Drakensang Online (DSO) is a free-to-play browser RPG that combines together action RPGs with MMOs. It runs surprisingly well on browsers -- with short loading times, no downloads, and minimal system requirements -- but it's also kind of generic (it didn't remind me anything of the Drakensang games I've played), and the "free-to-play" part should be followed by a great big asterisk, as just about everything in the game costs real money currency. DSO has been out for over a year now, but it only left beta in July, and that's when we decided to take a look.
In DSO you can play one of three character classes: a dragonknight (melee specialist), a ranger (ranged specialist), or a spellweaver (spellcaster). For each character you get to choose a name, a gender, and an appearance (out of a handful of options), and then as you gain levels, you also get to choose talents. Everything else for the character, including skills and attributes, is gained automatically.
The talent system is kind of interesting, although also minimal. Every five levels you get to choose between two different talents. I played a ranger in the game, and at level 15 I got to choose between "longbow veteran," which increases damage with longbows, and "shortbow veteran," which increases damage with shortbows. All of these "experience" talents give bonuses to combat. There aren't any diplomacy or rogue skills.
Along with the experience talents, you can also earn "knowledge" talents (by finding books of ancient wisdom) and "fame" talents (by participating in PvP). The knowledge talents unlock useful non-combat things like a skill you can use to teleport back to town, and a bank vault you can use to supplement your inventory. The fame talents give the same sort of bonuses as experience talents, but they only work against other players.
In total, the talent system means you get to make up to 16 decisions for each character. That's fairly minimal any way you look at it, but it was even worse for me. I only play online RPGs for the co-op aspect, so I didn't earn any fame talents, and for the experience talents, I didn't care which option I took most of the time. For example, as far as I could tell, longbows and shortbows are balanced to do the same amount of damage, so it doesn't really matter which one you specialize in.
Finally, when DSO was released, you were restricted to one character per account, which wasn't exactly convenient. But with the latest patch, you're now allowed to have up to four characters per account. This makes it easier to try out the different classes to see which one you like the best.
DSO, like most point-and-click action RPGs, uses a simple interface. You left click to move, you left click to attack (and holding down the left mouse button causes you to continue to attack), you right click to use a skill, and you press the shift button to attack without moving. The camera automatically follows your character, so you don't need to worry about that. If you've played an action RPG in the last ten years, then these controls should sound familiar, and so it's easy to jump into DSO and start playing.
The one major thing that DSO is missing is a matchmaking service. You can see a list of who is playing, and if they're grouped or not, but the only way to advertise that you're looking for a group, or to try and put a group together, is to spam the global chat channel or issue blind invites. That makes it more troublesome than it should be to find a group, especially since (so far as I could tell) about half the people playing the game are Spanish.
Questing and Grinding
The quests in DSO are of the simple MMO variety. Just about every one is of the form "go to map A and find B copies of item C" or "go to map X and kill Y instances of creature Z." After a while I stopped bothering to read the quest descriptions, since the designers put roughly the same amount of thought into them as they did the objectives. Some of the quests can be repeated as often as you like, while others are a part of a chain. All quests give money and experience as their reward.