On it’s release in 2012 Drakensang was widely hailed as a breakthrough in quality for browser based games, RPGS especially. High quality graphics, an intuitive UI and a fine polish on many genre classics pushed it to the forefront of many players minds and it has, to a large extent, retained it’s popularity over the past 5 years. According to reports from developer BigPoint, there are over 35 million registered accounts, although numbers for live users weren’t available… How does it hold up today then, in the face of the F2P explosion across desktop and mobile, and the regeneration of indie gaming on the back of Kickstarter and Indiegogo?
Anyone who’s played Diablo knows how this kind of game plays. An isometric camera oversees progression across a number of fairly linear dungeons, populated with numerous monsters to be felled, quests to be completed and loot to be collected. Arguably it is games like Diablo and their consistent ping of a loot drop that started us on the road to micro-transactions and loot boxes in massive games like DotA, LoL and Overwatch so there’s a certain sense of poetry in freemium model on show. In my experience of the game so far however, I’ve rarely had to dip into my actual wallet, getting a long way with resources gifted out at the start. Indeed, anyone who is fairly well experienced with this type of game is unlikely to struggle with Drakensang, as the combat and strategy is more simplistic than the typical game, although no less satisfying to click through.
The UI is very clear and easy to navigate, and there’s a good choice of customisation options available early on. Graphics are good but not spectacular for a Freemium game in 2017, and fans of Guild Wars will find everything satisfyingly familiar. Quests are easily navigable, and the initial dungeon which serves as an extended tutorial of sorts touches on practically everything you’ll need for the rest of the game. Greater complexity does rear it’s welcome head after a while, but it doesn’t ever really kick on into something more substantial, and longevity is actually one of the most disappointing areas of the fame. You can return to pre-visited dungeons later with levelled up enemies, chase the final end boss, and engage in PvP escapades with your companions. However, none of them feel quite as engaging or enjoyable as your opening hours in the game, and the gameplay does start to become over-familiar before the end.
The recent resurgence of AAA-esque indie titles does put Drakensang out in the cold a little bit. It doesn’t compare well against recent heavy hitters like Divinity: Original Sin or Wasteland II, but these are full price games, backed with Kickstarter money and lots of community goodwill. Although the actual gameplay is remarkably similar, the nature of the game changes greatly. The more relaxed and casual player will still find a lot to enjoy in Drakensang, and the fact that it can be played entirely within a browser is a great boon for a game with such high-production values. There are deeper and more extensive diversions available to people in the way of the Diablo clone, but none of the Freemium ones match the accessibility, depth and polish of Drakensang.
Drakensang was nothing new on release, and if anything the genre has become more diluted over the past five years, but it’s hard to fault a game that’s so endearingly polished, and has survived with various upgrades so well after the past few years. If you’re after a deeper and more complex experience then Drakensang may not be for you, but at the cost of waiting for a download/log-in there’s still not a lot to lose in giving it a try.