Sweet As Syrup: Dragon Ball Online Global Pre-Open Beta Review

MMORPGs are games that I rarely play. If a MMO doesn’t grab me in the first hour, it will never grab me. This genre of games is hard to get into, at least for me. These are games that are all-encompassing, and they aren’t always fun. Despite this, Dragon Ball Online managed to grab me and had me playing non-stop for quite a fair amount of time. I’ve made it no secret that I love Dragon Ball, so a MMO that captured the magic of the original manga and TV show definitely had me interested.

Thanks to the magic of private servers, and the dedication of fans to keep this dead game alive, I was able to play this long forgotten Dragon Ball game. I was planning to cover Dragon Ball Fusions first, but I wanted to review some more Dragon Ball related things first before delving into it. So, I decided to start with probably one of my favorite MMORPGs. Yeah, that’s right,  I like this game so much I consider it one of my favorite MMOs.

Despite it being one of my favorites, it’s got a lot of problems. Most of these problems are not because of the game, but more to do with the private server. It’s a good server, but it’s still in beta and because of that I can’t give a full recommendation. It’s not finished yet, but the devs are giving it continual updates. I feel that this game could be something great in time, once all the updates have been finished and the kinks have been ironed out. For now, let’s look at this game in its current state.

 

Background Information

Dragon Ball Online was a MMORPG that came out in the year 2010, and was released exclusively for Microsoft Windows. It was developed by NTL and Bird Studio. The story was written completely from scratch by Dragon Ball series creator Akira Toriyama. While events from the series are depicted in the game, the events happen to be more like the manga version than the anime. This is because the rights that the developers obtained were very limited. They could only obtain the rights to the manga version and the “History Of Bardock” special.

This is rather surprising, since most Dragon Ball games published by Namco-Bandai use the likenesses of characters from all over the franchise. Dragon Ball Online lacking the use of a lot of its trademarked characters may have been one of the reasons the game failed. The lack of both film, GT, and various other Dragon Ball characters may have hurt it’s overall appeal. Couple that with the fact that it was only released in Asia, and you have a recipe for a small user-base. Releasing big games (especially MMORPGs) is usually best done with worldwide releases, especially when your game lacks advertising.

As a result of poor management, the game only last three years. A year after the game’s cancellation in 2014, Dragon Ball Xenoverse was announced. This game re-purposed elements and concepts from Online, but gave it an all new story and setting. Xenoverse proved to be popular enough to get a sequel, as well as get a worldwide release, while Onlien continues to remain forgotten.

However, there are fan projects attempting to keep this forgotten gem alive. Dragon Ball Online Global is a private server dedicated to allowing people to play this dead game. It’s completely free, but does have a few minor micro-transactions. Thankfully, it’s nothing major and you can play the game from start to beginning without paying a single cent. I do reccomend supporting the game through donations, as these guys manage the servers out of their own pocket.

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Man, that giant bamboo stick jutting into the sky sure is a popular hangout.

Plot

The story for this game was penned by Akira Toriyama, and takes place any years after Dragon Ball Z ended. The game ignores the events of Dragon Ball GT (as they did not have rights to the characters or stories from said series) The plot itself takes place 216 years after Z ended, focusing on an invasion from Demon Realm. The king of the demons is known as Mira and he’s on a mission to strengthen himself by acquiring Goku’s DNA, so that he can invade earth in the future. Mira has acquired many allies, including the remnants of Frieza’s army and the Red Ribbon Army.

You play as a character from an unknown period, pulled into the Age 1000 due to Mira’s time alterations. It’s up to you to defeat Mira and the various threats that stand in your way, and stop him from unraveling time. The game also likes to toss you into various time rifts, allowing you to participate in events from the series. These events are extremely faithful to the source material, and are probably the best parts of the game. All in all, while I felt the story was a bit generic, it was fairly entertaining. On top of introducing new characters and villains, it also reintroduced fan-favorite characters such as Trunks. For that, I find the plot very entertaining.

Gameplay

Before I start off this part, let me preface this by saying I don’t play a lot of MMOs. In fact, this is the only MMO I really got into aside from Phantasy Star Online. Even though Dragon Ball Online played like most other MMOs I had played before, I found myself strangely addicted to it. It’s a fun unique game with a lot of good going for it, but also a fair bit of bad.

The game plays like a typical input-based MMO. Once you click on an enemy, you auto-attack and can press several different keys to use different abilities and powers. On top of this, you are also able to press keys at certain intervals, which allow for special powered-up attacks. It’s a pretty basic system, but I found it to be fairly fun. This comes down to most of the abilities your character will gain, which was nostalgic down to a tee. Most of the moves and special attacks you acquire are from the actual Dragon Ball manga, such as the Special Beam Cannon and the Kamehameha.

Special attacks are dispersed among the three playable races: Namekian, Majin, and Human/Saiyan. I love how the game developers paid close attention to which race uses which special attacks. For example, one may think the Masenko attack is a move used by Saiyans, since Gohan was constantly using it on the show. However, the move was taught to him by the Namekian Piccolo, it wasn’t a move he made on his own. The devs knew this and made sure to make the attack Namekian exclusive.

Another feature of the game is transportation. Traversing this world on foot can be rather annoying and time-consuming, so the game offered alternatives. You can use a Jet Squirrel, which is a small flying vehicle, to move a fair bit faster. There’s also the bus system, but I never figured out how to get the buses to properly work. I had the right amount of money, but they buses never stopped for me or let me in. To be fair, buses are like that in real-life, but this is supposed to be a fictional universe! Besides, when has Dragon Ball ever been logical? Yeah, I know this is a nitpick, and it probably comes down to the game being in beta. Knowing that, I’ll cut this game a bit of slack in this department.

Now, back to the subject of the races, they all have their own special quirks and abilities. Each race has their own exclusive special forms, as well as unique abilities and powers. For example, the humans/Saiyans can transform into Super Saiyans, while Majins can turn into Kid Buu. Unfortunately, you won’t get these forms until you are deep in the game and have acquired the tier 2 Dragon Balls.

This is where the problems with the game start to show. Tier 2 Dragon Balls can only be found using a Scouter, but there are several different Scouters in the game and the item descriptions haven’t been full translated. This makes trying to acquire the right Scouter pretty annoying. On top of this, you can only collect Dragon Balls on the weekend, otherwise they won’t appear. Sure, you can get Tier 1 Dragon Balls, but those haven’t been properly integrated into the game yet.

Another complaint I have is that I wasn’t able to trigger much of the story. Again, this comes down to the server being in beta. This beta build comes with several other glitches and bugs, including an upgrade screen that has a tendency to freeze on me before I can upgrade anything. The developers are working to fix all these problems, so the game can run at the same level as the original release. Please note that before the game is finished proper, all character data will be wiped. This means that any character you created will be gone and you’ll have to start over.

One feature of the game I liked were the aforementioned Time Rift quests. These are great, they send you back in time to events from the series, which was depicted accurately. In these side-adventures, you have to perform activities relating to events from the manga. However, most of these are untranslated at the time of writing this, so it makes it hard to properly figure out what to do. Out of the three Time Rift quests I have undertaken, I have only completed one. Still, these areas were a ton of fun and a good bit of nostalgia for me.

One thing I have yet to comment on is character creation and customization. You see, you pick from one of three races, then from of three classes. You start off as a child and have to reach level 30 before you’re given the quest to become an adult. Once you become an adult, you gain access to new attacks as well as the ability to upgrade to a Master Class. For this reason alone, I desired greatly to play this game and reach that level. For the sake of this review, I grinded all the way up to level 30 and completed the adult quest. It’s completely and totally satisfying to finally reach that level of power and transcend from being just some random kid to being a seasoned adult with a higher power level. The power progression just felt right for me, and even though it was grindy, it was fairly true to the series.

The last thing I’d like to touch on is character customization. Right out of the gate you are given access to the three race and choose which one to play as. After selecting a race and class, you are free to customize your character. Unfortunately, this game has very limited customization options, much like other MMOs. The game makes up for this by having a ton of different designs for the armor and clothing you’ll collect. Rare and unique looking items with cool designs abound as you scour the world for the ultimate fashions. Conversely, you can just grab the clothes with the best stats instead, it’s all up to you.

Visual Stimuli

In my opinion, the presentation is the best part of this game. The game is just oozing with personality and nostalgia, hearkening back to the original Dragon Ball series. Characters are designed in a way that fits within Dragon Ball archetypes, but offers enough originality to be its own thing. The game introduced the concept of Time Patrol Trunks, as well as the characters of Towa and Mira. The designs for these characters are fantastic and really helps sell me on the idea of this being a new Dragon Ball continuity.

Music is fairly good, it contains some rock tracks here and there and captures the feel of Dragon Ball fairly well. Each starting point of the game has it’s own unique backing track that captures the feel of that zone as well. For example, the Namekian area has a rather relaxing and entertaining beat that captures the primal and adventurous feel of the Planet Namek very well.

Special mention has to go to this game’s introductory cut-scene, which focuses on a bunch of character created character going on an adventure. It has a really good background song, and the animation on it is amazing. It makes me want a fully CGI Dragon Ball movie, now that would be awesome! My only real complaint about this opening sequence is that they show a transformation for the Namekian race that isn’t in the game! Come on, who doesn’t want to turn into a rage-filled red-eyed Namekian?

While I found the designs of this game to be great, the graphics are kind of bland. They lack polish and look like PS2-level graphics. Don’t get me wrong, the game isn’t butt-ugly, it just lacks a lot of detail when compared to other MMOs. Character movements are also pretty jerky, but that is a trait that is common to MMOs of this caliber. While the graphics and character animations weren’t the best, I found the presentation to be pretty top-notch over all.

In Summation

This game is still a work in progress, I know. It’s glitchy, buggy, and somewhat broken at times. Still, I was immensely satisfied with what I’ve played of it so far! It’s got a good soundtrack, some nice character designs, and some fun (albeit a bit generic) gameplay that kept me entertained throughout. It has an immense attention to detail when it comes to its source material, which is welcome for a MMO based on an anime.

The game is fairly repetitive though, and many of the important quests can be broken easily or completely by accident. That’s why I think you should wait until it’s out of beta before playing it. In it’s current state, it is hard to reccomend this game. Once the beta is finished, this game should be far more stable and fun to play. If you’re curious or interested, I do reccomend playing the game at least for a bit to get a feel for it. Since this private server isn’t finished, I can’t really give it a rating.

Once the game is complete, I’ll make a journal post telling you all what I think of the completed game. For now, I just wanted to give you my thoughts on this private server and the game itself. Until it’s complete, I can’t say if it is’s sweet as syrup or not. Still, it’s worth trying if you are interested. Just keep in mind that this was made more for Dragon Ball fans rather than the typical gaming audience. You’ll get the most out of this game if you are an avid fan.

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