Monday, November 2, 2009

MMO Review: Dream of Mirror Online

Dream of Mirror Online (DOMO) looks simple. The characters are cartoonish with clean lines and bright expressions, and they make cute noises when you move them about. The movements are not sophisticated: they don't sway naturally like characters in World of Warcraft. They move like animated action figures as you run around the continent from village to village.

And yet, and yet...

There is something addictive to this game that has me anxious to come back.

The theme of the game is that of legendary China: the architecture and default costumes are very properly Chinese--the zombies themselves are an artifact of Chinese tradition, momentarily baffling to uninformed Western eyes. DOMO is a heavily social game, as well, with missions and dungeons requiring the player to form a group (short- or long-term).

An interesting feature of the game is the "Thread of Fate."  When you start up a character you have to create a birth date (day and month) and a year, but the latter is according to the Chinese zodiac. The combination of these factors determine certain players in the game who will be linked by fate to you.  The link is quite literal: I was minding my own business when suddenly a long red line like a laser sight shot out of my neck and stretched off-screen somewhere.  My headphones filled with the heavy beating of a heart (ostensibly mine), whose pulse quickened as I ran in the direction of the line.  I found myself connected to a complete stranger, standing with a group of friends in a plaza.

A Penny Arcade forum figured out that you may get certain bonuses by connecting with these people.  The DOMO Wiki actually breaks these relationships down further, and they could be with lovers or even rivals from a past life.  And being that DOMO is such a social game, there are in-game wedding ceremonies; indeed, there's a wedding facility (currently only supporting heterosexual relationships, unfortunately) and a money-making industry behind it.

That said, these "Fate Fated" relationships are not exactly compelling to other players, from what I've seen.  I tried to approach a player with which the game suggested I was mystically bound and she was supremely disinterested, greatly preferring her clutch of illiterate social retards to a rugged, handsome stranger who could offer her stat bonuses.  So it goes.

The controls are fairly intuitive: WASD, where A and D are only strafe directions--you point yourself with your mouse and run with the keyboard.  Or you can click on the mini-map or its full-sized version, click on your destination and your character will run there automatically.  Unfortunately, this function isn't as polished as it is in the game Asda Story: your character is guided around objects, but the trajectory function is erratic and your character will appear to run blindly in several directions at once.  Their path, however, averages out to your destination.  Generally.

Big disappointment: no music to this game!  What the hell?  So much opportunity for traditional Chinese orchestration!  You get a few little musical stings with leveling up or certain other achievements, but there's no soothing or inspiring background music to get you through the long stretches.  The overwhelming silence announces itself as  you run through town or slog through the mountains.

Customization is limited to five or six choices, though you can adjust the physical dimensions of your character somewhat.  The story writing is clear and amusing, and the translation to English is usually spot-on.  There are a couple lapses but they do not negatively impact gameplay to any extent.  The Penny Arcade forum  noted that there is a lot of grinding, staying in an area and killing scores of monsters over a long period of time, and that's true.  I made the mistake of upgrading my sword beyond my own level, so now I have to fight with my fists until I'm powerful enough to use my own sword.  That's annoying: punching and kicking my way through 40 flying pigs is taking four times as long as it needs to.

And yet, and yet...

1 comment:

Shanna (Crabbit) said...

Come back to Neverwinter Nights! Play on my server! It is awesome.