Drakensang Online already convinced us and more than a million players at the time of writing, so it must be doing something good. Actually, it does quite a few things well and it should be studied by other studios who wish to develop a quality free-to-play game. It’s not exactly Diablo 3, but as a first course, it works wonders.
So, let’s see where Drakensang Online succeeds (and where it doesn’t).
Play Immediately and Anywhere
It’s a browser-based game. This means that after a quick registration – usually – we’re playing in no time. For those who are used to switch between different computers (including the one at work *wink *wink) it can be played with the same account. Nothing against client-based games, but the browser-based category needed to step up pull out the big guns… err, swords.
It all may sound familiar in Drakensang Online, but this actually is a famous license that exists since 1984 and is even more successful than Dungeons and Dragons in Germany. The Dark Eye was subject of several adaptations to PC RPG games, and a rich world can go a long way. Just ask The Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited or Battlestar Galactica Online and their millions of registered players.
Fun fact: an adventure game based on The Dark Eye is in development for PC: The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav.
Now, it doesn’t take a genious to see that since Diablo, every hack and slash game, free or not, adopted the two globe system (life and mana) for their interfaces. Drakensang Online does the same, but we just can’t stay mad at developers Radon Labs. They organized it in such a clean way that there couldn’t be a better fit. Players may still need some time to learn what every adjacent icon does, but it’s an accomplished interface that other free-to-play MMO games should learn from.
Unusual Game Style
We mean original in the sense of ‘not yet done to death’. Besides some hack and slash games such as Fortune Online and Hellbreed, there’s not much to play in the style of Diablo. It’s a nice change from the usual third person fantasy MMORPGs that all look and play the same, Being able to grind, but in a somewhat novel way – wasn’t Diablo a total grind anyway, but an extremely fun one? – is something that we want to do more often. We feel the need to highlight the word ‘novel’ over the ‘grind’, obviously.
The isometric view is intrinsic to hack and slash games and Drakensang Online is no exception. It fits the gameplay and helps to emphasize the visuals without getting in the way. It’s a triumph of design that things never get too obscure and the developers need to be complimented for their care in level design.
So, after Drakensang Online, what’s your excuse for lame visuals in browser-based games? This game looks absolutely beautiful and is smoothly animated, even daring to fill the screen with some wonderful colors and special effects. It runs on the Nebula 3 engine, but other great looking games run on the Unity engine, such as Battlestar Galactica Online, Need For Speed World and Ruined. Now, start giving players some lush visuals, please.
1 Lesson Free to Play Games Shouldn’t Learn From Drakensang Online:
Only two classes at launch
C’mon, really?! Milk it too much?