Multi-genre MMOGs aren't that common these days, but Dreamlords seems to do a nice job of blending RTS with various RPG elements. It borrows game mechanics from quite a few games, but I think Civilization fans among others should find it particularly interesting. You see, in Dreamlords you play as one of three races: the nasty Thûl, a demonic bunch of guys, the Covenant, who are essentially knights in shining armor, and finally a group of former Covenant guys who formed the mystic Nihilim. Each race plays quite differently in terms of strategies used, and while for instance the Nihilim units start out fairly weak (imagine an army of professors, if you will), they can become extremely powerful later on, as magic-oriented units tend to.
Playing the game is done in two ways. After registering and so on, you start by playing the Civilization-style strategy portion of the game – in your browser. Now don’t be alarmed, it’s 2007, and browser-based games don’t have to look like manure.
The main things you do in the browser part are to build and manage cities, find mobs to fight, find quests to do, as well as more general things like researching technology, playing the auction house, and interacting with your clan.
A founder is a unit that establishes a city. You move it around and keep an eye out on percentage values related to things like population (how easy it will be to attract people), and resources like metal, stone, and more (meaning how easy or hard it will be to obtain those resources there). Each city can be outfitted with numerous buildings that can eventually be upgraded to do very specific things, so it is wise to have cities dedicated to certain resources or for recruiting people to join your army.
Your army consists of a number of units, each of which requires specific technologies to be built, along with a direct resource cost. I’ll get into the combat mechanics later on, but suffice it to say it’s not very difficult to raise an army provided you know how to get the materials.
One source of materials and well, most items really, is the auction house. World of Warcraft players in particular should have a good understanding of how this operates and the profits that can be made. Fortunately you don’t have to actually travel anywhere to access it.
I mentioned technologies, and these pretty much dictate your style of playing. You can choose to be very combat oriented, or maybe focus on getting an abundance of a certain resource. The thing is that Dreamlords isn’t just about you taking over the whole game world, it’s about your clan taking over the whole game world (and doing important clan quests as well). It’s really a game where you have to cooperate with others, in such a way that you don’t have one big group of guys trying to do everything, because statistically that works best – trust me. But back to technologies for a minute. If you’ve played EVE Online, you’ll be familiar with the tech tree where you do in fact “level up” while being offline. Here you don’t have to worry about costs, but you may have to wait for several days for a reasonably low-level tech to finish, so naturally you’ll want to choose carefully.
The second type of gameplay in Dreamlords, if you can call it that, is the real-time action that takes place in the game client. After you’ve moved your units around in the browser and you’ve gotten close enough to a mob or a quest (it takes up one square and you need to be within walking distance, which is illustrated by a colored circle) you fire up the executable, log in, navigate to your little corner of the world, and load the mission.
A lot of the missions showcased in the preview build were centered on seek-and-destroy. You fight one or more groups of enemies, and sometimes interact with NPCs or items. To be quite honest, they’re not terribly exciting as of right now, but I assume they’ll be improved fairly soon. The graphics and audio are obviously also a lot better here than in the browser portion of the game.
So finally, I expect the long term of appeal of Dreamlords to be found within the interactions you have with other players – much like in EVE Online, or even A Tale in the Desert. The PVP combat is certainly looks nice, and accomplishing tasks with your clan is very entertaining. While it’ll have a hard time competing with World of Warcraft, I’m sure it can be a fun alternative for those looking for something involving a different kind of strategizing.