Most people, including myself, go in to a Martial Arts MMO (MAMMO) with the impression that they are all fundamentally the same. 12 Sky, World of Kung Fu, Three Kingdoms, and 9 Dragons... all of them function similarly with minor tweaks and quirks. Some games just do it better than others. Dragon Sky is not an exception in this rule, but it does do it better — a lot better. If you have played any MMO, especially an MAMMO, you will get the hang of Dragon Sky quickly, but there are a lot of interfaces and features which you may need to pay some more attention to.
Similar Games: World of Kung Fu, 9 Dragons, Emil Chronicle Online.
Gameplay (9.6/10 Overall)
Getting Started (10/10): Dragon Sky starts just like any other MAMMO and before getting in to the game, it’ll feel and look the same too. After logging in, the player is directed to choose a faction. There are only two factions and they determine which half of players will be friends and which will be foes. Factions can have a guild versus guild war and depending on the victor; aspects of the game will change.
After choosing a faction, character creation truly starts. This is where you choose your name, character’s looks and starting weapon. Based on the character’s starting weapon, the initial martial arts style is determined. There are only a few hair style choices, but there is a large variety in the color that can be chosen, the faces that can be picked and there is even a choice between two starter outfits.
My starting character.
After I was done gawking over how awesome the log-in screen and character creation menus were; I was thrown directly back to the character selection screen. It’s like any other MAMMO: round and rotating with characters facing and responding to being chosen.
The tutorial in Dragon Sky is very comprehensive and explains all of the basic UI functions and menus. No one should be left in the dark after it is completed, because of how thoroughly it describes the world and the characters. The tutorial, like in many MMORPGs, also provides beginner quests so that the players can get used to combat and gain quick experience and currency.
The Problems with Getting Started: I have no complaints about it.
Movement and Battle (10/10): Movement in the game can either be conducted by pointing and clicking the mouse buttons, left for setting a movement marker and right for camera turning, or using WASD keystrokes. A noticeable improvement in this game is that Q and E can be used to rotate the camera, eliminating the need for the mouse in movement. The space button can be used to jump.
Battle in Dragon Sky is as hectic as anyone would expect in homage to Hong Kong cinema films of old. Monsters automatically become aggressive towards the player as you approach them and apparently any number of antagonists can pile on you. This can lead to dangerous situations, but of course, you’re a super-powered martial arts master... even at level 1.
Me annihilating an entire mob with a single combo... with full health.
Dragon Sky does employ an auto attack combat system, but it does have some degree of knockback. At the end of each combo, mobs get pushed back and allow players to load skills, run, or perform any number of actions they can get away with in a two second time frame. The combat animations switching with the weapon used, combat is fun to watch even if the player isn’t in total control of their actions.
Martial Arts and Skills (10/10): In Dragon Sky, there are two different, but important features that determine the course of combat, martial arts and skills. Martial Arts are determined by the weapon used and the level of the Martial Arts scroll equipped. Any player can use any weapon at any time, but in Dragon Sky, this actually has a purpose.
The four different weapon types are all on a “checks and balances” system where one is strong against the other, but weak to the next. Each weapon also has a different attack speed, area of affect and attack power. Spears are strong against swords, but weak against the slower and more powerful hammers. Even considering this, they are one of the best weapons to fight a large mob. Fists are the fastest weapons and have a great to-hit ratio. They’re strong against hammers, but weak to swords. They also serve their niche by being one of the best weapons when fighting enemies 1-on-1. Hammers are strong against spears and weak to fists, but deal the most damage. Swords are the most balanced weapons and are strong against fists, but weak against spears.
Using a weapon without knowing its corresponding Martial Art makes attacks slower and weaker. With the Martial Arts scroll, attacks not only do more damage, but they have longer combo chains and the attack animations change to flashier techniques. To obtain different Martial Arts, players have to go to a Martial Arts Teacher and bring the Martial Arts Book and pay a training fee. Books can be found as a drop by mobs, traded between players or bought by Bookstore NPCs. Having different Martial Arts to switch between can help players survive when the situation calls for a variety in technique.
Skills can also be bought at a Skill Store, but they have a Soul Level requirement (which will be discussed later). Skills come in four different types: Attack, Defense, Recovery and Common. They are increased based on Focus points and there is a limit to the amount of Focus that can be obtained per Soul level. This means players are not capable of learning every skill and enforces an RPG-like build style.
An attack buff, one of the first skills acquired.
The problem with Martial Arts and Skills: I don’t see a problem with them at all. MMORPGs impose skill restrictions and promote build types, which only seems natural. Martial Arts are so versatile in the combat system, complaining about them would be like complaining about an Elemental system in an RPG. Different weapons and techniques allow for players to consider and attack the weakness of their enemies. It’s good to have more than one weapon in the inventory.
Ki Break: Ki Breaks are this game’s equivalent to Limit Breaks or Overdrives from the Final Fantasy franchise. There is a yellow bar which builds as players fight and get hit and once that bar is filled, Ki Breaks can be activated by hitting the B button to send them in to a super-powered mode. Attacks do roughly double the damage in this mode and it lasts until the yellow bar is reduced to 0.
Leveling (10/10): The leveling system in Dragon Sky is the reason why I claimed it is similar to Emil Chronicle. Characters have two different types of levels, Dan levels (or basic) and Soul levels (or Skill). Just like in Emil Chronicle, the basic Dan levels increase the player’s base stats. The Soul levels increase the player’s Ki, the Magic Points in the game which are consumed by Martial Arts and skill use. Soul levels also give Focus points which are required to buy new skills from NPCs. Dan levels can be gotten by killing mobs and completing quests. Soul levels are increased by gaining Zen, through Meditation and quest completion. Equipment have a Dan level requirement. Skills have a Soul level requirement. The proper scribing of level is Dan/Soul. For example, basic level 11 and soul level 8 makes a character level 11/8.
Meditation: Meditation is initiated by pressing the P button while standing still. It is a useful feature because it recovers the player’s Body HP and Ki while standing still. It also increases the player’s Zen points, which raise Soul level once the bar is full. Meditation has several stances (which are also fun to watch) and each stance displays symbols on the screen once completed.
Useful items drop frequently from mobs, which make the leveling experience to flow smoother and quicker. The first levels all come quickly and Soul levels can be increased while AFK by leaving the character in Meditation stance.
The Problems with leveling: As players level, they receive tips which can be confusing and not very relevant to what is going on at the moment. It does seem that the Soul levels could be a bit broken too because of the method in which they are obtained. Any player who is active though would most likely get stronger at an even rate due to quest rewards.
Quests (8/10): Quests are the exact same as most MMORPGS. Quests available show up as gray exclamation marks and ones that can be redeemed show up as gray question marks. There are three different types of quests: Story quests, Gangno (normal) quests and Bounty (wanted) quests. Each reward Dan and Zen experience, along with Nyang, the in-game currency.
The Problem with Quests: Quests only give a quest marker to tell players where to return to and redeem their quests. The descriptions tell players where to go, but they aren’t always clear and certain locations aren’t on the map. The fact that there isn’t a marker to show players where to go to fulfill quest requirements is a major annoyance.
Everything is on this map, except where I'm supposed to go!
Hotkeying: Hotkeying in this game is at its best. Weapons, items, skills and Martial Arts can all be hotkeyed, which makes it easy to switch fighting styles almost immediately. The UI in this game makes playing it as convenient as any game can be.
The Problem with Gameplay (overall): The load screens take a very long time and almost all NPC names, locations and skills have long and hard to pronounce names. Some of the text is also in “Engrish”, but none of the cases are bad enough that information becomes unintelligible.
The graphics in this game are some of the best you can ask for from an MAMMO. All of the visuals in this game are gorgeous, considering it is free to play. The game starts with a still photo of the game’s name, then cuts to the log-in screen, which has already been displayed above.
The skills, environments, NPCs and players themselves are all masterfully designed and detailed. The game is visually demanding, so the settings are by default, reduced to decrease lag. Aspects of the environment, like the flowers, trees and lighting can all be reduced or hidden so that the gameplay can flow smoother, but the real experience is with everything at optimum quality.
The loading screen better be beautiful, for all the time you’ll be staring at it.
The background music of Dragon Sky is unusually engaging for an MAMMO. It does use some traditional sounds to being ethnocentric, as all MAMMOs are, but the themes were powerful enough to make me feel as if I was about to embark on an epic journey. The problem I have with the BGM is that it is short and this causes it to loop more often, eventually getting repetitive and old. It is always fun to leave your character Idle and listen to them ponder “Hmm.” If the game went beyond the fact that it is based in eastern Asian philosophy and combat and had more variety in its soundtrack, it would receive a 10/10 in this field.
This review, as some of my others, doesn’t have as many bolded fields that the game is scored on. This is because there are many minor aspects that contribute to the larger aspects of the game and that if I continued to review every part of Dragon Sky, this review would go on forever. There is PvP with duels and GvG wars. There is a useful crafting system. There are hotkeyable emotions and actions. There are Sects (guilds) and partying and an amazing chat system for communication. Most of the important characteristics of the game have been covered and for what it is, Dragon Sky deserves the praise it has received.
Final Score: 9.2/10