In its heyday, the free-to-play fantasy MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) Dragon Nest saw a healthy pool of players who grew enamoured with the world’s characters, lore, distinct art style, and constant updates. The brainchild of South Korean developer Eyedentity, it featured many familiar game mechanics borrowed from other titles of the genre, and its growing popularity saw the franchise spawn various reboots, sequels, and spin-offs along the way.
As time progressed, however, its presence became but a mere niggling memory in the minds of most – until the launch of Dragon Nest M in 2018. The mobile adaptation managed to drum up interest and sparked the sudden revival of the original IP in its home country in1 China, carrying over the more recognisable elements to a new platform. Now, a fresh contender has entered the fray, as Eyedentity makes a return with World of Dragon Nest.
Make no mistake: the mobile-based title isn’t a direct, official sequel to its PC counterpart. Rather, it takes on an alternative storyline and serves as a standalone instalment of sorts, offering a gameplay experience stemming from both familiarity and novelty.
Job classes have been a staple of role-playing games, and World of Dragon Nest remains similar to the original in that sense. Players start off by choosing their preferred choice of five classes: Archer, Cleric, Sorceress, Warrior, and Slayer. Each comes with different strengths, and is tailored to a particular play style; the Archer, for instance, specialises in long-ranged attacks and critical damage chance. Where the Cleric focuses on casting stat-lowering spells and buffs, the Sorceress dishes out the most damage as a magic-based aggressor. The Warrior, as usual, is the all-rounded front-liner who tanks damage and protects others with defensive buffs, while the swift-footed Slayer is the master at inflicting bleeding effects.
Those who have played Dragon Nest should find the first four classes and their abilities familiar. Alongside the likes of Kali, Academic, and Assassin, they made up the beginning roster of the game, with The Slayer being the only new addition that’s exclusive to the mobile iteration. For the first time in the franchise line-up, the roles will no longer be gender-specific, so it’s free game for everyone (yay, equality).
It’s a little disappointing that a second class advancement isn’t available, however. In the original game, players are given the choice to specialise in one of the second classes depending on their selection, where Warriors can evolve into either Sword Masters or Mercenaries, Archers into Bow Masters or Acrobats, Sorceresses into Elementalists and Force Users, and the like. The removal of the feature does result in a lack of gameplay variety, even with the inclusion of a new class.
But change isn’t all that bad. The dual-weapon system in World of Dragon Nest is a creative endeavour taken by the team over at Eyedentity, and it’s worked out well in their favour. As opposed to the conventional way of locking one class to a main weapon, the player character is instead armed with two weapons that can be freely swapped around during combat. The Slayer class, for instance, equips dual swords and a flying knife in the primary and secondary slots, while its Warrior counterpart yields a sword and an axe. Apart from adding a bit more depth in combat, this standout feature presents a chance for same-class characters to engage in different roles as well, such as attack, defence, and support.
On the note of characters, customisation options are limited. Like most games, World of Dragon Nest allows players to create their own look, from the hair colour to skin tone. Unfortunately, the tweak isn’t distinct enough to tell one character apart from another, which causes everyone to appear almost identical at the start. As the story progresses, players will then be able to obtain unique item builds, and slowly switch up their appearance.
With the game’s inspiration rooted in Dragon Nest, the mobile title naturally boasts plenty of recognisable elements, from key locations like capital city Saint Haven, and co-op dungeons (Nests) to player-versus-player combat mechanics (Colosseum) to signature original soundtracks. All of these certainly make for a nifty, nostalgic touch for returning players, especially since its vibrant, chibi-esque art style has lent itself perfectly to the mobile platform.
All of that charm is unfortunately diminished by simplified, run-of-the-mill mobile game mechanics that include auto-battle action, pay-to-win elements, and a considerable amount of grinding. While common among mobile titles, these features don’t necessarily contribute to the overall enjoyment of World of Dragon Nest. There’s no doubt that the auto-questing and auto-combat system can come in handy at times, but it takes away the fun of exploring and interacting with the game’s open-world environment.
The issue can be resolved easily, of course, by having players take matters into their own hands, and they are indeed forced to do so in certain situations, such as mandatory boss battles, specific monster dungeons, and player-versus-player combat. In moments like these, the cleverer-than-average combat mechanics are usually sufficient to elicit a player’s response, be it cheap battle excitement, frustration at skill cooldown times, and the like.
It’s where the grind begins that real fatigue kicks in. Like the majority of mobile games on the market, World of Dragon Nest is built upon a very linear, methodical structure, where players have to clear the main story to unlock more content, and complete the same dungeons for more resources, money, upgrade items, gear, and accessories. As such, the gameplay experience can grow repetitive, tedious, and exhausting after a certain time frame. The need to grind also defeats the purpose of having an open-world, which then becomes wasted potential.
The greatest appeal of World of Dragon Nest is perhaps its multiplayer features. Apart from teaming up with other players to take down Nests and monster bosses of various difficulties, individuals are able to join guilds as well, allowing for increased player interaction and cooperation during guild wars (50 versus 50!), battles and raids. These encounters are typically fairly thrilling and enjoyable, with the latter also reducing the reliance on auto-combat.
The game’s player-versus-player mechanics, meanwhile, are a hit or miss – especially so for the Colosseum. One of the big selling points of the original Dragon Nest name was its heavy skill-based approach that saw lower-levelled characters defeating higher-levelled ones, so it’s only understandable that the team is seeking to recreate the experience. However, skill alone certainly isn’t enough to bring one far in World of Dragon Nest, with gear and combat level (CP) contributing more to victory than genuine combat prowess and strategy. It doesn’t help that matchmaking is rather inconsistent and unmoderated, too, making it entirely possible for a player to face off against an opponent almost twice his level.
World of Dragon Nest is free for all to play, but it’s only the more hardcore enthusiasts who are willing to pay that will get the best out of the title. While the developers have been quite generous in giving out free items and offering login rewards and mission completion bonuses for players, some of the most powerful and converted content (costume, mounts, and pets) are only accessible via real-world payment. This, coupled with the flawed matchmaking system, may prove to be a frustrating affair for casual gamers.
Outside of combat and story progression, players can decide to put the game’s life skills to use. Farming, fishing, production, resource gathering (sailing), and smithing are all available options, and it’d be good to be acquainted with them. For a good, relaxing time, there’s the spa to check out as well, and these additional features do serve as a nice break from the monotony of mainlining.
With its heart in the right place, World of Dragon Nest is a welcome dive back into the…well, world of the original IP. The game shows signs of brilliance and ambition, but ultimately falls flat in its execution, boasting a one-dimensional, slightly underwhelming gameplay experience. It’s a pity that the mobile iteration isn’t able to carve out a full path to proudly call its own, but if anything, at least it’s extremely straightforward and familiar.
And sometimes, that’s all people need.
World of Dragon Nest is now available on both Google Play and App Store for free.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
World of Dragon Nest shows considerable promise and enjoyment, but the game’s lack of standout features makes it yet another indistinguishable title on the mobile market.
Gameplay - 7/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 7/10
Value - 7/10
Geek Satisfaction - 7/10