Lately, I’ve been playing a upcoming free-to-play MMO out of China called Dream of Mirror Online or DOMO for short. DOMO is set in a mythical Chinese land that’s a convoluted version of the real world. The kings of the mirror world have called you into their realm to help.
First off, let’s talk a little bit about how these free-to-play MMOs work. Basically, you’re allowed to create and account and play as normal. However, the company running the game has an “item mall” setup online which allows you to pay real world cash for in-game items. Sometimes these items are simply cosmetic costumes for your character but, often they’re items which increase your XP gain rate for an set amount of time. It doesn’t take much of a imagination to figure out that the longer it takes a player to level their character, the more likely they will be to whip out the credit card for a XP boost. Because of this, free-to-play MMOs have a reputation for being grind fests; lots of monster killing for little character progression. At this time, DoMO’s item mall is not up and running therefore it’ll be interesting to see what sort of items become available for purchase. To my knowledge, there has been no announcement as to whether XP items will be available or not.
The game begins with you choosing from one of four different races. All are fairly standard fare for MMOs. You have the balanced human; the physically weak, magically strong Slyph; the physically strong, magically weak Shura and the support class oriented Sprite class. You’ll play the first 1o levels of the game as a citizen class with basic hand to hand attacks. Upon reaching level 10 you’ll be allow to choose a job. This is where DOMO becomes interesting. At release, there will be roughly 12 jobs available. You’re allowed to have all 12 jobs at one time but, are limited as to which you have active. Each job is started at level 10, therefore it’s perfectly feasible to be a level 15 Martial Artist and also a level 10 Doctor. Another great thing this allows is if, at a later date, a friend joins DOMO, you’re free to go back, pickup a previously unleveled job and work along side them. You’re also allowed the ability to become your friend’s teacher through turning in certain items. This allows you access to certain team based powers such as, healing and area of effect attacks.
Let’s now talk a little about the good before we get to the bad. A lot of detail seems to have been poured into the gameplay experience itself. The way travel works is very nice. You’re allowed to bring up a large map, (which often times has the location of your next quest objective marked) click your destination and minimized the game window. Your character will travel there and a pop up from your system tray will alert you when you’ve arrived. It’ll also alert you if you become under attack or are stuck. If you’re in a crowded area, pressing Ctrl + P will hide all the other players, making easier to locate that NPC you’ve been looking for. The game also has a ticker that every so often runs along the top of the screen alerting players to when a player has completed a particularly difficult quest, mini-boss spawns or area wide events. While not really essential, it’s nice to see your name up there for everyone to read. Details like these are what make an MMO less of a time sinking, grind fest and more of an enjoyable experience.
Being an MMO, you’re going to be running all over the place, killing monsters and returning bits of them to quest givers for rewards. In this, we find our biggest problem with DOMO. At times, you’ll be asked to assembly a group and survive an event to complete a quest. The problem is that the leader of the group will be the only one to receive credit for the completion of the mission. Therefore, you’ll either need to find some really selfless friends or be prepared to run the same mission for each member of your group detracting from the time vs. reward balance that keeps us coming back to MMOs.
Dream of Mirror Online is pretty. Looking somewhat akin to an anime, it runs smooth and looks nice. The look will annoy some as you’ll find monsters that really very threatening and your character doesn’t exactly inspire fear either. At times you’ll notice trees and other scenery materialize close buy. While this isn’t a real distraction, it does take a little away from the game’s immersion.
For an MMO, the background music is not bad and suits the time period well. A collection of asianesque flutes and harps play you through each area. The music does stop abruptly at times when crossing into new areas but, this is something I could see being polished out in the final client release. Battle and emotion sounds are par for the course; they don’t really add much but, they don’t take anything away either.
As you’ve probably guessed from the above review, I really enjoyed my time with DOMO. It’s a fun, free little MMO that doesn’t take itself too seriously and allows for great character customization. There are still some problems for the devteam to work on and it’s unseen how interesting the later stages of the game will be considering I was only able to make it through level 15. Also, there’s the unknown factor of the item mall. It’s totally possible that the item mall will allow players to buy uber weapons that totally outclass unpaying players. Given the above, I still say, if the graphical style appeals to you, give it a shot.