A homage to bigger MMOs, Drakensang’s high-paced action and quick learning curve make for an amazingly fun ride. With hundreds of hours of content, there’s no shortage of things to do in the world of Dracania and every step of the way is a visual treat.
Let’s Start at the Beginning
Unlike some browser-based MMOs, Drakensang begins without a detailed tutorial. Instead, I was thrown right into the action, and given explanations and tips as things unfolded. Within minutes, I was battling foes and completing quests. This feature blends well into one of Drakensang’s other qualities: it’s super addictive.
As you hack and slash your way through the beautiful terrain and complete everlasting chains of reward-based quest lines, it’s difficult to tear oneself away from the game even for life’s necessities — like sleep. Despite its lack of direction, or perhaps because of it, Drakensang is an engaging digital battleground right from the start.
Characters, Classes, and Progression
In Drakensang, players can chose one of four classes that best represents their desired playing style.
A freedom fighter and a warrior, Dragonknights are your melee class of the game. With their strong defenses, brute force, and range of weapons, they have the highest survivability odds of all. Understandably, they also fill in the role of tanks in groups. If you like to hit things, this may be your class of choice.
Controllers of the elements, Spellweavers use their spiritual powers to dish out high-damage spells, making them perfect for ranged DPS. With low defenses and minimal armor, they’re quick to go down if they can’t keep their attackers at bay — but their teleportation skills make them a hard catch. And those elements they love so much? They make it even easier for this class to cut through most of their enemies’ defenses.
As you can probably deduce from their name, this class is best suited for long-ranged combat and crowd control. Though, they can also handle themselves up close with a swift bashing from their bows. Because of their diversity and ability to handle themselves up close, from afar, and in crowds, Rangers may be the easiest class to solo-level.
The newest class to the game, steam mechanica (yes, that’s the proper plural form) are masters at mid-range combat with full-loaded pistols and rocket packs. Add grenades and tanks on top of it all and let’s just say my inner ‘berserker mode’ was all grabby hands. This one’s mine! Did I mention the mech turrets? They have those too. Epic.
Leveling and Progression
As with most MMOs, leveling requires more experience as you go. Therefore, the game gradually slows the higher you go, but also offers better rewards and loot. Some of Drakensang’s players feel that the game’s level-grinding can get a bit repetitive, but at the same time, its simple quest objectives and suitable rewards are what makes the game so addictive in the first place.
The game caps out at level 50, but is far from over. As avid players of other MMOs well know, some believe this is where the game truly begins. Whether you’re looking to battle to the death in the PVP Arenas or join together in groups to raid the newest dungeon, the fun in Drakensang continues long after leveling is done.
Graphics, Music, and Controls
Graphics are where Drakensang makes it mark. During the open beta in 2011, it was heralded as the next-generation of browser-based MMOs. Years later, the artwork is still impressive. With armor design and visuals like Guild Wars, lovers of Triple-A MMOs might find themselves right at home in this browser-based equivalent.
At times, the music seemed a little bland and felt more like background noise rather than contributing to the game’s atmosphere. However, this also sidestepped any issues of the music becoming repetitive and allowed me to focus on what mattered most – the game.
Since Drakensang felt so similar to bigger MMOs, I found myself wishing it had the same key bindings. As a former World of Warcraft addict, I kept defaulting to W-A-S-D controls and was annoyed when I’d hit ‘W’ to move my character forward and the world map would pop open instead.
Overall, the controls were a bit awkward and at times it seems nearly everything is accomplished with left mouse button. Walk, shoot, pick up quests. Click, click, click. However, since the game does not include a tutorial at the beginning, the simplified controls make it easy for everyone to jump immediately into the action, experienced or not.
Is it really browser-based?
It is interesting to note that for a browser-based game, Drakensang may not be compatible for all. The game requires Java and not all browsers (like Chrome) support Java. While there are work-arounds, those who consider themselves technologically-challenged may become easily frustrated and give up before even playing the game. Fortunately, the developers offer a downloadable client that many players recommend over playing in-browser.
Drakensang takes on the traditional makings of an MMO when it comes to multiplayer. While there are plenty of quests for the individual gamer, dungeons (where the best loot and armor is stashed) need to be raided in parties. The game also encourages players to form guilds and features PVP Arenas in cities. It even doles out PVP-specific quests for unique rewards.
As far an innovation goes, there isn’t anything new to see here. But this classic style of multiplayer is a mainstay in the genre for a reason: there’s something for everyone. Solo players can lose themselves in single-player quests chains and the more competitive players can kick things up in the PVP arenas. As they say, if it ain’t broke…
Is it play to win?
Like most freemium games, Drakensang has an in-game currency which can be purchased using real life cash. This currency, Andermant, can be used to expand a character’s inventory capacity, acquire better armor and gems, and even unlocks some extra features, like certain pets.
However, Andermant is also given as the occasional quest reward and is sometimes dropped by some of the game’s more formidable foes, so the free-to-play player can still grind their way through the game without needing to spend a dime.
With loads of content, immediate action and simplified controls, Drakensang strikes a great balance between the hardcore gamer and casuals. While some players looking strictly for a browser-based game may be turned off by the potential compatibility issues, those who love lush graphics, addictive gameplay, or are simply looking for an alternative to Diablo III should be pleased with what Drakensang has to offer.