When most people think of MMOs, you think of a fantasy or sci-fi setting, vast 3D worlds with quests (and level grinding),
and distant level caps that rise to allow for new challenges as time goes on. But what if an MMO had arcade-style side-scrolling action akin to Final Fight or Streets of Rage, with gameplay that you can choose to explore by yourself or with other people? Nexon America is attempting to remake the concept of an MMO with their upcoming game, Dungeon Fighter Online. The game recently went into open beta this Tuesday,
and I had a chance to check out some of the gameplay with advanced characters.
Dungeon Fighter takes place in the land of Arad, a mystical place underneath a floating ocean and continent known as Empyrean. Once a prosperous realm, Arad was attacked by a strange evil known as the Devolution, and was infested with all kinds of creatures. The people of Arad need all the help that they can get, and fortunately, it arrives in the form of the player,
who suddenly appears and is tasked with saving the citizens of the land from monsters that threaten to overrun the entire world. Players are allowed to select from one of five different characters as they explore this strange new space: Fighter, Gunner, Priest, Mage or Slayer. Unlike traditional CG or in-engine cutscenes as an intro once you've chosed your character, a comic book styled story is presented that gives a sense of the character's previous life before landing in Arad.
From this point, players wind up taking on a number of quests or exploring the various dungeons around the few safe settlements in Arad, acquiring experience and skill points to purchase new abilities as well as new equipment to protect themselves from harm. For my demo,
I selected a level 18 Gunner, a physically weak warrior designed to take enemies out from a distance with an array of truly insane weaponry. We're not talking about peppering enemies with arrows or a spray of bullets from a handgun; instead, we're talking about lighting up enemies with a chaingun, immolating creatures with a flamethrower and using explosive drones to blow up entire groups of foes. I was even told that later on, the Gunner will get the ability to launch nuclear warheads at enemies, which I'm sure will cause a ton of destruction.
I partnered up with a Fighter, an agile woman whose punches and kicks attacks could be quickly chained together in a series of flipping or tumbling blows. While Dungeon Fighter Online supports up to four players in a party, the mix of the character abilities provided our two person party with a solid combination of attacks that we could capitalize on:
a close-quarters fighter supported by ranged strikes, which could be used to juggle enemies. In fact, one of the best ones that I found was called BBQ, an attack that knocked an enemy up in the air with a knee before blasting them with the Gatling gun. This could propel the target into the Fighter's arms, where she could Suplex them or perform a move called the Muse's Uppercut,
a punch that could further suspend an enemy in the air for more damage.
Juggling enemies might sound like a fighting game term, or even something that you'd experience from a brawler instead of an MMO, but Dungeon Fighter Online plays more like one of the side scrolling brawlers of old than a traditional MMO. You use the keyboard to tap and chain together attacks triggered by hitting keys that activate skills on a hotbar.
The X button allows you to perform a basic strike or your main attack on enemies, which is useful for setting up monsters for a secondary strike or skill attack, while the C button lets you jump. Depending on how many times you hit an enemy, you create chain combos, which are further graded by one of four different criteria. The style score is governed by the number of aerial attacks,
combos and variety of strikes that you use to eliminate a targeted enemy. The technique meter is based on overkills (causing more damage than you need to), counters and back attacks to opponents. The hit meter tracks the number of times that you get hit and take damage by enemies, while the Rank is a constantly updating tally that adds the previous three categories together and provides you with a grade from F (the worst) to SSS (the best). As you can see, the more damage and multi-hit strikes you cause, the better your grade can become.
Even the death mechanics feel akin to an arcade game than an MMO. Whenever you die, frequently in the pursuit of higher rankings because the enemies are extremely powerful or you weren't able to trigger your healing items fast enough, you have two options available to you.
Every day you're given a life token (which is like having a virtual quarter) that can be used for an extra life, immediately getting you back into the fight. Eventually, life tokens will be available for purchase, allowing adventurers a way to ensure that they'll make it through an entire dungeon to complete a quest. Now, if you don't want to use this and would rather save the tokens, you can let yourself be respawned in town, although you'll have a health and magic penalty that you'll have to either pay to heal or rest and slowly recover. If you choose the later option, you may also lose out on some excellent prizes and items that you can collect in the middle of battle.
As you defeat enemies, random items will drop. However, just because someone in a party picks up an item doesn't mean that they automatically collect it; the game will roll dice for all party members and give the item to the character with the highest score.
Assuming that you tire of roaming the randomly generated dungeons and lairs of the game, you can also take on friends and other players within the Tavern, which functions as the PvP arena. Here, players can set up team matches up to 4v4 or free for all and even establish different fighting criteria,
such as potentially having a tag team elimination fight. The maps within the arena seem extremely flexible, and can provide as much of a challenge to players as their opponents, with poison fields, fans that constantly blow characters around a level, and slick ice stages. Other times, power-ups will spawn in,
providing a character with a boost to their attack power, defense or health. By defeating your enemies, you can earn new Arena ranks and climb the rankings of the online players.
Dungeon Fighter Online was a surprise, particularly because it really seemed to capture the arcade brawler sense while retaining the elements of an MMO.
While the recent open beta allowed many players the chance to experience the basics of the game, additional features, such as the option to purchase life tokens, customizable gear for your characters and other features haven't been implemented yet. Nexon plans to roll those out in the upcoming weeks and months ahead, leading up to a full release in the near future.