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PAX 2009 Impressions: Dungeon Fighter Online

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Nexon has established themselves at the forefront of the free-to-play MMO market, thanks in large part to the runaway success of a little game called MapleStory. Not content to have the RPG market cornered, they’ve branched out into other genres, including the FPS genre (Combat Arms) and now the beat ‘em up genre with a game called Dungeon Fighter Online. Well, it’s actually a beat ‘em up/dungeon crawler/RPG title, but the side-scrolling beat ‘em up elements are what you’ll notice first and foremost.

Dungeon Fighter Online features five different classes, each with a different style of game play: the melee-weapon wielding Slayer, the brawling Priest who uses his fists, the magic-wielding and creature-summoning Mage, the gun-wielding Gunner and the close-range combat Fighter. In addition to different fighting styles, each class has different attack strengths, defensive capabilities and agility. For example, the Slayer has a high attack but cannot wield a shield, while the Mage has a weak physical attack but is agile. South Koreans players have access to a sixth class right now, the thief, but it’s unknown if that class will be coming to the rest of the world. Don’t be shocked if it doesn’t.

The core of Dungeon Fighter Online’s game play is going to be very familiar if you’ve ever played the likes of Final Fight. Basically, as your character, you progress across the land, entering dungeons and beating up anything that stands in your way. The only real difference this time around is that each of the characters has many different attacks they can learn, upgrade and use in their quest. Each is mapped to a different key on the keyboard, but for some classes, this can be a pain in the butt, since it requires you to not only remember which attacks are on which buttons, but you have to know which attacks are effective against different types of enemies. It can, at times, slow down the whole beat ‘em up feel the game is supposed to have when you have to move your fingers from jamming down the A key to hitting the H key, but that’s perhaps a complaint of any modern MMORPG. Besides the button-pressing problems, the actual combat in the game is pretty fluid and fast-paced, or in other words, how a beat ‘em up game is supposed to be.

Dungeons themselves feel more like beat ‘em up levels than your traditional RPG dungeon. All combat takes place in real time, with both the player and the enemies in a room on screen at once, free to attack whenever they choose. Like in a beat ‘em up, players can progress from one room to the next, but unlike earlier beat ‘em ups, dungeons do not continuously scroll to the right: players can move back and forth between rooms whenever they choose. Each dungeon has a boss that has to be fought, and once the boss is defeated, the dungeon ends, with a score and grade on how the players did appearing on screen. If you did well enough, the game will even throw in some bonus experience. There’s no penalty if you stunk it up, however. In addition to dungeon crawling, there’s also a rather fun mode called Arena, in which players can face off in one-on-one combat. This takes place in an area separate from regular dungeon combat and is more of a test of your character’s strength against an opponent than anything else. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, though.

As for the RPG elements, Dungeon Fighter Online features plenty of old staples, such as leveling up through experience points, random item drops from defeated enemies and learning new skills and even a specialization or two as your character grows. However, the RPG elements aren’t exactly overbearing; you’ll notice them for certain, and you’ll likely have to grind like in any other RPG, but unless you’re playing as a mage, you might forget you’re actually playing an RPG-style game.

Being a huge fan of the beat ‘em up genre, I can finally say that Nexon may have managed to ensnare me in one of their titles, even after I escaped MapleStory. The game’s not the most graphic-intense title and it can get a bit repetitive, but it’s a fun twist on the old MMORPG game that should draw in a new kind of audience. The game’s in open beta right now, so head on over to the Dungeon Fighter Online Web site and check it out for yourself!

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About Brian Szabelski

  • Interesting article, Brian. I’m not much for online gaming, but I might have to give this one a try.

  • There’s a DFO Forum called dfoplanet.com. A lot of the hardcore pvpers gathered there so yeah!