the creatures of Dracania. Customization isn't all that deep. Pick a class, one of three body types, hair style and gender. At the start, that's pretty much all you have. As you go along, though, items add to the look and aesthetic of your character.

Character progression has all the standard MMO stuff, plus a few extras. Every character has a set of skills that you unlock by leveling up. Every time you level up, you also get talent points, which you can add to a talent well. Every five points unlock passive talents, such as +25% attack to certain weapon types or certain attacks. There is also a knowledge well that has unlocks mounts, a 7th skill hotkey, things like that. To fill that up, you have to get books of wisdom, which are randomly dropped by enemies and are for sale for real world money. The fame well is a little different. It unlocks even more passive abilities, such as x% attack or x% movement speed, but the points for that well are earned by participating in PvP. It seems that Drakensang Online pushes PvP a whole lot.

Drakensang Online plays a lot like Diablo 2, which is also a very clicky game. You click to move, you click to attack, you use the number keys to use skills and attacks. Missions are of standard MMO fare, too. They mostly consist of killing X number of this creature, talking to this person in this location, bringing back this drop from this creature from this location, retrieving this item from this location, or any combination of those. The gameplay is simple, but effective.

Looting is a very important aspect of Drakensang Online, which is a staple of MMORPGs. You can get unique items as rare drops, and you have to unlock them via Crystals of Truth. The more powerful the item,  the more expensive it is and Drakensang Online has a very good currency system. You have bronze coins, silver coins and gold coins. Every 100 bronze is equal to 1 silver, everyone 100 silver is 1 gold. There is another currency, the Andermant, which is used to buy the best equipment, upgrades and other special items like the Crystal of Truth. The Andermant can be picked up as enemy loot, and it is rewarded for doing missions. You can, however, purchase Andermant with Friendster Coins, bought with real world money, if you wanna get ahead quickly.

An MMO staple that is missing from Drakensang is player trading and auction houses. During the launch, it was said to be in the pipeline but not an immediate priority. They want to minimize players taking advantage of the system, and of noobier players.

As far as the map goes, although each individual area is comparatively small and easy to navigate, the world itself is HUGE. Here's the map.

I've explored only 2 main cities, so I've got 7 more to go through. And in each of those cities, there are a number of dungeons through which you can crawl. The environments are a mix of rural areas like bogs and forests, tombs, crypts and other places you feel adventuring in, and medieval looking towns. They're all nicely detailed, even though navigating through them can seem repetitive. Dungeons aren't big, but I guess that's part of the appeal for me.

When talking about the presentation, you have to remember that this is a browser-based game, the requirements are really low, and you didn't have to download a 4GB client and a 2GB patch to get started. That being said, the graphics for this game are actually quite pretty all things considered. You'll notice that the polygon count on your characters and enemies isn't that high, and you'll find jaggies everywhere, but with the view of the game doesn't make this an issue. The environments, especially the trees and the water and the grass, don't look too shabby. And again, remember, this is a browser-based game we're talking about here. Don't expect Tera: Rising.

The massively multi in MMO isn't quite accurate yet. At any given time, the urban villages I've visited were sparsely populated. It felt like it was an actual medieval village sorely in need of warriors. While I got into some groups, most of them never really talked or helped out in quests, and were paying attention to their own thing. I guess that's cool but when more players start actively logging in, then it'll get more fun.

Since it's f2p, the business model is micro-transactions. You can get through the entire game without buying anything, the game just makes it very tempting for you to go ahead and pick up your wallet. You can buy Friendster Coins, which you can use to buy Andermant, which is used to buy the best stuff. You can also buy lock picks. Lock picks are used to open treasure chests containing various awesome goodies. You buy those things with Friendster Coins. One thing they stressed during the launch is that their prices are localized, so they won't be too expensive.

Php 500 nets you about 12,500 Friendster Coins, and that gets you 16,000 Andermant and some change. A good weapon is worth about 4,000 Andermant. You do the math because I seriously can't figure it out.

Friendster Coins are available for purchase through online payments, like Paypal, GCash, Western Union, Dragonpay, majority of the major banks, or you can pick up load cards at establishments like Load Central, Netopia, CyBr, b_connected, and others. Here's a full list of payment options.

TL:DR

Pros:
Free to play
Browser-based, play where ever there is a laptop or PC
No huge downloads
Decent graphics
Small dungeons, but wide world map
Looting is fun
Microtransactions not necessary, currency is random drop

Cons:
Gameplay might be too simplistic for  hardcore MMORPG lovers
Limited customization
Storyline isn't exactly revolutionary

So, all in all, it's a pretty solid piece of work for something you play off your browser. It's certainly a nice alternative to other f2p games. Go ahead and give it a shot!

   

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