For the past couple of days I've been filling idle moments by dabbling in the Drakensang Online beta. Let me just state, for those of you who have been attracted to this article by the Drakensang name in the header, that this has little to do with the original Germanically twee-ruggedness of the Drakensang RPGs. It captures a little of their art-style, perhaps, but this is a very light Diablo-like MMO with seriously low specs. It's a beast whacker, a loot gatherer, a quest-runner, an inventory... inventorer? You know the sort of thing. That's not to say it's a bad game, especially for free, which it will be. It's also rather clever with its browser-based tech, with one of the best web-players I've seen outside of Unity. Some more thoughts (and a trailer) on all this below.
Taking the route of killing x beasts isn't exactly the most imaginative way to travel, but Drakensang Online's remit is clearly to provide a simple RPG for masses, and it does that with some style. It's one of the most visually attractive games of this kind I've played of late, although the GUI is a little lacking. I suppose it reflects that the game feels very much in beta, which it is. It lacks a bundle of obvious MMO features, such as tracking quest progress on-screen, or having an abundance of group options for chum-based fun times. It's got a long way to go to make all this stuff smooth and credible. The same goes for the loot shop which doesn't really seem to be fully up and running right now, but will of course make all the difference to how playable this game is come full commercial launch.
What is most striking about the game, however, is that it's surprisingly atmospheric for this kind of lightweight ARPG. The maps are large and sprawling, and rather beautiful in places. The opening bog area is just lovely, with cute-yet-sinister gremlin creatures attacking you in great waves, and the sad, plodding giant bog beasts wandering to their deaths at the end of your metronome sword-chop. It's good for brain-free entertainment. (Although I would say that the character models for the actual game characters are - disappointingly - far less interesting than the monsters you kill, which is a shame when you are looking at them all the time.)
It's interesting (to me at least ) that this is a Java-based client which can be played actually in a tab on your browser, or full-screened out for maximum effect. This is also streamed from the servers as you play, making for no install (aside from the initial plugin) and near-instant play on pretty much any speedy connection. Things are a little warpy and lagging right now, but it's still safe to say that the tech is impressive. More impressive than the game design...
Here's a trailer.