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E3 2010: Nexon America...New Kings Of PC Gaming? (Impression)



June 17, 2010 - Usually, when I hear “Korean MMO,” my brain checks out. “Free Korean MMO,” and I basically flatline. Nexon came to E3 to change that, right up front stating their awareness of free-to-play apologists and their determination end that stigma. They’re bringing three action-intensive MMORPGs to the masses in the forms of Dungeon Fighter Online, Dragon Nest and Vindictus. And they’re all free.


Dungeon Fighter Online

When I first heard about DFO about a year ago, after its release in Asia, I made fun of it. I knew nothing about it but that title begs for sarcastic, not-very-witty commentary; “Get ready to Fight in Dungeons! Online!”

Fast forward to E3 2010. I am eating my cynicism. And it is bitter.

Upfront, DFO is one of the most unexpectedly coolest little gems I got my hands on the first day of the show. In short, it’s an MMORPG inspired by classic arcade action games. In my brief time with the game -- even just from watching videos -- DFO wears its inspirations on its sleeve. I could see traces of Street Fighter, Streets of Rage, Final Fight, and, much to this writer’s delight, the old Dungeons and Dragons arcade brawler/RPGs. It’s 2D, fast action with over the top animations.

However, that’s not claim that DFO is derivative. With classes and subclasses galore, the game waves its MMO flag high. I only got to experiment with the Brawler sub-class of the Fighter; a “dirty fighter” who specializes in grab moves and throwing the occasional bomb. But the demo we saw the sword-wielding Slayer, the pistol-toting Gunner, a burly healer class, and Mage specializing in ranged attacks and summoning minions o fight alongside.

In addition to co-operative and competitive PVP gameplay (supporting 1v1, 2v2, 4v4, or free-for-all brawls and player tournaments), DFO can be played entirely solo. For someone like myself who only enjoys multiplayer gaming with personal friends, the accessibility of soloing is a big plus.

The game also features robust character building in the form of a strong paper doll mechanic (managed to completely change my pre-made fighter’s appearance simply by unequipping a few key items) and a robust and varied inventory/loot. DFO also touts a robust crafting mechanic, though I didn’t get time to see it for myself.

However, I can’t honestly say my time with the game was all total sunshine. Many of the sprites in the DFO are gorgeous, but many are also re-used and re-sized. The is-sue is that the re-sized sprites lose their resolution and look blurry and broken. I know it’s a free game, but that just feels lazy.

I also had quite a bit of trouble getting my bearings. The keyboard controls are as complex as any MMORPG, but the action-oriented gameplay makes using skills a frantic, fast road to carpal tunnel. Though to be fair, I was playing with a pre-made level 40 character, which is a lot to take in for a brief demo. During actual play, having the opportunity to customize your controls and gradually adapt to new skills could make all the difference.


Vindictus

Vindictus is an upcoming free-to-play action-MMORPG from Nexon. What sets it apart from any other free-to-play action-MMORPG? The Source Engine, is what.

Using the Source Engine, Vindictus features destructible environments that feature heavily in combat. Pick up objects to throw at you enemies (or simply bash them with it);throw or kick foes off cliffs or into each other; bring stone pillars crashing down on evil’s minions. This is all in addition to basic attack and skill combos.

Vindictus doesn’t necessarily look like a free game. The Source Engine helps, but the game is pretty -- well -- pretty! Character models are intricately detailed and heavy on customization.

Right, customization -- another Nexon game pushing the paper doll effect (they must know I’m a sucker for it). In my demo with the game, all 4 players chose the same character, and each one looked completely different. Especially once our armor started to break and shatter as we took damage. Oh, the dangers of combat... However, as a character, all were still easily-identifiable with his huge dual-wielded blades.

That last point is important, and a keen move on the developers’ part, as co-op is another emphasized feature. The demo ended with a face-off against a giant Gnoll wielding a brutal, spiked warhammer. He had bigger health, bigger weapons, bigger muscles, bigger everything. It was only possible to bring him down as a team.

Playing the game, I did all of this and more. However, that’s about all I did, and it started getting repetitive towards the end of my demo. Hacking and slashing, kicking and grabbing...there just wasn’t too much to it. More skills, smarter enemies and more complex environments in the later game could, potentially, change that. We’ll see. I saw promise in Vindictus, and I can say it looks good, without the “for a free game” apology.


Dragon Nest

The first thing that came to my mind playing Nexon’s Dragon Nest? Diablo. But that’s a good thing! Let me explain!

Specifically, a robust, third-person action Diablo as an MMO. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I got very little hands-on time with Dragon Nest. However, that was more than enough time to feel the fluid, fast-paced action Nexon stressed during their presentation.

Jumping into the game, I accepted a quest and headed through a portal to one of Dragon Nest’s “dungeons” (for lack of a better term -- it was actually a forest trail). The dungeon itself was very linear; run forward, fight an encounter with some monsters, repeat. But again, that isn’t much different from the Diablo formula and, from what I can tell, it works well here, too.

Combat is strongly based on combos; stringing together basic attacks and special skills, trying not to let your combo peter out. Killing enemies, you’re rewarded with loot, money and health/mana-restoring items. The fact that restorative items fall on the ground for use kept down-time to a minimum, though manually picking up every drop of coins was a chore.

There’s also some Japanese action game influence in there. Better combos earn more points; the more points you get, the better your ranking at the end of a level (I got an S, no big deal); the better you ranking, the more bonus experience you earn. It’s a good way to incentivize smart play as opposed to frantic button-mashing.

Dragon Nest runs the risk of becoming too repetitive. It’s on character advancement and smarter enemies to make sure that doesn’t happen. Not to mention that ever-elusive carrot-on-a-stick known as loot.

Written By: Christian Higley


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