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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dungeon Fighter Online (DFO) - Review

The reason I've been away for a while is because I've been in the Dungeon Fighter Online Closed Beta for the US Nexon. I gotta say, this is a highly recommend from me.

I first heard about this from a korean friend of mine who played it for a while. He said its popularity was mainly based on PvP as it was highly balanced. So anyway, this past week has been spent beta testing straight and here's my review.

Overall (in its current state), Dungeon Fighter has the potential to be an amazing and long lasting game.

The basic story is about how there is a world known as Arad. People from other worlds in someway or another find this word that acts as a hub with no real way to get back out, but each person who enters the world has some purpose.

The artstyle for the game is really clean. Apparently, when the game first came out in Korea, it was looked down upon by other developers for using sprites, but I never understood that. Many famous fighters use sprites and many games still use sprites (Grand Chase to name one). To ridicule a game for its art seems odd. I'd understand if it was poorly done and very choppy but animation-wise, but Dungeon fighter is extremely clean. and the sprites are very nicely detailed. Let's think of it this way, for some odd reason, when one mentions the word "sprite" in reference to a game, people seem to assume it's going to look bad... like the original Wolfenstein. The thing is, fighters have used sprites for one of the longest times and it's been studied by gamers to the point where most mid-pro gamers refer to "clashing frames" referring to the actual coding of when a hit connects and the number of frames certain moves have. Odin Sphere used all handdrawn sprites and it too shows how beautiful sprites can be. To say that 3D and modeling is new gen and therefore rendering everything else obsolete makes no sense to me. One prime example would be Rainbow Six Vegas (the first one). Compare that to Gears of War and you'll notice how horrible the texturing in Vegas is. So is the modeling, I noticed that some trees were using interlaced flat low resolution textures. Even Counter-Strike Source looks better than that.... but that's enough of this tangent.

In terms of character creation, there are 5 characters (6, if you include the female gunner, and 7, if you include the new thief that's announced in the Korean version) each with their own specified job classes that branch out later on. You have a Slayer, Fighter, Gunner, and Priest. Each class is specified in amplifying one specific characteristic of the original job.

Slayers are swordsmen with a demonic arm that fuels his skills and abilities. As he gets stronger he can then branch out to Weapon Master, Soulbender, Asura, and Berserker. Depending on what players eventually choose, the classes go from extremely fast slashes of the berserker to large elemental strikes as an Asura.

Gunners obviously use guns but once they hit lvl 18, it branches off into many different directions. For example, you can have a mechanic who specializes in summoning robots to fight for him or you can be the ranger who specializes in flashy close combat melee moves combined with stylish trick shots. Then there are Launchers who take out big guns (literally) and fire gatlings, lasers and flame throwers to kill the enemy while spitfire focuses on elemental damage and specializing in focused shots.

Fighters are basically masters of hand to hand combat branching off into spiritual Nen Masters who excel at buffs and spirit attacks or Grapplers who specialize in.... grabbing and throwing. There's also Strikers and Brawlers who also are very distinct. Strikers are professional martial artists who link skills together and have some "famous" moves such as a one-inch punch or the chun-li rapid kicks whereas brawlers (or "street fighters" in other versions) use whatever tactics necessary to win (ie. sand, poison).

There are also Mages, who are generally spellcasters but can turn into Battle Mages who excel at linking skills together with combos. I feel that Mages (or Fighters) have probably the most diverse range of classes in terms of gameplay. There are elementalists, summoners, battle mages and witches each specializing in one specific thread of the cookie cutter mage types. Elementalists are the basic toss large AoE spells, Summoners summon mobs of monsters that wipe out entire dungeons, and Witches fly on broomsticks tossing pumpkin bombs and potions and changing parts of dungeon layouts...

Then there are the Priests who I find to be most interesting as they generally veer towards monks than the usual stand back and heal types. There can be Exorcists who case area of effect spells that hinder enemies or they can be monks who lay down area of effect buffs and go hand to hand with enemies.

Here's a nice playlist that showcases all the character classes (with the exception of Avenger)

The gameplay is reminiscent of old school beat em up fighters where players walk on a plane beating stuff up as they advance. It's less like Grand Chase as it isn't a platformer and more like 3D fighters (Like Tekken or Dead or Alive) where players walk along an X and Y axis and jump along the Z. Characters have to beat all the monsters in a certain room to advance to the next and to complete the dungeon, they must beat the boss at the end.

As players obtain skills, those skills can either be hotkeyed to one of 12 hotkeys or activated by inputting the command (similar to a fighter). So it's possible to call more than 12 skills at a time without ever having to bring up the skill menu. I think that this is probably one of the best systems in gameplay that's been implemented. Let's say I was surrounded and wanted to do a windmill attack but my hotkeys were filled with other skills and buffs. All I would need to do is press the key stroke command for it (down+down+X) and he would pull off the skill. I believe the PSP version of Guilty Gear tried it but its execution in gameplay was a bit lack luster.

Instead of managing stats, as a player, you need to manage skills and allocate the SP (skill points) you get properly for a good build. The thing is, players can cancel normal attacks into skills but they need to buy the ability to cancel to skills using SP. These cancels are often twice to nearly three times the cost of the skill itself meaning, that once players reach higher levels where they have to upgrade many more skills simultaneously, they need to consider which skills are important enough to get cancels.

It isn't necessarily possible to completely screw up a character (such as allocating int stats for a physical attacker as an example) but it can hinder your progress, which in turn affects your efficiency in dungeons.

Maximizing efficiency is actually very important in Dungeon Fighter Online. Unlike other dungeon crawlers (such as on consoles or MMORPGS) there's this element known as the Fatigue system. For each new room players enter, it uses up one point of a certain amount of total fatigue points and once a player runs out of fatigue points, they have to wait until the next day to be able to run dungeons. This system then promotes efficiency and opposes grinding. Players who maximize the use of their dungeon runs, and complete as many quests in the fewest amount of dungeon runs will advance significantly faster than those who, for example, do a dungeon run for each quest (or from a review I read elsewhere, did full dungeon runs and waste fatigue on unnecessary rooms). Players also receive more experience in dungeon runs if they are in a party and receive experience according to the number of members there are in the party promoting party runs rather than solo runs.

If someone dies, they're allowed to use coins, arcade style, which are allocated everyday and if everyone dies there's a countdown.

PvP is really fun. Room Masters can choose individual, team mode or elimination mode. Individual is more or less a deathmatch and team mode is team deathmatch. Elimination however is where there are two teams and one player from each team engages in a one-on-one duel survival mode style where a small bit of HP is regenerated for a victory. Elimination mode is where one tests their skills and shows off their ability to juggle, link skills, move well and combo.

The music is great. I'm always entertained by the BGMS that play as I progress dungeons and areas. It is a bit repetitive as multiple dungeons have the same music, but they're always upbeat and keep me energized.

Of course there are some quirks with Dungeon Fighter as well.
Many quests are given when a certain character reaches a certain level, and quests give enormous amounts of experience. Therefore, if there were a group of 4 friends and one wasn't able to play a day when the other 3 were, the result is that they're probably higher leveled than the last guy who had to join up with others and solo and end up gaining less experience for the same amount of fatigue. This results in a near eternal gap that doesn't close until they all hit max level. Therefore, friends that party together need to set up times to play so that their efficiency is the same with other members in the group, otherwise irreparable gaps form.

Although the PvP aspect is well done, the options for rooms are actually quite limited. For example, nearly all individual and team deathmatches involve one life (or two if a specific map is chosen). Roommasters can't change time limits on anything, and the maps are very limited (this might be referring to Dungeon Fighter as a whole). Any elimination map is set to tavern, a small flat map suited for 1v1 deathmatches with no gimmicks. Every other map has some sort of environmental hazard that make the match based more on luck than skill and unbalance matches usually favoring ranged classes. Then there's this one map that's simply stupid. It's a map known as "Motor Fan" and it has two fans on either side of the map. These fans push ALL players on a certain half of the map in one direction (it isn't even top half or bottom, of the fans blow in some area around the middle). Even if you try to run against the fan, you make EXTREMELY slow progress and usually results in a giant cluster on one side of the map. I don't know if the developers beta tested this, but it's absolutely horrible.

Like all other games, DFO also has grinding elements to it. If a party is "too efficient" what usually ends up happening is that all the available quests which are supposed to be recommended for higher levels are completed and party members are stuck dungeon running to get the next level so that they can unlock more quests.

I personally don't mind. Because the combat is so active, the grinding is less of a pain for me. If I were to give an example, I'd say the grinding in Dungeon Fighter Online would be on a similar level to the grinding in a Tales Of.... game. It involves more input from the player keeping them more interested, and so it "feels a lot less like grinding" despite it actually being what it is.

The English dub is killing me. I feel as if microtransaction companies look for people on the streets to pickup to do bad voices, similar to how Dell outsources its tech support to India. I like the Mage and Fighter's voice but that's really about it. I know what you're thinking. "But Zerreth! That means you must like about half the voices in the game! Half is a very big portion." No.... no I don't. I said I like the Mage and Fighter, but unfortunately every NPC in existence has a voice (a repeating one at that) as well each equipped with around 5 lines of earbleeding atrocities that repeat every 10 (less actually) or so seconds. Once again, I'll probably be forced to download the korean version and swap the voice files....

You know... voice actors could at least try to give some effort and the directors could at least try to match voices to the character. For example, there's this one dark elf who says "I like... knoweverything.... about magic-k." Then there are the battle sounds from the slayers who sound like they lack a soul and are reading off of cards..... (Say "hushaw" here.....)

Let me just get this straight. I'm not some purist who automatically thinks that foreign voices are amazing and that the US sucks (partially true). At the same time, I'm well aware that too many voice actors are probably just movie extras who have next to no talent in acting. I'm also aware that there are very talented english voice actors (I think Amanda Winn Lee is outstanding. I know why Yuri Lowenthal is in so many games. He's good, just over used.) The problem is, the degree of effort and skill between actors who are chosen for major and secondary roles, and those chosen for tertiary and extra roles is about the difference in height between those standing on top of the Grand Canyon and those who are at the bottom, and I think that's the major issue here.

Regardless. This is a must play from me. I can't say that casual players could get into this very well, but any sort of gamer that plays more than casual games should have at least a little fun. Of course, if you're not into fighters, that's perfectly okay but it is something that you can do for a few hours (since that's about how much the fatigue lasts) and it isn't something you have to devote vast amounts of time to be good.


Anonymous said...

Nice review!

My cousin introduced this game to me in China about a year back. It looked like a lot of fun. I can't wait until open beta begins.

Anonymous said...

BTW, do you know how the skill system works? I just need some clarification. How many skill points do you receive upon leveling, and around how many skill points are required to increase the level of each skill? Does it vary based on your character's level and/or the level of the specific skill?

Zerreth said...

To be honest, I'm not too sure how many skill points you receive per level. I know by level 18, my gunner had around 270 some odd points (because your skills reset when you change classes). Skills point requirements for each skill don't seem to increase which leads me to believe that you get either a fixed amount of skill points per level or at an exponential rate based on your character's level (not a very large rate, however).

I do know that by around level 25+ I needed to start focusing on what skills I wanted to increase.

Matt I. said...

That was a nice thorough review on DFO. This game is awesome. Can't wait for it to go Open Beta. Take a look at my blog, I actually posted something related to DFO as well :)

derek said...

something most people (or at least an infuriatingly large amount) may have missed about the fatigue system is that it lasts about as long as you should play in one sitting for health reasons

it's a step up from the maple story "you've been playing for X hours it's time to take a break"

and it keeps it from getting old really fast since if you play a lot you'll have more than one character and even at the same level the play styles are completely different even between subclasses so grinding in the same dungeon (in the most extreme case) for say 10 hours isn't half as bad since it's a different experience depending on which class you use

aaron said...

Hey I was wondering if I could post this review on my website. Awesome review also. This is what a true review should be.

Zerreth said...

Go ahead. The only thing I ask is that you give credit. That's all.

aaron said...

Thank so much for the quick response. Full credit will be given to you don't worry. Also I'd like to add you in game haha. Maybe we could see eachother around or something.

Zerreth said...

I have two characters that I'm currently working on. One is a Launcher named Llyel, the other is a Striker named Kaguya. Feel free to add them to your friend's list or something.

Anonymous said...

I would like to cut your arms off with a dull kitchen knife. That way you couldn't make anymore terrible reviews :D

Anonymous said...

as far as SP [skill points]
you get a few every time you move up an incroment on the XP bar and when you level you get a few it increases as you level and no the amount needed to level up a skill doesn't increase it stays the same through out...higher level skills will cost more SP though around 50-60 for lvl 40+

Zerreth said...

Sorry, but that's wrong.

those "increment" bars are just intervals of 10% exp. If you take a look, you'll notice that theres 9 lines, meaning that there's 10 bars.

I have never seen skills that require more than 35 points with the exception of albert's cross class skills which are just double the amount.

Zerreth said...

I take that back. I've seen 40-60 SP skills....

Anonymous said...

You can download the korean soundpacks by it self from a source. There's a script that swaps the soundpacks as you enter then game and leave. I'm pretty sure it's 300+ sp at lvl 18
skills go up to 50sp [80sp if you count awakening and cancel backstep(is a given skill later on)]