Enter the Dragon: Crimson's Dragon Nest CBT Experience

13 Jul , 2011,
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Dragon Nest - Login Screen

I’ve been excited about Dragon Nest since I first saw the demo at Comifest 2.

Today, Cherry Credits kicked off the Dragon Nest SEA Closed Beta Test (CBT), and as one of the lucky peeps with a beta key, I’ve been running around since mid afternoon, bopping goblins and other nasties with wild abandon.

Published by Shanda, Dragon Nest is a free-to-play MMORPG taking place on the mythical continent of Lagendia.

You take on the role of a hero prophesied to save the world, uncovering a world spanning plot rife with fell magics, betrayals and skulking cultists as you traverse a series of instanced dungeons, level up, and unlock new pieces of the puzzle along the way.

1. Character Creation

Behold - Crimson the Cleric. XD

Creating a character didn’t take more than a couple minutes.

There were only four classes to choose from – the cleric and warrior, both melee combatants, and the archer and sorcerer, who possessed long range attacks.

After selecting a class, you’d have a few options to customize your facial features, hair styles, colors, and the look of your starting gear.

It was a shame that genders were fixed (which meant no male sorcerer for me), so I settled for the next best thing – the cleric.

A few mouse clicks later, and I was off.

2. Action Packed

Unlike traditional MMORPGs, Dragon Nest evokes the feel of an arcade game. You move with the WASD keys, turn with your mouse, and mash buttons to deliver your attacks, racking up combo points while you’re at it. Space bar lets you jump, ¬†and you can pull off attacks even while you’re in mid-air.

Using a wand is pretty zappy.

Casting Charged Bolt!

I quickly discovered that each class could equip a variety of weapons, and these weapons affected their mode of play. The cleric, for example, could equip either the mace, the flail or the wand.

The mace had a short range and light damage, but could dish out the most hits quickly, allowing for multiple combos, while the wand was slow, but capable of zapping people with lightning at range, sometimes paralyzing them.The flail was somewhere in between (and probably my favorite), allowing for greater versatility.

The right mouse button, which could fire off a special attack (in this case, the cleric could deliver a roundhouse kick that knocked targets back), could also be pressed multiple times at higher levels to execute additional attacks. This allowed for a lot of variety in terms of combat maneuvers (making it a whole lot like DC Universe Online) in addition to the skills you could map to hot keys.

3. Dungeon Driven Storyline

Also, unlike traditional MMOs, where you’re running around a persistent world killing boars, talking to NPCs, and generally playing fetch and kill, the story of Dragon Nest unravels in a series of quests, and these quests take you through a variety of instanced zones.

The instance selection interface.

In these zones, which range from snowy fields to musty dungeons, you complete numerous objectives, such as hunting down an item (marked with a convenient question mark), slay monsters, or collect item drops.

The beauty of the instance system is that you don’t have to fight with two million other players for item drops or mob kills (which could be a problem in games like Rift and World of Warcraft), and can even go at a dungeon alone without the hindrance of partying with people who don’t pull their weight, ninja looters, or annoyances in general.

This makes Dragon Nest incredibly friendly for solo play (though the best gear and rewards still drop on 4 man dungeons in Abyss mode).

4. It takes Skill

A cleric's skill tree. XD

Also, unlike most conventional MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, where you purchase spells from trainers and use talent points to improve your abilities, you gain new skills by unlocking them, either with a skill book drop (it’s random) or by unlocking them at your class trainer at the cost of skill points (or SP).

Leveling skills up also requires skill points, and since you only have a small amount of skill points at each level up, it pays to plan ahead, and choose your skills wisely.

I decided to go the lightning route, so I put the bulk of my skills into lightning attacks, and some into attacks keyed off the kick ability, to knock people back and keep ’em away while I’m casting my pew pew magic.

5. What’s my game?

As a cleric affiliated with the Templars, I was thrust right into the thick of things when a caravan transporting a religious artifact was beset by goblins, and the relic stolen.

Escorting the survivors to the nearby town of Mana Ridge, I was instantly tasked by my superiors to recover the item, sparking a chain of events that unravel the threads of a conspiracy of the highest order.

It was fun going through the motions and reading the dialogue. The NPCs were fairly well written, and other than a few minor hiccups in the grammar and syntax (they’ll probably be ironed out when the game goes live), the dialogue proved to be polished.

Admittedly, it would have been great if multiple quest objectives could be completed in a single instance run (the way it’s programmed, some quests are mutually exclusive), but in general, I didn’t really mind it. The addition of Blessing Points (kinda like Rested XP), which granted bonus experience points during dungeon runs was also a plus, and really contributed to speeding up the otherwise slow leveling curve.

I was a little disappointed by the loot tables though. I rather expected the system to be smarter, and that dungeons would be seeded with items my class could actually use, rather than loot for other classes. I was bereft of new gear and weapons (the game kept giving me sorcerer or warrior gear) for more than 10 levels, and barely got by with quest rewards.

Perhaps this will be remedied at a later point, and class specific gear might be made more readily available.

I’ll be writing more about my Dragon Nest CBT experience in the days to come, so bookmark this blog if you’re interested! I’m gonna get back to grinding in the mean, because I’m this close to 15, where I can get my first specialization! XD

Until then, cheerio!