Dragon Quest X is the newest game in the immensely popular Dragon Quest series. It is also the series' first MMORPG. While the prologue of the game (the first two hours or so) is a strictly single player affair, the game soon opens up into a massive online world. But as Dragon Quest X is a MMO marketed to an audience largely unfamiliar with MMOs, there is one question that must be answered: what exactly did they add to make Dragon Quest X into an MMORPG?
Once you get online, the starting quests are all designed to acquaint you with the skills you'll need in an MMO -- though mainly just the social ones. First you learn how to access the quick chat menu and choose a preprogrammed response like "thank you," "good job," or "I've got to go."
Next you learn how to input a custom message -- and if you don't have a keyboard hooked up to your Wii, you'll be using the most counter intuitive word input system ever known to man. Instead of opening a window with a virtual keyboard inside, you get a system that cycles through the letters based on the direction you press. The only problem is that depending on the letter, the buttons you have to press to cycle are different. In other words, sometimes you press left/right to cycle the letters, other times you press up/down. It's completely arbitrary and staggeringly frustrating.
Of course, there are other ways to communicate outside of chat and preprogrammed messages. One of the best features in the game is the ability to tag yourself with various icons. These icons each have a meaning which announces to the rest of the players what kind of player you are. There is an icon for players without a keyboard and another for people who have just started playing. But perhaps the most useful is the icon that marks a person as "looking for a group."
This tag makes finding a group spectacularly easy. Just outside the exit to each town, dungeon, and quest hub, you are guaranteed to find a large group of people standing around with their "looking for a group" tags flashing. Just walk up to them, press "A" to inspect them and send them an invite if they match your level.
For the most part, groups will just go grind in a nearby area. However, outside of boss battle, you are likely to find not only players your own level but also large amounts of high level players offering their assistance. And because Dragon Quest X allows you to simply change who the story leader is, you can redo story events -- including boss battles -- again and again as long as at least one person in the party hasn't done it before.
While I've only played 10 hours so far, everyone I've met has been kind, civil, and helpful. But then again, the game pretty much forces them to be. With no PVP, no general chat channel, and a nearly impossible chat interface -- not to mention that grouping is by far the best way to level up -- there really is no choice but to be nice and forgiving. So by limiting the ways to be a troll and by adding incentives to work together, Square Enix has put together a very beginner-friendly gateway MMO. Whether or not that makes it a good game or not, however, is another question entirely.
Dragon Quest X was released on August 2, 2012, for the Nintendo Wii in Japan. Stay tuned to Kotaku East for our import preview later this week.