If you’re anything like me then you have the preconceived
notion that browser-based games are nothing more than a fun distraction for a
few minutes. When I volunteered to review Sherwood Dungeon I thought that I
would be playing some simple, 2D, text-based online RPG. I was very, very wrong.
Sherwood Dungeon is a fully featured MMORPG complete with character
customization, quest chains, PvP combat, dungeon-crawls, mounts, combat pets,
guilds and even crafting. All that, and it’s completely free.
In 2005, Gene Endrody did what many gamers dream of. He quit his day job. He
left because his free-to-play games at MaidMarian.com were making him more money
than his job with Radical Entertainment was. The browser-based MMORPG Sherwood
Dungeon is Gene Endrody’s flagship game at MaidMarian.com with over one million
players currently logging in.
Fan Art by Emma Charlotte Persson
Getting started in Sherwood Dungeon is a quick and painless experience. It takes
less than 30 seconds from typing the address into your browser to entering the
world. There are a surprising amount of character creation options available.
There are six different character models to choose from, and within these six
archetypes are a number of hairstyle, helmet, and color options that ensure a
wide variety of character models within the world.
One unique feature is the ability to change your appearance at will. Unlike
other MMOs, you’re not stuck with the character you create. Every time you log
into the game, and even while you’re playing the game, you have access to the
character creation menu. This is incredibly important when playing a game that
effectively has no level cap. After all, every long-term MMO player has felt the
urge to reroll their character from time to time.
Once inside, there is a surprisingly large world to explore. Sherwood Dungeon’s
world consists of nine distinct areas and a multi-tiered dungeon. The zones are
effectively islands that players can teleport between at will. While there are
zones meant for high-level characters, players are free to teleport to any area
at any time. The areas themselves are surprisingly varied offering a player
everything from lush forests to arctic wastelands. The dungeon is essentially a
bottomless pit consisting of thousands of levels that get progressively more
difficult the further in that you venture. Even the dungeon levels feature a
wide variety of textures and enemies to keep things fresh.
The enemies you’ll face off against are your typical fantasy fare. There are
spiders, wolves, ghosts, skeletons, unicorns and, yes, dragons. All of these
enemies come in multiple sizes and skins to make a seemingly endless bestiary.
Gene has also used the player character models to add more foes to the mix.
An interesting feature of the monsters you fight is that, outside of the
dungeons, the monsters scale to the level of the player fighting them. While
there are “minimum” levels in some areas that ensure a humbling experience to
low-level characters that get a little too adventurous, there is no maximum.
High-level players will have no easier time fighting monsters in most parts of
the world than a complete newbie would.
Combat in Sherwood Dungeon is deceptively simple. On the surface, it appears to
be an attack button and a block button. The longer you play, though, the deeper
it gets. Certain items can give you magical attacks when equipped. On top of
that, special moves become available to you as you level. Once you grasp the
combination of physical, magical, and special attacks the real fun begins.
The combat system is timing-based rather than turn-based. The timing of your
attacks and blocks play a huge role in successfully winning a fight. For
instance, successfully blocking an enemy’s attack doubles the damage of your
next attack. The timing takes a lot of practice. Making things even more
interesting, enemy timing increases with their level, making them more and more
precise as you gain levels.
An MMO is nothing without the people who play it. In fact, the players often
bring aspects into a game that were never meant to be included. This is
precisely what Sherwood Dungeon’s community has done. The best example is the
guild system. Users have created a full-fledged guild war out of the simple
network of chatrooms and the ability to add a guild name/rank to your character.
Guilds “invade” another group’s chatroom and goad them into fighting. Once a
location is chosen, the groups gather for an all-out PvP battle. One group has
gone so far as to hold a monthly clan-based PvP tournament.
A large portion of the content in the game, including the new Prophecy of Bane
quest chain, is added in response to requests from the players. Gene does a
great job of listening to his community and adding content to keep them
interested. The Prophecy of Bane quest chain takes players across the entire
world trying to keep the great dragon Bane from being resurrected. Along the way
they come across numerous NPCs and enemies as well as a few battles that require
players to team up with others in order to be successful.
What do I think of it? Honestly, I love it. For a completely free game it blew
away my expectations. I found myself going back for more even when I didn’t have
to. I would complete a quest or two before work each day and try to sneak in a
few extra levels on my laptop while watching TV. The game kept pulling me back
for more and I wholeheartedly followed.
I find with MMOs that that is the true test of the game. They compel you to log
back in. In the waning days of my WoW career I found myself logging in solely
for completing the daily quests and immediately logging back out. I felt that I
“had” to log in but I didn’t necessarily “want” to.
I found myself legitimately wanting to come back to Sherwood Dungeon. Most MMO’s
start out that way though. There is a sense of wonder and need to explore that
just keeps a player coming back. However, a good MMO stands the test of time. I
think it’s obvious that, after six years, Sherwood Dungeon has found its
audience and passed the test.