Dofus Review: A pretty gem with one too many flaws
I’m just going to start with this. I hate the standard MMORPG gameplay. I hate cool-downs, auto-targeting, and watching arrows curve to hit me because the shooter’s accuracy stat defeated my agility stat. I often look at games with a system like this and wonder, “Why don’t they just be honest and make it turn-based? It’s all decided by ability scores and dice rolls anyways.” Dofus, while quite enjoyable in many ways, has made me eat my words on that opinion.
Set in the same universe as other games from Ankama like Gobbowl and the upcoming Wakfu, Dofus follows the structure of a typical MMORPG with quests, mobs, and dungeons. One thing Dofus gets right is a refreshing variety of classes. I tried to avoid MMORPG tropes like the healer and warrior classes, ultimately settling on a Sacrier; a warrior class that dishes out more damage the lower its health points are. The poor soul I dragged into the game from my local group of friends played an Ecaflip, a “gambling” class with abilities that at any point could help or hurt it.
After creating my character and being disgruntled that all the My Little Pony names had been taken, I was placed in a fairly robust tutorial that did a perfectly serviceable job explaining how to get started and even sent me off with some starting gear. Within ten minutes of playing Dofus, I realized two things: none of the game’s fun sense of humor was lost in translation and it’s a very pretty game. Everything from the bizarre, eagle-headed guy who gave me the tutorial to the innumerable boars and demonic roses I slaughtered had an anime-inspired, yet unique charm that you don’t often see in free MMORPGs.
It was entertaining to see some legitimately clever self-parody in the dialogue blocks that precede each quest. That said, it’s been proven many times that parodying the mechanics of other games doesn’t make those mechanics any better. At least 80% of the quests I performed in Dofus involved simply running around the map talking to different NPCs. This was a chore since the game uses environment cells and movement is governed by where you click. Basically this means you have to click the edge of the screen and wait for your character to run across the entire cell to get to the next one. Some kind of screen scrolling would have been quite welcome.
In an attempt to cure the boredom of following the green arrow on my map, I took to attacking random enemies to get some combat in. This didn’t provide much of a reprieve since the turn-based combat is agonizingly slow. The battles take place on a grid that allows you to place your character on predetermined squares before each fight. The tile setup reminded me of Gladius and Final Fantasy Tactics, except that I could only control one character at a time. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but when you’re facing multiple enemies it gets boring pretty fast waiting for your turn. Thanks to the nature of my class, letting four creatures hammer on me while I built up my strength for some noticeably powerful punishment was at least pretty satisfying and helped alleviate some of the boredom. Teaming up with my Ecaflip companion and planning our battle tactics made the combat a lot more interesting even if the gambling nature of his attacks ended up healing the boar that was busy ripping out my intestines almost as often as hurting it.
The game also falls short with the crafting system. It was easy enough to figure out what ingredients I needed to craft a particular item, but there is a chance your attempt will fail. Since I only needed ten pieces of wheat in order to craft five wheat flour bags, yet ended up having to gather twice as many to complete my objective, it’s a pretty high one. I cannot fathom why failure is even possible. What does it add to the experience to repeatedly fail at crafting something that you gathered the exact ingredients for? I could understand that in a system that involves experimentation, but all the recipes are laid out for you at the crafting table.
My experience with Dofus was an unpleasant one, but even though it fails in many ways I just can’t help but respect it for being an MMORPG that dares to defy the norm. Even though it’s poor combat and crafting make me appreciate what those systems have become in other games, it has classes that can control time and cast spells that are constantly on the fence between risk and reward. Give it a try and see for yourself how potentially different games of this genre could be. It’s free, so what have you got to lose?