A few days ago, I downloaded and started playing a little game called Dungeon Runners. It's published by NCSoft, the same company who distributed City of Heroes, Lineage and a host of other games. The CoH relation is fitting because, like City of Heroes, Dungeon Runners is a fast-paced game, designed to give you a fun experience in a short time.
The idea of Dungeon Runners is to give the core MMORPG experience (slaying mobs and getting loot) without all the additional trappings. Travel time is almost nil with a single town (cunningly named 'Townston') serving as a hub to the various dungeon crawling locations. Only a single dungeon, the "Horrible Dungeon of Legend" has a death penalty (75% stat reduction for 3min) and the rest merely send you back to Townston to rejoin the battle. There's no keying quests, no grinding reputation and no lengthy corpse runs. Dungeons are instanced and mobs remain cleared until you either log out for 15min or else manually reset the instance. Portal scrolls are plentiful which open a gateway back to Townston (and then right back to where you opened the scroll) for easy sale or banking of your swag.
Graphics in Dungeon Runners aren't cutting edge but they're certainly servicable, especially for a free game. It shares some of WoW's cartoonish look both in scenary, mobs and weapons.
Back to the game. Although Dungeon Runners very solo-friendly, there are also grouping functions and a guild function is supposedly in the works. Grouping can be done the old fashioned way or else by setting yourself to auto-join and letting the game build you a group as others become available. A function allows people to teleport instantly to the group leader so there is no travel time involved and you can get immediately to the task of killing things. There is also a difficulty slider which ranges from Normal to Insane. At the more difficult levels, mobs hit harder, have more hit points but also drop more loot. "Normal" is pretty simple to solo but "Insane" will call either for friends or at least the use of a lot of potions.
A quick note about two other things -- First, there is almost no in-game economy. Most of your loot will be sold to the vendors for coin and that coin will largely go to train skills and to buy some health/mana potions. You can trade items between characters but not coins. So you see stuff being given away or the occassional request to trade a mage-oriented rare hat for something more fighteresque but that's about it. There are in game weapon/armor vendors but you'll rarely, if ever, use them given the number of drops you receive while fighting. The other thing is that the game is multi-player but it's not really "massive". There's five US servers, a PvP server and a European (?) server which won't show up on your server list. Server populations range from 60-200 users so you're talking about less than a thousand people online. But because Townston is so small, it never really feels abandoned and the dungeons are instanced anyway. Your characters are available on any server and, in fact, the PvP server is strictly an arena type affair and doesn't have any PvE content. World chat is relatively sane with the occassionaly numbnut but largely it's just harmless chatter which is nice to break up the solitude of soloing (if you decided to solo).
The cost for the game? Free. Free users have access to all of the dungeon areas but they are restricted from using upper tier loot or the bank. For a mere $4.99 a month, you can open those features and you'll probably be tempted to the first time you loot a rare 'purple'. In the works is an ad-based system for free users where they will have access to some higher tier loot and the bank but the game screen will include a banner ad and a chance for an ad during load screens (zoning/death). Paying users obviously won't see ads at all.
So, is the game worth it? Well, for free it's certainly worth a try. The game is polished, recently had some new features/skills added and is fun for what it is. That's also the potential downside -- there's no crafting, no role-playing, no extra towns, no auction house, no factions or reputation... just the dungeon crawls. Some users on the forums say they want this stuff but it would change Dungeon Runners from a send-up satire of the genre into a bona fide MMORPG which isn't what the developers really wanted. Personally, it only took me a day or so before I paid my five bucks for the month. Maybe I'll be sick of it in three weeks but I've paid a lot more money for games which have entertained me far less. If you want a quick, fun hack 'n slash the Dungeon Runners will probably fill that void. If you want an in depth role-playing experience, you'll probably want a more traditional MMORPG.
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