Dungeon Runners

Reviewed by Arep | 4 July 2008
Genre: MMORPG | Publisher: NCSoft | Developer: NCSoft
TOG Score
Members (av.)
The Good
  • Free!
  • Very Diablo
  • Funny
The Bad
  • A little gimped if you don’t pay the monthly fee
  • A little repetitive

Dungeon Runners is a free MMO from the publishers/developers of City of Heroes/Villains, Guild Wars, Lineage and Tabula Rasa. That’s a pretty impressive pedigree and it shows the moment you launch the game and realize this isn’t your typical free MMO. Something else that separates Dungeon Runners from the pack of even pay-to-play games is the sheer amount of humor in the game. The whole thing is pretty much a parody of typical MMOs and other dungeon crawlers like Diablo.

The game plays a lot like a mix of Guild Wars and DiabloThe game plays a lot like a mix of Guild Wars and Diablo. There are hub “towns” where you can shop, group with other players and collect quests. Once you enter a dungeon you are in an instance with just you and your party. Instances are persistent until you quit the game or manually reset it. Dungeons are randomly created and populated so each time you reset its something new. Combat is also a mix of the two games…pound on enemies until they die using either your default attack or skills you can purchase. There are three character classes to choose from…the stereotypical fighter, ranger and mage. Once you choose a class, however, you can buy skills from the other two archetypes to create a custom character. I created a fighter that can shoot chain lightning (Mage) and emit a poison gas cloud (Ranger)…like a Sith with gas.

Once you load up on quests in town you head to the local dungeon. Inevitably, you will acquire more loot than you can carry. You have two options at your disposal…well, one unless you buy the box version of the game. You can purchase scrolls that open up a two-way door back to town. (think Town Portal in Diablo) This will let you unload your loot at the merchant or in your bank and return to where you left off. If you buy the boxed version of the game you have another option…more on that later. Death is also pretty easy to deal with. You end up back in town and once you are ready to go back you can use one of the travel obelisks to travel back to the entrance of the dungeon level you died on. You also use these obelisks to travel between town hubs. Its all about getting you back to the fight as quickly and easily as possible.

Feverish Polished Cereal Box Ring of the DonkeyOne of the draws of the game is the humor. Dungeon Runners is hilarious...if you are big into MMOs there are a lot of inside jokes about other games. The first merchant you meet in the beginning town greeted me with “Everything I’ve got is CRAP!” Beyond the quest text, the humor is even reflected in the items you loot. “Feverish Polished Cereal Box Ring of the Donkey” is just one of the items currently equipped on my character. “Dismal Cardboard Scrap Pick of Taint” is another. (Wanna see what I have now? Check out this link: http://demosthenez.100webspace.net/d...rname=Arepfoot)

Keep in mind, however, that the whole game isn’t available to you noble cheapskates out there. Membership does have its privileges. Signing up for the modest $5 per month plan gives you access to more bank slots, members-only items, experience and gold bonuses, plus freedom from the ad banner at the top of the screen. If you go a step further and buy the $20 (US) retail box you get Bling Gnomes which are little hip-hop sidekicks that follow you around and, um, “process your loot” into gold. You also get six months of game time. So, you spend $20 and get $30 worth of game time plus the gnomes. Not a bad deal. If you play for free you are constantly reminded of that fact but it’s not as intrusive as, say, Pirates of the Caribbean which throws up a big window in your face every time you encounter something you can’t do for free.

I was able to join the members-only server which went a long way towards getting rid of the “Barrens Chat” feel in the “noob” channelAfter playing for a few days I decided to buy the retail box. While waiting for the box to arrive (along with my Bling Gnome!) I upgraded my account to become a member for $5 a month. Doing so removed the ad banner from the top of the screen and gave me all sorts of goodies. I was able to join the members-only server which went a long way towards getting rid of the “Barrens Chat” feel in the “noob” channel. I immediately noticed an upgrade in the quality of the loot that was dropping. There was also a nice boost in the gold I was collecting which helps since skills cost a bundle. Some of the rewards you get for quests are these things called Kings Coins which you can turn in for random class-specific loot. When you are a member the conversion rate is cut in half so I spent the Coins I was hording away in order to outfit my character with some really sweet level-appropriate stuff. However, all of these things are just bonuses for becoming a member…you can still have a blast playing for free but it will just take more time and luck to find the good stuff.

I haven’t played around with the PvP yet but there are dedicated servers for PvP (you choose your server after you select your character and not the other way around, like in most games) and there is also a portal in town on PvE servers that takes you to a PvP zone. In the PvP worlds you can go head to head against an opponent or join a group for team deathmatch. Recently a system was added to help balance players by effectively raising everyone’s levels to one over the level cap regardless what your original level was. Unfortunately, the folks who come in with the best skills and gear have an overwhelming advantage even with the level balance.

Whether you are sitting there impatiently waiting for the recently-announced Diablo III or are just looking for some cheap, quality entertainment you should do yourself a favor and check out Dungeon Runners. There is a little bit here for everyone to enjoy and the price is certainly right. The humor actually had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. The only question is will the game still be in my play rotation when other titles release later this year? If you find yourself enjoying the free version, it’ll be almost insane to pass up the retail box deal. Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to clean up after my Bling Gnome.

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