MMO? More like "Erm... erm... oh." At least, that was the internet reaction to the announcement that the latest Dragon Quest would be a massively multiplayer adventure. Japan's biggest series meets Korea's biggest genre.
At least it'll be popular in the east, right? To encourage the naysayers, Square Enix have organised a beta test in Japan, which will probably be running as you read this. Those who accept the challenge to repeatedly run into walls and attack doors will get a kit with a fairly hefty USB memory stick - which, it appears, will be required to run the full game.
Testers won't get to take their created character into the game, but they will get a special Dracky hat. Which isn't quite what we had in mind when we said we wanted to be Batman, but hey ho.
In the full game you'll be able to yomp around the five expansive islands that make up the world with computer-guided sidekicks or other players. AI allies will follow you in a conga line, and will behave according to preset strategies when you happen across a monster or four.
If you're inviting someone to join your party, you'll see their status and a greeting, while those waiting to be picked can choose how long they're willing to stick around for. If they wish, recruiters can then decide to boot out fly-by-night slackers who aren't prepared to invest enough time in theircause.
While you're in the field, you'll likely encounter other parties battling monsters. Rather than just spectating - and pointing and laughing if they're getting a good shoeing from a Blue Slime - you can join in via the 'support' command, which increases the team's tension meter, giving them a better chance in combat.
In fact, you can help others even when you're not playing, by registering your character at the local pub. Other parties can then recruit you, and any EXP you gain while adventuring with this new team will be added when you log in again. Neato. So, just to recap: go to the pub, gain valuable experience. That's the excuse we'll be giving to the Corporate Overlords for our next 'off-site planning meeting',then.
Other features include a mail system that allows you to send items and letters to online chums, and a concierge who keeps you updated about current events. The Dragon Quest menagerie has expanded, too - newcomers include Thieving Bunny and the brilliantly named Big Hat, a boar-like creature sporting a suitably huge piece of headwear.
Fingers crossed Square Enix decide to nix the monthly subscription fee, but the more we hear about this surprising departure, the more interested we are in exploring its brave new worlds. Especially the pubs, natch.
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