Ever notice how every MMORPG has the same gameplay features as the rest? Players just click on their target and swing at it until it dies. Sure players have to use skills and cast a few spells, but unless they’re fighting a boss there’s very little input besides initiating the fight.
A new breed of free to play MMORPGs is shaking things up with fast paced combat. These games come under several labels, but the best way I’ve come up with to label them is Arcade Brawlers MMOs. The genre allows players to actually aim and time their attacks manually. Similarly, players can dodge or evade oncoming effects by physically moving out of the way. This more dynamic combat system opens the MMORPG genre up to many more possibilities. The vast range of tites that fall into this classification helps affirm how many possibilities exist. Dungeon Fighter Online, published by Nexon was the first such game, at least in the free to play model. It has simple graphics but fun gameplay. Next came Dragonica Online which took the side-scroling features of DFO and MapleStory, but expanded them into a more 3D environment. Movement is still mainly left and right, but players can explore several layers of depth.
Mini Fighter Online by Netmarble offers a chibi streetfighter experience and is also a side scrolling game. While PvP plays a large role in Mini Fighter, there’s also plenty of player vs environment (or PvE) content to explore. Fists of Fu which is published by Outspark is much more similar to Dragonica Online. It makes heavy use of instancing like DFO, but has a more comedic setting. Movement in FoF may be restricted to two dimensions, but the models and backgrounds are 3D.
A more recent addition is Divine Souls which is a great MMORPG. The combat is fluid, the graphics are high end (and in 3D!), plus it is free to play like all of the games mentioned here. Divine Souls relies heavily on instancing, but it also has voice acting, persistent city environments, and a full feature PvP arena. The PvP supports multiple modes and has a feature where all participants have their levels normalized. An upcoming arcade brawler MMORPG is OGPlanet’s Zone 4: Fight District. The game promises more depth than their previous fighting MMOs Like Ruble Fighter and Lost Sage. It will have anime inspired graphics, but more realistic combat since the attacks will be based off real life fighting techniques like Kendo and Boxing.
There’s no telling where the genre will go next. The combat in arcade brawlers is much more interesting, but their lack of persistent worlds reduces their ‘MMORPG’ status. Some of these games already blur the line between MMO and MMORPG, but its great to see such variation. Some people might not like the combat systems in these arcade style MMORPGs. Where does the term ‘arcade like’ come from any way? Well several of these titles advertise their resemblance to the old arcade video games. Even the ones who don’t usually have a room-by-room progression system, which I refer to as ‘smash and dash.” Arcade classics like Gauntlet Legends, X-Men, The Simpsons, and Die Hard all had similar gameplay despite drastic differences in setting, camera angle, and so on.
Let’s hope this genre along with many others flourishes in the growing free to play marketplace. More and more games are releasing as f2p, and more importantly more genres are seeing free to play games released!