The Abyss has come to Altera
Fearsome monsters are attacking the cities of Altera. The Black Knight Velskud has returned after 50 years, and with him comes the return of the Black Dragon. The last living Ancient, a girl named Rose, is kidnapped before your eyes. Are you a powerful enough warrior to fight through the forces of evil and rescue Rose before the dragons are resurrected and an ancient evil sweeps across the land?
The History of Altera
50 years ago, the Black Dragon Karas raised an army and threatened the world of Altera with destruction. A man named Gerrant raised a group of heroes to combat this threat, eventually revealing his own nature as the Gold Dragon. One of the heroes, Velskud, stole the Black Dragon Lustre when the dragon was defeated, and the remaining five heroes were too exhausted to stop him.
Now, 50 years later, Velskud is back. He kidnaps Rose, the last descendant of the Ancients with the power to resurrect the Black Dragon and return the world to chaos. Around the world, heroes set out to stop the Black Knight and rescue Rose.
Unlike many Korean MMORPGs, Dragon Nest has an excellently crafted and well-told story. The history of the world comes out through dialogue and quest text, item descriptions and lore. Every piece of text is fantastically localized, with a character rarely seen in translated MMOs.
What is Dragon Nest?
Dragon Nest is an Action-MMORPG. You aim with the mouse and move with the keyboard, attacking in a constant flurry of motion and damage. A unique combo system encourages the careful management of cool-downs to keep enemies stunned and juggled. Dungeons can be long and cinematic, with fully animated cut scenes for certain quests and boss monster introductions. The game encourages constant action, mob control and use of skills so the combat is always interesting. As a player, you explore the towns of Altera and accept quests, anything from helping quell the goblin population to repairing an airship to chasing down the Black Knight himself.
The New Heroes of Altera
Classes in Dragon Nest are gender-locked. You are playing a predetermined character, not a blank slate class you can roll as you like. That said, there are five basic classes, each with two subclasses. Each subclass has an advancement choice further down the line allowing them to gain great power.
Archers are powerful ranged warriors hailing from the elven races. They are female, and have a choice of three weapons -- the shortbow, the longbow, and the crossbow. Shortbows are short range but fire quickly and constantly. Longbows are longer ranged but fire more slowly, with every third shot piercing armor and enemies. Crossbows fire three rapid shots, but must pause to reload. Their secondary equip is a quiver of arrows. Their hometown is Ironwood Village.
- Acrobats are a subclass of archers who prefer to fight up close and personal. They are masters of juggling their opponents, keeping them airborne or stunned on the ground with devastating kicks and arrows.
- Sharpshooters are the longest ranged class in the game, laying down fields of arrows and demolishing their enemies before they even know she's there.
Clerics are the male holy warriors of the church. They have incredible defenses and health, making them excellent tanks. They are also the only class capable of healing without potions, and their buffs make them invaluable comrades in the fight against evil. They use maces, flails and wands, with wands altering their physical attack to a magical one. Their secondary equipment is a shield and they start out in Mana Ridge.
- Paladins are frontline fighters and tanks with incredible damage ability. They can survive and thrive where any other character would perish.
- Priests are magical wonders, using their holy powers to heal and buff their allies. Many of their attacks involve laying down relics to distribute fields of damage.
The Sorceress is a child prodigy among the mages of Mana Ridge. Her health is fragile but her spells are incredibly powerful, allowing a wide range of damaging abilities. All sorceress characters use a staff as their weapon, but they may choose between orbs, books and dolls as their secondary equipment.
- Elementalists are mages that focus on the powers of fire and ice. Capable of some of the highest damage in the game, they are glass cannons that die if they don't have support.
- Mystics ignore the power of the elements and opt to use gravity and light as their weapons. They can create mob-holding gravity fields, black holes and lasers to damage their enemies.
Warriors start out their journey in Ironwood Forest, on the hunt for their destiny. Fearsome specimens of the human race, these men demolish their enemies with axes, swords or hammers. Each type of weapon has a unique physical combo, varying their play style depending on the weapon they use. Their secondary is a gauntlet, giving them added power to their attacks.
- Swordsmen are the most versatile class in the game, with high hp, high damage and high mobility to keep their enemies chained in combos. Played correctly, they are a foe to be reckoned with.
- Mercenaries are a challenging class to play. They are slow and capable of high damage, but their attacks tend to scatter mobs rather than draw them together, making it easy to be swarmed.
The Tinkerer is a time traveling girl from the future, escaping to the past to try to right the errors that caused her future to fail. She fights with either the physical cannons or the magical bubble blasters, and summon robots to do much of their fighting. Their power glove secondary gives them more damage. Her time machine crashed in Mana Ridge, making that her starting town.
- Engineers are specialists in robotic minions. They summon robots to fight for them, place stationary turrets to pin down areas and fire rockets at their foes.
- Alchemists are tinkerers who choose to fight with concoctions of goo that inflict status effects, poisons and damage. They can even brew potions to heal their teammates.
Things to Do, Places to See
When you start in Dragon Nest, you have simple quests involving the slaying of poochums and goblins while you try to track down Rose. As you level up, monsters become harder and dungeons grow longer. At level 15 you can advance to your subclass, and the game really opens up. Now you have a variety of skills to play with and more dangerous dungeons to take on. Each dungeon can be challenged on four difficulty modes, from easy to Abyss, with Abyss being the most rewarding.
When you're not killing your way through dungeons, you can take on other players in PvP. If arena combat isn't your thing, there are rare items to hunt for to raise friendship levels with various NPCs. An in-game achievement list offers rewards for various challenges. You can play the auction house to make a fortune, and spend that fortune enhancing weapons for much greater damage.
If the challenge is gone from the standard dungeons, you can gather friends and take on the dangerous Nests, where the normal enemies are as powerful as the strongest bosses are and the bosses themselves are fearsome beyond belief. The rewards are worth the risk, however, as the strongest items in the game come from nests bosses.
Solo Play and Grouping with Friends
It's entirely possible to play through the game solo, with the exception of certain quests and most of the nests. The nests are challenging enough that a solo player needs to have a huge stock of potions and highly enhanced gear to survive and kill the enemies in a reasonable time. Partying is half the fun, however, and a group of four can challenge anything the game has to throw at them.
For those who prefer to face off against their fellows, the PvP modes offer plenty of variety. Ladder modes earn you points you can trade in for rewards. Free for all puts sixteen players in an arena to fight for their lives. Ghoul mode turns players into zombies to attack their fellows, and a domination mode focuses on controlling points. Occasionally, Nexon Game Masters will step in to challenge all comers in the Arena as well.
Why Dragon Nest is Acclaimed
Dragon Nest offers an experience that rewards players for learning the system and growing skilled at playing their characters. Because the combat is focused on stringing together combos to juggle foes, knowing cool-downs and enemy tactics can be the difference between win and loss.
Graphically, the game is colorful and well designed, with a variety of environments and interesting locations. You visit everything from a snowy mountain to an ancient temple to a bombed-out battlefield to deep mines. Evil lurks everywhere, and it is up to you to root it out.
One area the game truly shines is the localization. Even though the game is translated from Korean to English, the translators spent a lot of time creating unique dialogue and stories for the world. Every NPC has an amusing character, and even the players themselves act differently in response to each NPC. It adds a bit of vibrant life to playing a second character, and makes reading quest information that much more interesting.
How to Play Dragon Nest
Unfortunately, Nexon likes to limit who can play their games. Dragon Nest is easily playable on the PC if you live in North America. If you live outside America, you may encounter issues with IP blocks. Proxies work, but may cause excess lag or be blocked eventually. Mac players cannot play the game natively. If you want to play on a Mac, you will need to set up a virtual machine and emulate Windows.
Nexon's Freemium Model
Dragon Nest is a free to play MMO, but that doesn't mean you can't spend money on it. The game is supported by a cash shop, and spending money offers certain advantages. There is nothing in the cash shop that is required to play, but it can make the game easier. The cash shop offers costume items with stats that give you a slight boost of strength. You can also buy potions to keep your character healed. Some pets are available to help loot items for you.
The truly important items in the cash shop are SP resets, item protection jellies, and storage space increases. When you play the game normally, you only get SP resets when you advance your class. This means you need to pick your skills carefully, because skill points are limited. Item protection jellies help prevent your items from breaking when you fail an enhancement, which is essential for gearing your characters up as strongly as possible. You can buy fully enhanced items on the auction house, but they tend to be very expensive.
Storage space increases are self-explanatory, and they are highly useful as you grow in level and have more stuff you want to keep with you at all times. Thankfully, Nexon often runs holiday events that have cash items as rewards, so it isn't impossible to expand your storage free.
The auction house is the other source of cash-based frustrations. Without a merchant pass, you can only list a small handful of items per week. This makes it difficult to sell all but the most expensive items, and means your inventory grows cluttered with stuff you don't want to sell to a vendor but can't list yet.
The Content Stream
Dragon Nest is an active MMO, which means there is always something going on. Nexon tends to go from event to event with little down time, meaning some holiday, new class, anniversary or new patch is always being celebrated. New Nests, new areas, and a higher level cap are always on the table. It goes a long way towards helping the game stay fresh.