Dragonica. You’re probably thinking it's the name of a hardcore fantasy role-playing game in which knights, mages, and archers have to face an army of dragons. Or a power metal band doing some crappy songs for Guitar Hero 5. But you’re wrong on both accounts. Dragonica Online is a fantasy MMO from THQ, but one that’s actually aimed at teens and tweens. Which is weirder than it sounds because, after seeing the game in action at E3, we think there might be some old-school gamers who will want to play it, too.
Dragonica Online is a casual but action-oriented MMO set in a world where dragons return from exile seeking revenge. Except that the action this is oriented for is of the side-scrolling variety. Yes, this game actually plays a lot like such old-school games as Contra and Castlevania. Though which one specifically depends on what class you’re playing as: there are arrow-shooting archers, melee-loving warriors, magic-using magicians, and sneaky thieves who use Wolverine-like clawed gloves. The game even has something of an old-school look, as it has more of an animated — or rather, anime — feel than a realistic or gritty one.
But the true old-school feel comes from how fast and furious the combat can get. Our little hero was getting attacked left and right, which makes sense since it’s a 2D side-scroller. Except it’s not entirely 2D. The character models are all in 3D, while you can jump from the foreground to the background, or vice versa, to take different paths.
It’s also got a bit of a sense of humor. Which, again, might have some thinking it skews a bit young, but we thought some of the jokes might go over kids’ heads. One enemy we saw was a pirate shark, who wore a red do-rag like he’d just joined the Bloods, while his weapon was a swordfish. Later we saw that you could get new costumes for your character, and that among the choices were a big Angela Davis afro and a blue rabbit backpack that made the game’s hero look like he was going to a rave with a ’70s theme.
Being developed by Korea’s Barunson Interactive, the game is a free-to-play MMO, with microtransactions. But those microtransactions won’t be anything substantial or game changing, like weapons. Instead, they’ll include aesthetic items — you know, like big Angela Davis afros and blue rabbit backpacks — as well as health potions for those who don’t like to die.
The game’s developers are currently planning on having an open beta at the end of July, with the game slated for release this October. Whether old-school fans will take to it as much as people who are still in school, we don’t know, but if you still like to run left to right, it might be worth a look. After all, it is free.