During my brief tour of Dragon's Prophet, it was clear that Runewaker has a different goal in mind than most MMOs.
Over the past decade or so, fantasy MMOs have been taking part in what I call the "Fantasy Arms Race", in which each developer has tried to out-do the epic scope of each previous fantasy setting. One of the latest contenders in this race is Dragon's Prophet, who would be the default winner if it came down to names alone. This past Tuesday, I was invited to go on a private tour through the world of Dragon's Prophet. Guided by Todd Carson, the Senior Producer for the game, I explored the world of Auratia, taking part in a public group quest, explored some of the game's mechanics, and even tamed a few of my own dragons. Though I initially saw the game as the newest generation of games in the race for epic magic, I quickly realized that this game has a lot more to offer than some flashy new spell particles.
The first and most important thing about Dragon's Prophet is the dragons. By putting the word 'Dragon' into the title of their game, Runewaker has set themselves up with a lot of big expectations. Cashing in on one of fantasy's greatest assets, there is a lot of pressure to live up to the expectation that players will be interacting with dragons regularly. While most fantasy settings pull a bait-and-switch, teasing with dragons but keeping them tucked away in the high level caves, Dragon's Prophet does just the opposite. Dragons are the bread and butter of every hero in this game, and the world of Auratia is entrenched in a connection to the dragons that openly inhabit the beautiful landscape. The world itself was made from the early dragons, and many of the monsters you encounter throughout the game are draconic in nature. There are even several human settlements that exist within the remains of gargantuan dragons long deceased. Though they all may not look like the dragons from childhood fairy tales, each dragon has a wide set of skills and attributes that allow for both a range of diversity and a recognizably draconic core.
The dragons aren't just aesthetic enemies though; the core mechanics of Dragon's Prophet revolve around taming and training dragons to fulfill a wide array tasks. Every dragon in the game is tamable, and each dragon type has its own strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities. Individual dragons within a type will have randomized core attributes (Strength, Constitution, etc), in a Diablo-esque roll system, so taming a few dragons of the same type is encouraged to find the dragon with the perfect stats for your build. You also have the ability to choose how to level up the core attributes, as well as select the armor and colorization of your dragon in addition to your actual character, taking customization to a whole new level. Oh, and did I mention that you can have your dragons teach other dragons different skills and abilities? Dragon's Prophet is basically letting you create your dream-dragon from the ground up.
This action fantasy title has you, as a human hero, fighting alongside dragons. The most recent battle against evil ended in victory, but evil's a sneaky so-and-so, and the world's in peril again. Have you got what it takes to become the next Dragon Prophet?
This is a free-to-play, with microtransactions. Though there isn't a subscription system per se, during closed beta the developer is selling what's called a Dragon Pack. There are three different kinds of Packs, each with its own dragon, title and gear; it's basically a VIP system in all but name. Cost of these packs ranges from $19,99 to $89.99, depending on how fancy you care to get. Purchase of a Pack gets you into the beta.
Dragons serve many purposes in Dragon's Prophet. In addition to serving as mounts (I experienced ground, flying, and aquatic travel), your dragon can be summoned to aid in combat, sent out to gather resources while you're away, and they even grant your character a special skill to use in combat based on their dragon type. You have access to up to six dragons at a time, with a bank for six more available in town, so even the most indecisive of players can have all of their favorites available on hand.
The actual gameplay of Dragon's Prophet is unlike most MMOs, featuring a complex combo system that rewards player knowledge and reflexes. Unlike most MMOs, Dragon's Prophet rewards intense player knowledge of their class, rather than simply clicking the buttons available. For example, while the Right-Click, Right-Click, Right-Click combo was certainly effective, the Right-Click, R, Right-Click, V combo was far more impressive. I was also faced with the challenging mini-game of dragon-taming, which was great fun and kept me on my toes during every attempt. The thing that genuinely separates Dragon's Prophet from other MMOs is the mechanical challenge that it presents. While most MMOs consist of using a few skills in different circumstances, Dragon's Prophet is all about knowing which combo is perfect for the situation and applying it. The game has a higher learning curve than most MMOs, and its gameplay will maintain freshness even into the endgame. With each skill having several possible options to combo into, the variety of tactical options in Dragon's Prophet is seriously impressive.
Dragon's Prophet currently has four classes available: the Guardian (a heavily-armored fighter type), Ranger (lightly armored, stealthy archer), Sorcerer (Elementalist blaster caster), and the Oracle. The Oracle is a class unique to Dragon's Prophet, and thematically feels like a cross between a monk and cleric. Unlike either of those classes, however, the Oracle wields a huge scythe, and has a special connection to nature. The Oracle wears cloth armor, and doesn't appear to have any healing capabilities, meaning that Dragon's Prophet is likely trying to shift away from the holy trinity of RPGs. Another interesting step that Runewaker has taken is to include the elusive stat of Charisma, which although essential in tabletop RPGs, is nearly always left out in their digital counterparts. In Dragon's Prophet, Charisma will influence vendor prices as well as how much your dragons are able to harvest while crafting, and how long they'll stay and fight for you during combat.
Although there is so much more to be said about Dragon's Prophet, the game is still in closed beta, and a lot of development is still underway. The developers have promised to include player housing, and have even included a Guild Registration Contest in Europe that rewards players with a mansion and several houses, so big things are in the works. During my time with Todd Carson I also was able to confirm that Runewaker is looking ahead and working hard on endgame content, though group size and specific details are still in the works. No release date has been announced, but if Dragon's Prophet sounds like the game you've been waiting for your whole life, you need not wait any longer! WarCry is currently giving away beta keys to players who are interested in checking out the game before it comes out.