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Where to begin? Ah, yes. The formalities.
Before you utter that nasty three-letter acronym that begins with a N and ends with an A, I will say this. I am playing the _open beta_ of Dragonica. That's right. The game is currently in open beta in English under the kind auspices of IAHGames, without any kind of NDA applying. If you wish to play, jump right in. Now to the meat of this post.
What's the good, bad, and ugly of this game?
The good: How to put it? The game itself. First of all, Dragonica is a 2D scrolling platformer MMORPG with superficial similarities to that most dreaded of grinders: Maplestory. I really must emphasize the superficial bit, though. In the most important ways, this game is far superior. I'll cover that later.
The bad: The bad part is, again, the game. While it's very different, and in many ways far superior, this game still has some key elements in common with Maplestory, including some things which you may hate. Once again, it's F2P with cash shop support. However, its cash shop more or less follows the same vein as that of similar games, meaning it's almost exclusively cosmetic items.
The ugly: The last F2P game I really got excited about was Granado Espada. I still think GE is an incredibly fun, unique title, if you play it only a few hours here and there. It really doesn't have the content or variety to support dedicated play for most Western players, but it's awesome for occasional hack-and-slash action. Unfortunately, this title shares one problem that really hampered GE. The NA publisher are, once again, probably going to end up being assholes, this time THQ*ICE. I don't really know anything about THQ*ICE. However, I'm betting they will be complete bullshit, if Codemasters, Akklaim, and all the other Western localization publishing fucks are any indication. Stick with IAHGames. You may end up with very few other Americans, but the experience will probably be far superior than the other English versions if you only play it casually.
Edit: Also , I'm hearing this game does get a bit grindy as it goes on. It's not nearly as bad as Maplestory, but to be honest, it may be too much for any Western player nonetheless. The annoying part is that this grind takes the form of spamming mission instances over and over. To anybody who has nightmares of early DDO or PSU, stay the Hell away. In fact, I'm going to have to sadly say the same for most Western players.
Now, the key question:
"Is this another bullshit Maplestory clone? Because I hate Maplestory."
If you hate Maplestory, grats. So do I. The short answer is no. Let me talk about some of the differences and similarities.
Graphics (art style): To start with, Dragonica is 3D, and the art direction is fairly solid. To be frank, though, its art style is a cutesy anime deal. On a scale of 1-100 on the cutesy anime scale, 100 being the penultimate, most eye-bleeding attempt at overcuteness, this game probably sits at around 60. So if you hate that kind of style, you probably won't like the look of this game, but if you're merely ambivalent, it doesn't completely overdo it. However, ain't no reason in this day and age to take my word for it. Find a high-quality youtube video and take a gander.
Graphics (technical): Lets start with the camera. Like I said, the game is 3D. How can you have a 3D side scroller? Well, it's not purely 3D, in that you can actually move in three dimensions in all environments. I'm going to define the Y axis here as moving away from or toward the camera. In towns, you have full Y axis movement, though the camera is fixed. So rather than the town being one line with various platforms, it actually is a full map. In combat maps, things are generally more restricted. The camera is still fixed, and they want to keep the overall 2D feel, so you only have limited Y axis movement, a span of about a half-dozen yards to move away/toward the camera. This does make positioning in combat much more active, though. How about the speed of the game engine? In my experience, it runs very smoothly. Even computers that are several years old should have no problem running Dragonica on higher settings. It looks nice, despite this, if you like the art style.
Platforming: There actual platforming elements in this game. Such elements aren't too common, but this game's platforming is not purely the bullshit you saw in Maplestory, where platforming meant "climb a rope to a new platform to kill more monsters".
Combat: From videos I've seen, this game actually has boss fights, as in actual boss fighty boss fights. Check it out on youtube. Again, it's probably not too common, but it's there. The real question, though, is the basic combat. At its core, it's somewhat similar to Maplestory. If you completely detest the idea of 2D combat, this game isn't for you. However, if you hated Maplestory more for the retarded grind and lack of variety than the combat, this game's combat can be a lot of fun. It definitely is more interesting. You'll be using more skills, and the 2.5D element means you'll be having to think a lot more about where you are. Again, don't take my word for it. Check it out on youtube.
Edit: Now that I've played this game a bit more, I'm going to say this is one of the game's strong suites. It's way, way more involved than crap like Maplestory ever was. You have a pretty robust combo system in place including air combos (timing a combination of knock-up and air only attacks) and positioning, timing, and maneuvering are super important.
Class/Skill system: Dragonica removes a lot of the more tedious things, but the overall system is the same. You no longer start as a useless newbie class. You jump right into your starting profession. From there, you get a choice to choose between two paths at a certain level. For skills, you get skill points each level which you can spread around as you wish. Like Maplestory and many other games, skills are unlocked as you move down a skill tree and buy the required prereqs. There's a good amount of skills, perhaps a few dozen for any particular job path, but some are passive, others won't be taken by your build, and some will be taken purely for prereq purposes. So while some of the tedium is removed, and you have the appearance of greater customization, you won't be using the same variety of abilities that you'd see in many Western MMORPG's. Don't expect that level of depth because you won't get it. These kinds of games are closer to hack-and-slash titles than traditional RPG's.
Questing and Grind: From what I've seen, the grind is much, much less than that of Maplestory. However, I haven't seen a whole lot at all, so I may be completely wrong on this one. I will say, though, that there's a lot more variety in this game. You definitely have more quests and more of a story-driven feel, though it's again not nearly as much as you'd find in a Western MMORPG.
Edit: Now that I've seen and heard a bit more, I think Dragonica may hold a bit of false promise in this regard. There is definitely a very strong quest element to this game, including story versions of mission maps. That said, at later levels, there is also a significant raw grind element. The worst part is the form of this grind, running essentially linear mission maps ad nauseum.
So who will like this game and who will hate it?
It's a hard question to answer, but I'll give a few examples.
You may like this game if:
You were at one time or are presently a devoted Maplestory fan but are eager for the next big thing in your niche
You liked the basic concept of Maplestory's combat but hated everything else
The idea of a 2D platformer MMORPG seems interesting to you, but you don't think it was ever done right
You want a title which can give you a quick bit of hack-and-slash here and there on the side (as in a few hours here or there every week)
You may outright hate this game if:
You hate everything with a cutesy anime art style
You abhor any game with a cash shop
You require strong PvP or crafting elements in a title, or both
You demand that a MMORPG "take itself seriously"
You think the idea of a 2D MMORPG is inherently stupid and unenjoyable
You don't like hack-and-slash monster mash, but you're looking for a title to invest significant time into
Ok. Seriously. Will you be playing it?
Honestly? I will probably play it every now and then. A few hours per week, tops. I can't say at all that I'd ever play this as my primary game, and I definitely wouldn't spend a dime on the cash shop, but I think it has the potential to be very popular for a certain set.