Dragon’s Nest Closed Beta Preview

Welcome to the Dragon’s Nest Closed Beta Preview. I love the smell that seeps out when I open the first page of a new book. I love how it feels when I rip the plastic wrapping from a new movie. I also love that burst of colour and sound that accompanies the login screen of every new MMORPG. I love it even more when that login screen is accompanied by a decent game. In the case of Dragon Nest, the latest and greatest of the Action MMORPG genre, it was.

You don’t have to know a lot about the MMO industry to know that there been a sharp drop in quality over the past couple of years. At first, that bothered me, but as time passed I got over it. Today, I’ve found a benefit: it forces games like Dragon Nest to the top of the pack, and allows you to appreciate the quality that much more. 

So here I am, appreciating the quality. I’ve only spent 10 or so hours in the Dragon Nest Closed Beta, but I’ve seen enough to say that it a game you’ll be hearing a lot about in the coming months, and that it one you should try the very first chance you get.

Why? Well, that a much longer story. The question is: do you have time to hear it?

To get it out of the way nice and early, Dragon Nest has some issues. There aren’t a lot, but if you’re reading this now wondering if it a game you’d like to play, here’re a few things you should know.

First, and to my everlasting dismay, character selection in Dragon Nest is limited in every possible way. There are only 4 classes, the Warrior, Archer, Cleric and Sorceress; all classes are gender locked (so, Clerics and Warriors will always be male, and Archers and Sorceress female); and there are only a few options for initial customization. So, after creating your character, expect to be standing next to a hundred others that look exactly like you. I can’t say what motivated this decision (seriously guys, it 2011; take a look around), but it one that I’ll never forgive. 

Second, loading times in Dragon Nest are long. I have my client installed on a SSD and I still find myself waiting upwards of 10 seconds at most loading screens, and the instance-based nature of the game as a whole (more on that later) means that you’ll encounter one of these screens every few minutes. This isn’t a game breaker, but it slows down the feeling of progression and gives you far too much time to feel guilty for playing video games when you know you should be doing something else. 😉

I know these issues sound pretty bad; truth is they are, and I’m as annoyed by them as you’re going to be once you’ve played for a while and the glamour and glitz has worn off, but it important to note that in 10 hours of gameplay, these are the only two issues I’ve found. Everything else is, well”¦

Dragon Nest is a quality MMORPG, there no doubt about it. It innovative and engaging in every way that counts, and negative aspects aside, it a game that meant to be played. After creating your character you’ll officially begin your adventure by watching an action-filled cinematic that differs depending on your character choice. I chose to play as a Cleric; as such, I was introduced to Dragon Nest as the savior of the Pope courier. Just as a group of Goblins began their attack on the wagon, I arrived to save the day. 

Immediately, I was hooked by the fluidity of the combat and controls. As an action MMORPG, Dragon Nest control scheme is quite different to the standard MMO fare. Your mouse curser acts as a fixed crosshair, the left and right mouse buttons serve as your primary and secondary attacks, and your class-specific skills are bound to the number keys. As a result, combat is fast-paced and action orientated, but simple to grasp and fun to play. Additional keys F and R serve as pick-up and special ability buttons, adding to the overall speed and efficiency of the style.

After the opening section of the game was complete I was offered to play a tutorial. This is highly recommended, as it emulates one of the many ‘instanced stages’ that make up the core of Dragon Nest gameplay, and equipped me with all of the skills needed to play. I also gained a firm understanding of the quest system, GUI and navigation options, and in less than 5 minutes, was entirely ready to play.

There are a bunch of ways to grade the quality of a video game. Some people break down the core aspects into categories like visuals, gameplay and sound, while others summarize their complete experience and assign a score value at the end of their critique. I have a different method; for me, it all about how a game feels

You can’t put a number on it, and you can’t break it down into smaller elements, but if you’ve played a few MMORPGs in your time then you probably know what I mean when I say Dragon Nest feels good. When I’m playing my Cleric, I feel like a Cleric. I can heal and revive my party members, but I can also contribute to dealing damage depending on my choice of weapon and play style, and more importantly, I can play solo with total efficiency.

In terms of gameplay, Dragon Nest employs an instance-based design that, in short, means that you’ll only be able to see other players while in town, or when they’re a member of your party.
Each area outside of a town is instanced, and within these areas are multiple portals that lead to multiple dungeons. These can all be played solo or in a group of up to 4 members, and thanks to a very welcome scaling difficulty system, can all be played on Easy, Normal, Hard, Master or Abyss levels, each offering different rewards and experience levels.

Creating a party is as simple as it ever been; when leaving a town you’ll be asked whether you’d like to play solo or join a group. Selecting to join a group will open a list of all available groups, and selecting one will add you as a member. Never. Been. Easier.

And that about all we have time for in this preview. I’ve neglected to mention the innovate and well-designed quest and crafting systems, as have I the possible issues in dungeon, group and class balance, though I have done so intentionally. It really too early to tell at this point, but as previously mentioned, I can say this: Dragon Nest feels good. Questing feels good. Combat feels good. Group-Play feels good. Crafting feels good. Inventory management feels good. It all feels good, and upon release, once I’ve had the chance to play at a higher level, I hope that the remaining elements, such as PvP and Raid content, feel good too.
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