F2P Kingdom: Side-Scrollin’ With Free to Play Dungeon Fighter Online

I appear to have been infected with a case of the old-schools, as this edition of F2P Kingdom sees me in free to play Dungeon Fighter Online, the MMO that hearkens back to the classic days of the side-scrolling beat-em-up games of my NES and SNES days. It also is a game that I had played back when it was launched in 2005, so I suppose I also returned to answer the question of “I wonder what’s happened since I was away?”

Turns out, not much has changed over the years mechanically despite the game getting a lot of different cosmetic tweaks. Let’s take a peek at the free to play experience of Dungeon Fighter Online.

Free to Play Dungeon Fighter Online

The Game

Dungeon Fighter Online sits in that interesting little place between being an MMOARPG and a side-scrolling fighter. The game operates wholly on a 2D plane in a dynamic sprite style reminiscent of a number of brawlers like Final Fight, yet also has the equipment, stats and level-up mechanics of a classic MMORPG. The combination is something that manages to feel comfortable while also being a bit unique at the same time.

Dungeon Fighter Online lives and dies by its combat model, and it’s hard to ignore how much power I was able to command while playing. My little Slayer character was able to unload some really serious hurting on anything that happened to be standing in her path in as dramatic a way as possible, all while a very encouraging voice continued to alert me to how well I was doing as I strung combinations of attacks together.

This all sounds rewarding on the surface, but through the bombast and the upbeat tempo, I found myself mostly feeling like I was able to get by on mashing buttons instead of stringing together combos in a skillful manner. Granted, the immediacy of input was perfectly tuned as skills fired off the absolute second I hit them, but I couldn’t shake the sensation that I was doing well because I was hitting whatever ability wasn’t off cooldown.

As much as I enjoyed the immediacy of my skills going off, what I didn’t really like was the control scheme itself. Dungeon Fighter Online is a game that begs to be played on a controller, yet has far too many buttons for one. The result is a fast-paced action title that tries to convince you that a keyboard is basically just a really long gamepad. It felt awkward to play.

In spite of these complaints, I found myself appreciating Dungeon Fighter Online less as a long-term game and more as a fun, short diversion. I found that breaking up my play sessions into shorter spurts heightened my enjoyment. It hit the same notes that any good mobile game would: a quick-hitting piece of entertainment that offered a little something fun once in a while.

Whether that’s something you as an MMO player would enjoy is a matter of personal preference, but for the casual gamer that just wants something quick and easy, Dungeon Fighter Online is definitely a solid recommendation. Personally speaking, if I wanted that out of my gaming time, I have a copy of River City Ransom on my 3DS ready and waiting.

Enough about the game itself, however. Let’s move on to the free to play model. Like always, this is broken up into four different categories: Account Limitations, Store Interruption, Store Offerings, and Store Reliance. Each category is graded as either Minimal, Acceptable, and Oppressive, and a brief summary of how I came to those decisions will be offered. Finally, I’ll provide a round-up of my overall feelings about how Dungeon Fighter Online works as a free to play title. Just bear in mind this isn’t intended as a review of the game overall, just my thoughts on how it treats a free-to-player.

Account Limitations: Minimal

What are Account Limitations? Anything that locks content away from you, from character or class choices to hotbars, access to dungeons or endgame. These are things that flag you as one of the “freeloaders” and restricts your play.

As a fresh face to Dungeon Fighter Online, I hadn’t really run into a lot of barriers to my gaming. The story plays out through a series of multi-stage dungeons that run on for as long as your Fatigue Points allow. While a Fatigue system sounds restrictive, I didn’t really run face-first into any barrier that stopped me from pressing on. This is likely thanks to my practice of breaking up my sessions into smaller chunks.

Additionally, those who like to run longer play sessions can do so by playing a different class. That said, that doesn’t offer a lot of value in my opinion since the missions would simply repeat themselves anyway. Still, it’s an option for those who don’t want to spend money on a potion.

Store Interruption: Minimal

Store Interruption is based on how frequently you’re reminded of the in-game store during play. This either occurs through pop-up reminders that dominate your screen or buttons that redirect you to items offered in the store.

I’ll be honest, I was completely expecting this game to attack me with a billboard at every open opportunity, and while the game’s UI isn’t exactly the cleanest thing in the world, it also didn’t really shove me in the direction of its cash shop either.

Considering how many things appear on-screen while fighting, this is by design. There is a lot of action to keep an eye on while playing through DFO’s dungeons, so having another UI button winking in the general direction of the cash shop would have been either too distracting or ignored completely.

Store Offerings: Acceptable

The Store Offerings section is a quick look at what the store has to offer. From the selection to the variety of items, this is your at-a-glance idea of whether the store is interesting and if prices seem to be fair.

There is a LOT on offer in the Dungeon Fighter Online cash shop, from a wealth of potions to several unlocks to some interesting little customization choices for my little Slayer. Everything seemed to be priced well and fun enough, though I didn’t really feel terribly moved by the choices.

Maybe it’s a shortcoming of the old-school sensibilities of this game, but I didn’t feel heavily invested in the look of my avatar despite the fact that every other starting Slayer looks precisely the same.

Store Reliance: Acceptable

This is an overall score of whether a game enters the “pay-to-win” realm with its offerings. Does the in-game store have an abundance of boosts? Does the leveling curve feel like you need to buy pots in order to progress? That’s what Store Reliance measures.

So the Fatigue system. You can purchase potions to refill your Fatigue and keep playing, or you can simply just wait it out until it refills on its own. Personally, I’m approaching this limitation less as “acceptable” and more as “oppressive but not hard to circumvent”. If you’ve ever played a game like Farmville, you already know whether or not this mechanic is going to bother you. Since I find more value in playing DFO very casually, I’m not really chafed here.

As far as the other boosters in the game, I didn’t really feel like I had to buy those either. Levels were coming at a good rate, and the things that I needed to play the game itself were available to me through in-game currency. For those reasons combined, I’m leaning towards calling this game’s store Acceptable.

The Wrap-Up

Dungeon Fighter Online is an alright game. It doesn’t do anything really spectacularly, but it also doesn’t really try to go out of its way to annoy you either. It simply does what it does, and what it does must be enjoyable enough for many since it’s been running for over 10 years now.

While I’m not enraptured by DFO, I can’t say I’m angered by it either. If you want something that’s bite-sized and high tempo that doesn’t have too many roadblocks for free players, this is as good a game as any to play.


I’m thinking next time around I’ll try something that’s a little more modern, but if you have any MMOs that you’d like to see examined, be sure to let me know in the comments below. Until next time, as always, remember; you’re not cheap, you’re thrifty.

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About Chris Hughes

Chris is a literal wolf who has managed to learn how to use a computer. He enjoys cooking, roleplaying, writing, and reading those who do the same. You can find him staring at Twitter or read more of his attempt at humor at his blog, or in-game primarily on WildStar, Blade and Soul or Final Fantasy XIV.