A Free MMO Beat ‘Em Up from Nexon

Do you miss the glory days of Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, and Final Fight? I did, until I played Nexon’s Dungeon Fighter Online (DFO). This brawler combines a heavy dose of RPG elements to create a feel of old school smashing into a MMORPG. Yes, that does sound pretty cool.

Although it’s been in open-beta since last September, DFO just officially launched yesterday. However, gamers throughout North America and parts of Asia have had access to most of the game’s current faculties. In fact, despite being in beta, Nexon unabashedly allowed players to pay for in-game content. Now, this is fine, but it left DFO open to reviewers, such as myself. For a thorough, detailed report of just how good (or bad) the game is, check out my review at RPGFan. I’ll be updating this review in the coming weeks after re-experiencing what the supposedly new and improved DFO has to offer.

For those of you less interested in the finer points of what my review entails, here are some quick pros and cons of the game:

Pros:

- Authentic brawler feel. I can’t stress this enough, and it is apparent from the get-go. One look at gameplay footage or screenshots quickly illustrates just how true to Double Dragon et al. this game is. The three-dimensional walking space, smashable objects yielding goodies, and button-mashing -> special move combinations all scream beat-em-up nostalgia.

- Seamless combination of RPG elements. So, I wrote my review on a niche RPG site, right? Well, that’s because this game is absolutely laden with RPG qualities that do nothing but improve on the brawler genre. Let’s be frank: old school brawlers were fun as hell when we were kids, but they’re probably a little too simple now. So, DFO adds some complexity that only serves to improve on the game. This means levels, special abilities, equipment, collectibles, quests, and more all lie at the base of what makes DFO, DFO.

- The PVP system. While needing some improvement, the PVP is immeasurable in its entertainment value. I probably spent just as much time PVP’ing on a team with my girlfriend and brother as I did PVE. The size and style of each map varies dramatically, and, surprisingly, a great amount of strategy can be found in this beat ‘em up. Yeah, that’s right, a game that seems to be all about button-mashing requires strategy, and much of it can be found in sparring against friend or foe.

- Ability trees. The ability trees offer more than just neat looking wrestling-esque moves. Sure, visually gratifying pile-drivers can be found, as well as huge sword-slashing techniques, but aura abilities, ranged techniques, healing, debuffs, and so much more can be explored. Unfortunately, the game forces you into one tree, but therein lies the challenge–which path will you choose?

Cons:

- PVE can get boring pretty fast. You can change the difficulty of areas to explore, but that just makes the enemies tougher and drop better items. Nothing imaginative is added, so if you beat the level on the easiest mode, you’ve probably also played the toughest mode, too. Granted, each territory adds different types of enemies you have to fight, each presenting their own strengths and weaknesses, but, at its heart, DFO is a brawler, and what that means is that you’ll be punching a lot. Again and again.

- The quests are terrible. I don’t understand why, but Nexon seems content to offer players uninspired quests that are oftentimes no more than “beat the next area on the second hardest difficulty” or “bring me back 20 of item x.” So, yeah, MMOs continue to be MMOs. Nexon could potentially add some interesting quests that I’m sure I don’t need to go on about. Your imagination’s the limit. Too bad Nexon’s imagination is limited.

- The story sucks. Now, I know, this is an MMO. You’re here to play with your friends. It’s not Final Fantasy, so just show me what I have to kill, and give me cool moves to accomplish that, right? Well, sure, but a little work on the writing wouldn’t hurt. DFO actually opens with a cool manga introduction unique to each class, and the groundwork is done for some immersing motivation behind each character and their subclasses, but Nexon just doesn’t seem to care about this. For some, this isn’t a big deal, but could you guys at least add a little bit of extra dialogue and narrative? Please?

- Cash required for full content. Like I mentioned in my article detailing Lord of the Rings Online going free-to-play, much of the conveniences in the game, like extra item capacity and setting up shop, can only be purchased with money. As in, real money. Dinero. Dough. Yen. Cashola. Bones. NOT FAKE ONLINE MONEY. Well, it becomes fake online money when you pay the cash. You know what? Just forget it.

Despite many gripes during beta testing, Nexon held fast to its belief that DFO was constantly improving, and once it launches, gamers can truly experience what DFO has to offer. So, everything good or bad I just said above may not be the case anymore (though, I’d doubt it). If you want to give the game a go, feel free to visit the site and take a shot. No matter what I or anyone else says, this is a game worth experiencing. Why? Because it’s a genuine brawler experience, combined with modern gaming mechanics. Any old school gamer has to appreciate that.