"Gorgeous" is the only word to describe Dofus, a feast of sight and sound in the form of an up-and-coming Flash-based MMORPG created by the folks at Ankama Games. The art and music of Dofus follow in the finest traditions of anime, making the game something of a cross between WoW and Pokémon (with a dash of tongue-in-cheek humor thrown in for good measure). Players can support up to five characters on their account, form communities with other players, fight a host of outlandish baddies, and go on quests to search out the hidden mysteries of the fantastic land of Amanka. The ultimate quest: to find and solve the mystery of six magical dragon eggs, the legendary dofus.
The designers call Dofus a mixture between a video game and an interactive cartoon. It features a two-dimensional world, employing a top-down isometric presentation. And the first 'M' in MMORPG is certainly apt when describing Dofus. Players create characters from any of eleven classes and can train them up in twenty different professions. And there are literally thousands of spells, items, monsters, and map screens to discover.
Dofus features a tactical turn-based combat engine, similar to that of TAO. During a fight, other players on the same map screen can choose to jump in to form a team, and players have just so many seconds to use up their 'movement' and 'action points' to move, attack, casts spells, and heal their enemies and allies.
Dofus' designers claim the game is accessible to both casual and hardcore gamers. A basic account requires free registration, which only gives access to interact with the starting village of Amanka and its surroundings, but at least allows players to freely roam the world and enjoy its scenery. Full registration costs about $7 per month and gives full interactive access to the entire game and all its quests (which are constantly being updated, added to, and expand upon). The game's designers boast that, since all account files are stored online and it 'only' (in comparison to e.g. WoW) requires an initial download of about 42 MB, Dofus strikes a balance between content and functionality.
Analysis: Dofus truly is beautiful in its execution and presentation, and its interface is relatively intuitive and easy to pick up on (though there is a learning curve to its keyboard commands). There are few strategic online RPGs out there today, but even if the field were crowded Dofus would likely stand a head above the rest.
However, like any other MMORPGs such as WoW, Kingdom of Loathing, or Urban Dead, Dofus can be as involved an experience at you have time for. Leveling-up occurs at a decent pace, but the quests (such as collect and return 100 of four different types of items) can be maddeningly tedious. However, the hardcore gamers among us will find them worthwhile, since they will often be rewarded with quite good item(s) and/or permanent stat increases. Casual gamers, on the other hand, will still enjoy wandering about and exploiting the interactive cartoon aspect of Dofus.
But the time investment and monthly subscription fee will likely result in two quite distinct camps in the Dofus community, with a substantial gap in character levels (which might be frustrating when trying to put together a party for adventuring). Another minor complaint might be that, because Dofus is a Flash game and features a screen-based world map, other players are frequently zipping around and on or off the screen, sometime making it difficult to interact.
A more serious drawback is certain aspects of the combat system. Since the game is two-dimensional, the terrain, while beautiful, has no impact on combat. In fact, taller scenery may tend to get in the way, and character can e.g. get lost behind buildings. Also, the game's only party system for other players to join your in-progress fight. Most seriously, however, is that the brisk pace of combat makes strategy almost nonexistent. Often, there simply isn't enough time to assemble a plan between turns, and it can also be difficult to click fast enough to execute a strategy during a turn.
But dedicated players will undoubtedly be able to adjust to Dofus' idiosyncrasies for an extremely rewarding gaming experience. And the rest of us will just enjoy dropping in to revel in the beauty of the game's expansive and immersive fantasy world. Either way, Dofus is a treat to be sampled by all. Click.
Also, be on the lookout for the upcoming Dofus Arena, due for its kickoff sometime next month.
Dofus is now a finalist in the Flashforward Film Festival coming up at the end of February in Seattle.