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  ‘Dungeon Runners’: First Impressions  
Posted 2007-06-21 by Tony Walsh
‘Dungeon Runners’: First Impressions
Dungeon Runners is a new, free MMORPG from NCSoft. All that's required to play is a free "PlayNC" account and modestly-sized download for the game client. Players are encouraged to pay $4.99 USD monthly to make use of the game's premium items and other bonuses--low-rent lurkers such as myself are relegated to less-than-epic gear.

The game treads territory already well-trodden by earlier titles such as Dungeon Siege, World of Warcraft, and the Diablo series. Play is easy. As in, no instructions required if you've ever played any of the aforementioned games. Dungeon Runners reminds me of a BBS-era text adventure game in scope, lacking the complexity and story of larger-scale titles in favor of the simple explore/kill/loot/improve character trope. Unsurprisingly, the player-base seems on the young side (if not physical, then mental age). I'd recommend Dungeon Runners for any kid aged 10 and up--it's definitely easier and cheaper to play than Warcraft.

I found Dungeon Runners sessions a good way to blow off steam on my own without having to worry about the social pressure of grouping and guilding (hint: turn off global chat for a relaxing single-player experience). Game play is just on the easy side of challenging, with a good system in place for scaling difficulty in proportion to player experience. Dungeons seem to be randomly-generated for each session, which is both a plus (repeat play is rewarding) and minus--it can become a chore to repeatedly navigate through endlessly-differing levels in order to get to the final boss.

One interesting aspect of the game's character system is the ability to build a character based on skills rather than classes--although everyone starts out as a Fighter, Ranger or Mage, you can pick from varying skill pools as well as respec the character every time you gain a level. Stats are boosted each level through a points system. There are no playable races in the game other than pale-skinned humans at this point.

Overall, Dungeon Runners is a very good offering for the price (free). I could see myself connecting with a friend and teaming up for an afternoon of commitment-free dungeoneering, and playing periodically while my wife's watching America's Top Model, which is about as much as I can handle with most video games these days. Casual gaming is where Dungeon Runners excels, but if you're looking for a lasting, more complex multiplayer experience, you'd better be ready to fork over for a subscription to one of the bigger MMOs.
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