Dragon’s Prophet (PC), Preview

Dragon’s Prophet scrapes its claws to find some solid footing in this shaky beta release...

Platform: PC

Developer: Runewaker Entertainment

Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment

Category: MMO, Action RPG

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From Runewaker Entertainment, the makers of the popular MMO Runes of Magic, comes a similar venture full of high-paced action, expansive questing, and tamable dragons. The story itself revolves around the magical land of Auratia, and explores the volatile relationship between humans and dragons. Throughout the harrowing adventure, players will engage with the dragons of Auratia in a number of ways: from fighting them, taming them, and even flying high atop their backs. I recently had a chance to summon my very own fire-breathing friend in the game’s closed beta period over the weekend, and compiled a few of my initial thoughts about the scaly and action-packed adventure. Unfortunately from the look of things so far, the Dragon’s Prophet experience turns out to be less like the majesty of successful dragon-focused entertainment like Skyrim, and more clumsy like a How to Train Your Dragon movie tie-in game.

One of the first things I noticed about the game is that the spoken dialogue is COMPLETELY inconsistent with the subtitles that are positioned on the bottom of the screen. Literally every sentence that came up had at least two words changed, and I’m talking about more than the occasional missed “the” here or there. Sometimes important adjectives were replaced, and the wordings of certain phrases were flipped around entirely. I guess it’s not that huge of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but it just screams “sloppy” to me, and I became much more focused on seeking out these blatant differences than paying attention to what they characters were actually saying.

Speaking of the game’s shoddy presentation, the cut scenes only serve to highlight the lazy craftsmanship that runs rampant through this beta. A few times I noticed a character’s mouth open and close, but it felt more like a technical tear than the developers actually trying to incorporate some lip-sync animations into the game. Sadly, the delivery of Dragon’s Prophet never seems to get any better. After completing the rather brief tutorial and introductory mission, I selected from one of two home villages, and set about getting my bearings in the bustling streets as other online beta players passed on by. Before long I found one of the game’s early quest givers, and decided to see what kind of task he had in store for me. But when I clicked to “Begin Quest,” the game just popped up a window that featured a MASSIVE block of text to explain what I was going to be doing. No voice acting or anything to give me the gist of it (I guess they used up all of those wishy-washy and erratic resources for the opening moments of the game).

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In terms of the visuals, Dragon’s Prophet is certainly a graphic hog: so much so, that fellow Den of Geek gamer Bobby Bernstein couldn’t even get the thing running on his computer without it looking like a bunch of choppy dragon scales. While I actually managed to play the game, I quickly found that the graphics are not nearly anything so impressive as to warrant such demanding graphical requirements. There is a very noticeable lack of detail in many of the background textures beyond the immediate foreground, where everything you’d expect to see in an open world game of this nature (such as mountain ranges, distant villages, etc.) just seem to disappear into the single-toned horizon. The villages are a little more lively, with other players and shopkeepers constantly busting around, but there’s still an inherent stiffness to the overall experience that never seems to go away. For instance, I couldn’t even knock over a little jar that was sitting on a table at the start of the game, as everything in the world is fixed into position, and quite rigidly so.

Luckily, the game still manages to show some great promise when it comes to the action-oriented gameplay. The combat is fast, furious, and just all-around fun, with a heavy emphasis on core hack-and-slash mechanics. Each character has a number of different primary attacks with varying intensity, and hacking a giant beetle to bits is as easy as alternating between left and right mouse presses in rapid patterns. One of the biggest drawing points of the game is the ability to summon companion dragons who fight by your side with a simple stroke of the keyboard. I was happy to find that Runewaker absolutely nailed this aspect, and I was able to conjure up a giant dragon at will (outside of the hub-like central villages) to climb on and start mauling people’s faces off.

The character and enemy designs are all wonderfully envisioned and frightening, despite their herky-jerky movements, and there is never any shortage of fascinating beasts or foes to introduce to your mighty blade and magic. There’s even a fairly in-depth character customization menu before you start your adventure, which lets you determine your style of play between four different character classes. The on-screen interface (which is modeled after similar MMO menus that you’ve probably seen many times before) is very easy to understand, and everything has a corresponding button on the keyboard if you need to access things in a hurry. While the RPG and questing components of the game offer plenty to do at any one time, there will be very little that you’ll actually WANT to do besides running from Point A to Point B and killing tons of baddies in between.

So while Dragon’s Prophet shows some incredible promise with its simple, yet deliciously effective action-oriented gameplay, the beta still has a long way to go before gamers will have a smooth and rewarding ride on Auratia’s dragons. And even though the dragon mounts is a nicely-integrated concept that’s pulled off rather well, it isn’t nearly enough to make this game stand out from the sea of other worthy MMOs to capture your undivided attention. With uninspired graphics and clunky animations, a weird and distracting subtitle diversion from what’s spoken by the actors, and an ever-present feeling of laziness on a lot of the finer details, Dragon’s Prophet scrapes its claws to find some solid footing. We’ll find out for sure whether the game manages to soar high into the skies or take a deeper nosedive once the public build is released at some point in 2013.

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