Friday, June 01, 2007

Dungeon Runners

I came across this latest offering from NCSoft (of Guild Wars, Auto Assault, Lineage, City of Heroes/Villains fame) this week:

Dungeon Runners


As you should be easily able to tell from first glance:















..it gets it's visual cues, UI, and gameplay mechanic from a certain other mildly popular MMO. But any similarities to that particular online world of crafting war, end right there.

For starters, DR's is free.
As in, you download the client, run the installer, set up an account, and start playing. No monthly fees and no initial purchase price. And no, it's nothing like any of those free Korean in-browser MMORPG's that have a bunch of tiny-but-cutesy avatars running around in rainbow land wearing mile wide smiles and dinner plate eyes. This, in compare to those offerings, is a 'real' game.
















I like to think of it this way:
  • Visual Style: WoW
  • User Interface: WoW
  • User Control: Guild Wars/Diablo II
  • Gameplay Model: WoW/Guild Wars/Diablo II

The technology is similar to Guild Wars, in that you meet with all other players on your server at towns and outposts, then travel off into instanced dungeons (either solo or in a group) to kill/loot/kill/loot.

In order to achieve this, there's a rudimentary 'Looking For Group' facility, and a robust and plentiful quest system in place (talk to an NPC with a '!' over their head, get a quest, etc), plus a fully functional chat system including friends and ignore lists.

This game is all about loot, and gold, and is highly addictive in it's repetitiveness in the same fashion that Diablo II was - masses of items constantly dropping off the mobs, forever juggling your limited inventory space, opening chests of coin, and mowing through the various denzians of said dungeons.













Obviously, the end to all of these means, is leveling your character. Doing so will not only increase all of your stats but allow you to wear/use the items that pour out of your mob kills.

Whilst the character system is effectively classless, there are three derivatives to choose at character creation time; Mage / Fighter / Ranger.
But as you progress through the levels and zones, you will discover that your stats, traits, and actual in-game character title will morph to approximate the style of gameplay you're embracing, including the weapons you are using. (For example, use a sword a lot and you'll get a title in your name much different to if you solely cast spells.. I'm currently an 'Energetic Noobie Obsidian Mage')

You learn new spells and abilities through NPC trainers or by looting spell books of fallen mobs, and assign them to one of the 8 hotbar slots on your UI, or to the left or right mouse button (Diablo II anyone?). Loot you pick up may be used (if you qualify in Level) or sold to vendors in towns.
As far as player trading or any form of auctioning goes, it's the good old-fashioned method of 'drop on the ground for your mate to pick up', which is actually amusing and also extremely reminiscent of Diablo II days.
















Speaking of amusing, the entire game is riddled with humour, often taking the piss out of itself and frequently poking a Very Large Fun Stick at all of the genre stereotypes. Fans of the genre (such as my good self) will find themselves chuckling away at regular intervals.

For example - I recently gained a passive skill named 'Mediocrity'. It's tooltip reads:
"Congratulations, you are average! You aren't great, but you don't suck either. No sense in rocking the boat and changing the status quo. You gain 12 Mana per Intellect point and 25 Health per Endurance point. Keep up the average work, and don't push yourself any harder than you have to."

And another, 'Trigger Happy':
"You have a nervous twitch with your trigger finger resulting from a “work-related” accident involving a branding iron, a penguin, and a large bucket of coffee beans. Your memory of the accident is hazy, but the twitch comes in handy with ranged weapons, giving you the innate ability of 25% increased speed with all ranged weapons."

Add to this items such as 'Baby Seal Fur Pauldrons' or 'Cardboard Axe for Great Justice', and you begin to get the idea. (I recently walked up to an NPC offering a quest who said, in voice, 'If you see the ghost of my dead father, tell him... I'm sorry about the poison')
Even the main location hub's name made me chuckle ('Townston').


All in all it's extremely fast-paced, colourful, and light-hearted, yet at the same time it feels like it goes well beyond the usual limitations of any free offering.

And speaking of which, whilst it is indeed totally free, if you sign up for a $4.99/month subscription you gain a number of benefits such as:
  • being able to use the most powerful in-game items, weapons and armour
  • log-in queue priority for when the servers are full (you’ll skip straight to the front of the queue)
  • access to a bank, which contains an additional 220 slots of storage space for you to access when in a town
  • the luxury of stacking potions (meaning that multiple potions will occupy one inventory slot, saving room for loot)
  • plus more to come














Whilst I initially presumed it would merely be a light distraction between courses of my staple MMO diet, I've actually been playing it non-stop since I installed it. I'm positive it'll grow old fairly quickly, but I also know it'll remain on my hard drive as light entertainment to break up my lengthy EQ2, LOTRO or GW sessions.

At only around 420mb to download fully, and with system requirements that would almost allow it to run on your mobile phone, I can't recommend it enough, at least as a curiosity.

Head on over to the sign-up page and give it a whirl. Monster bashing with appealing depth at it's finest.

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