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Your Daily Dose of RPG: DragonFable

The Slacker's Guide - Your Daily Dose of RPG: DragonFable

November 30th, 2006

I'm either going to thank or kill Patrick for this one, it just depends on exactly when I've earned enough gold to upgrade my armor and get better weapons.

For this week's game, amigo and aspiring programmer Patrick Roanhouse pointed out DragonFable, a cool Flash-based role playing game capable of running on Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.

And thanks to him, I'm now somewhat obsessed with earning enough money to buy a pig that knows martial arts to add to my party.

Players can designate which enemy they'll attack when they attack larger parties.

If there was ever a middle ground for role-playing games, this might be it. DragonFable is a free web-based role playing game in the style of the stereotypical role playing game, complete with warriors, rogues, mages, a medieval setting, trolls, dragons, ghosts and all the rest that can be expected from the genre. Produced by Artix Entertainment, DragonFable allows players to easily create an account, customize their character and get to the game play. Players then take on quests, slay enemies, collect items, and build skills and advance through the levels to improve upon their character.

Although DragonFable is essentially free (Artix Entertainment makes money off the purchase of dragon coins which allow the player access to rare items as well as new areas of the game), the company makes a better product than one might expect from such a free offering. Crisp, clear, detailed graphics meet rich combat sounds and good background music to create a simple yet complete role-playing game feel. Like the role playing games of old, players can wander from screen to screen picking up quests and slaying enemies to gain gold and experience points without a larger story arc guiding their actions.

Gather a party to improve your chances and mix additional abilities.

The key factor to any role playing game is how quickly a player can dive into it. If two hours of text, story and dialogue screens have to be read through before you can sling your noble blade at a minion of evil, the player will find something better to do, like take whittling correspondence classes by mail. DragonFable lets the player create and customize a character's name, gender, class (warrior, rogue or mage) and then jump into almost any initial quest they want. Battle and movement animations are smooth and varied enough to keep things interesting while functions role playing fans love like equipping new items and building a party are a cinch. A variety of pets can be purchased to fight alongside the player while new abilities are added with each level gained.

Like Kingdom of Loathing, DragonFable knows not to take itself too seriously. The game possesses a cool tongue-in-cheek sense of humor (for example, the hero believes he's saving a merchant's granddaughter from a temple of evil in an initial quest wherein she's actually befriended and trained the bugs the hero just slew to reach her and thus reprimands him for this, thanking him later) that's hard to ignore.

Like any role-playing game worth its salt, DragonFable shines in how it expands the player's abilities as the game progresses. Gain a level and new spells and abilities will automatically find their way into your lineup without the need to selectively groom your character a la World of Warcraft.

DragonFable stands on a weird middle ground in its genre, but actually pulls it off quite well. The end result doesn't feel cheap or hackneyed, but the title certainly doesn't stand on par with a marquee title like Neverwinter Nights. Nor is it meant to and despite the clamoring that may emanate from the absolute die-hard role playing fans, DragonFable knows where it needs to be. This is just a free, fun game that can be logged into, played for 30 minutes or so, then pulled away from -- saving the character's progress -- nicely without the need to worry. Additional perks like easy access to report a bug and good forums show that the game is alive and well with a good support base behind it.

Even if your pet is a mobile attack flower, an additional attack can make all the difference for a party.

Finally, DragonFable takes advantage of the fact that it is a web-browser-based program. Switch to a different tab in Safari or Firefox and the game will pause. Not a bad trick and it makes the game easy to walk away from if something needs to be taken care of. The title runs cleanly and the only truly noticeable bug/quirk that I can honestly complain about is the fact that for some reason, my main character will always be attacked, even if there are other members in the party.

Artix Entertainment has done its homework and brought about a cool freebie reminiscent of the good old days of role playing games with DragonFable. It's not perfect, nor does it offer the same options as the marquee titles, but it's definitely worth a gander.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see something new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

The Slacker's Guide Archives.


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