They say, all good things in life are free, and Illgaming has a knack for the free goodies life has to offer. Dragon Oath, a free-to-play fantasy MMORPG by Chinese developer Chang-you.com, is finally doing its rounds in India, and obviously, we’re in line to check it out. What makes Dragon Oath special is that it is a free-to-play game, a big plus for India’s young and nascant gaming economy, and a must for a place where the buying power is miles away from that of the West.
The Free-to-play MMORPG market is reaching a point of saturation, and that is a good thing, meaning more options for the gamer, but we check out whether Chang-you.com’s very own Dragon Oath is actually worth your gaming hours. Read on to find out.
Dragon Oath is a fantasy MMORPG based in Ancient China and adapted from the Chinese novel Tian Long Ba Bu, written by the famous Wuxia writer Jin Yong. Dragon Oath is the third most played MMORPG in the Chinese market. The ancient-Buddhist vibe is a welcome one in Dragon Oath, clearly setting itself apart from the cliched Medieval theme followed by most free-to-play RPGs. Dragon Oath was released in Mainland China back in 2007, subsequently moving on the United States in 2009. We get it here in India in 2012.
You start the game by creating your character. There’s not many options to be fiddled around with, its basic, clean and simple, allowing you to manipulate your Avatar, Face, Garments, Hair and Gender. You can further customize your character later when you’re at a higher level. Once your character is created, you do some basic training quests until you reach Level 10. I felt the in-game traning and help system could get a facelift and be more intuitive. Its OK if you’re a regular MMORPG player, but if you’re a first timer it does have a learning curve and will take time getting used to.
After you reach Level 10, is when you select amongst the following classes: Lotus order, Shaolin, Pyromancer, Assassin, Voo doo, Taoist, Minstrel, Royalty, and the Beggars alliance. This is the point where the real game really begins. Each class has a unique set of abilities, and its fun playing and experimenting with every one of them.
Dragon Oath is your typical Quest based MMO, it can get repetitive after a few days into the game, but a vast community of 800,000+ players counters that, and ensures things are always on the move. There are daily in-game competitions which make things fun and satisfying. If you’re being overwhelmed by your enemies, you can head over to the in-game Kung Fu Arena to sharpen your skills. Great addition indeed!
Where usually most MMORPGs get stagnant after a few weeks of gameplay, Dragon Oath doesnt. Apart from combat, you can ponder yourself in other activites such as cooking, tailoring, fishing etc. Pets are an integral part of Dragon Oath. You can own pets ranging from rabbits to tigers to rhinos to unicorns. Pets can turn out to be a formidable foe against your enemies, depending on how you manage them. You can buy a pet from the pet shop and customize it to fit your style of gameplay.
From a technical stand point, the graphics are generic, and go with the ‘What works, works’ concept. Dragon Oath keeps the visual simple and clean, nothing special about it. NPCs, Cities, enemies look sharp and to-the-point, and the use of complicated textures and shaders is kept to a minimal. System requirements for Dragon Oath are very basic, and that clearly reflects in the visuals. This is actually good if a game wants to grow its base in India. Minimal system requirements and Free-to-play will only encourage the mass gamers to give Dragon Oath a go.
One issue I faced while playing Dragon Oath is the camera. The camera is isometric but within Dragon Oath it is not implemented well and needs some work to be done. Its surprising how a game so mature into the market can still do with its below-average camera angles and clunky controls.
THE FREE-TO-PLAY DILEMMA
Free-to-play games generally aren’t really free to play, its only a marketing strategy to get players to start playing, until the player gets hooked and then certain features bottleneck the gameplay, which is when the player is asked to spend money to ‘unlock’ or ‘purchase’ certain items. Companies design Free-to-play games in such a way players will eventually need to purchase an in-game item to move ahead. Typical capitalism! As you are already aware of, illgaming is against capitalism.
What really makes Dragon Oath stand out in this department, and this I’ve seen for the first time, is that such purchases are not forced upon you and one can easily manage at higher levels without spending a single penny on unlockables and items and experience points. Obviously one can if he/she wants to, but its not necessary and it wont hamper your skills and make you weak. Many people wont notice this feature, but about 40-50 hours into the game you’ll see the real value of Dragon Oath. This is an actual and true Free-to-play game and you can experience every feature within the game without dishing out a single penny. Kudos to Chang-you.com for this rare understated achievement!
This is a positive sign that there are still some developers looking to give real value to the gamer, unlike other games which don’t offer much value without extorting your very own hard earned Rupees.
The camera and controls have lots of room for improvement since they do compromise on the experience. Graphics are nothing to be raved about and the soundtrack is forgettable. Technically, it is not a marvel to admire and it wont be hitting any Innovation charts either. But an overwhelming community, good support and lots of variety make this game what it is. Dragon Oath is a game for the masses. A game that has a strong core and sticks to its basics. It does nothing special, but what it does, it does well. Another point we find worth mentioning is that Dragon Oath is a pure free-to-play game, and there are no hidden/forced costs whatsoever, unlike your average Free-to-play RPG.