A mobile MMORPG that might actually hit the spot.
Before mobile free-to-play, micro-transaction funded games made their appearance in the video game world, there were free-to-play MMORPGs available to play online. Whilst these MMORPGs hadn’t mastered the art of sucking money from the player in exchange for a gaming experience (something that modern free-to-play mobile games do so well, and are often criticised for), they still managed to make money for the developers and publishers, and many of them have continued to be popular even now, with still more popping up and the free-to-play MMORPG market evolving to offer a comparable quality with premium MMORPGs.
But the current holy grail, as it were, would be to combine modern free-to-play mobile gaming with the depth and social aspect of the MMORPG. Surely the company that comes up with a mobile game of similar popularity to World of Warcraft, for example, and offer it for free whilst still tempting players to part with cash, would be laying a golden egg. Many have tried, and many have failed thus far due not only to the limitations of smart phones and tablets (although these are becoming less and less), but also due to unfair paywall preventing the player from any satisfying advancement without spending real world money, something players don’t want to feel forced to do.
And so it is that we come to Dragon Eternity from Game Insight, a relatively young developer and publisher that already has quite a collection of varied games in their portfolio. Could it be that Dragon Eternity, which is available now across different platforms both mobile and online, is the free-to-play MMORPG that players have been just waiting to throw money at?
Well, it certainly looks the part. Dragon Eternity may have made certain concessions for the mobile market, but the visuals are not one of them. Gameplay alternates between stunning views of the players’ area and the side on combat view which is reminiscent of 2D fighting games. The area views, in which the player can instantly see any available interactions, seem to be hand drawn to a high, and incredibly detailed, standard, and are brought to life with sprites to represent NPCs or enemies. The side views offer less by way of majestic vistas, but are no less detailed. In the side view, the players character and the enemies that they have to fight are well designed and varied.
It may well be that moving away from the usual 3D explorable worlds that can be found in online MMORPGs, and have been attempted in mobile form, is the way forward. With the entire local area viewable at the same time, and moving from one area to the next being a simple finger tap, much of the boring stuff is removed completely and the game becomes much more friendly towards mobile gaming. The downside is that Dragon Eternity doesn’t pull the player in so much, it just doesn’t feel as involving.
The lack of involvement is not something that can solely be blamed on the lack of 3D world though. Adventuring in the fantasy world of Adan can feel a little devoid of depth. Obviously a lot of work has been put into giving the world of Adan a rich and detailed history, but surprisingly little of this is conveyed to the player as they start the game. Players choose a side from two warring factions and are then sent out into the world to make a name for themselves. The monsters are plentiful, and there are dragons available as pets, but there is little by way of story to spur the player on.
Still, MMORPGs have never really been known for their story telling. Rather, it is more about leveling up and making the most powerful character possible. To this end, there are a huge number of different quests available in the game for the player to complete on their journey. The game is also not lacking in different things to do, with PvP arenas, professions to master, and world events to keep the player busy. Content wise, Dragon Eternity is a sandwich packed with filling.
But a problem arises when it comes to the complexity of the game. With so much to do and having to make the game playable on the smaller screen, there can be a lot of information around. The game makes a good job of explaining everything from the very start, but there is a lot to learn players may find themselves stumbling in the dark from time to time as they come to grips with it. This is not uncommon in MMORPGs, with most games requiring a certain amount of learning before the game truly opens up and becomes enjoyable, but in Dragon Eternity it feels compressed and may even come across as overwhelming to a new player.
When it comes to how much the game is going to cost, that depends entirely on the player. Players who have spent any time with MMORPGs, especially the free ones, will know all about grinding. The whole process of working through mundane quests and encounters to level up is present in Dragon Eternity, but veteran MMO players will have no problem with investing the time to grind. Players who are more used to the quick satisfaction of mobile games however will find grinding a chore, and for those players there is often the chance to spend some money and move along a bit quicker. Players do not have to “pay to win”, but investing some cash will help things move along at a more comfortable rate.
But realistically, the paying out of money is not such a big deal in Dragon Eternity as it can be in some other games. The balance is good, and there is plenty to keep the average player entertained without spending any money whatsoever. Game Insight have done a good job of providing the player with options.
Dragon Eternity is an incredibly detailed and content filled MMORPG for mobile devices. It does have a few problems that prevent it from reaching “holy grail” status, but it is undoubtedly the best example of a free-to-play MMORPG currently available on iOS and Android. When compared with traditional MMORPGs, the game comes up short. But taken on its own merits, Dragon Eternity is a great way to waste your spare time.