Nexon recently launched their new dinosaur themed MMORPG Durango: Wild Land in Korea on January 25th. The game drew in 2.5 million pre-registrations before launch and seems to be poised to introduce a completely new paradigm in mobile gaming. So often we see mobile games getting the reputation of being a “dumbed down” experience from what’s available either on consoles or PC. And while this is true in some contexts, that doesn’t mean mobile hasn’t seen it’s fair share of unique and immensely enjoyable experiences in it’s own right.
Nexon, however, doesn’t seem to be satisfied with the status-quo. At a pre-release event held at the Four Seasons in Seoul, South Korea, Nexon vice-president Sang Won Jung was optimistic about Durango, stating, “As the game possesses a unique system that is like no other in today’s Korean mobile games, we put much effort with patience. That’s why the beta was that long. However, after years of development and beta processing, we were able to study players’ behavior patterns, and eventually complete the game.”
This in reference to the beta test that began back in July 2017 and was initially supposed to close in October 2017 but was instead extended all the way to January 18, 2018. Durango seems to pull inspiration from so many brilliant RPGs of past and recent years. There’s a serious Diablo vibe to the aesthetics of Durango, as well as something that makes me long for the days I spent playing Ultima Online, but Durango completely sheds the fantasy themes of traditional MMOs and instead goes for a gritty, prehistoric world filled with dinosaurs.
Players will be dropped into a world devoid modern technology, and be forced to rebuild society. There are no dungeons, no raids, only endless islands to explore and claim. You can find an island, claim it, build a house, meet other players and cultivate skills to survive. Players can then decide to form tribes with other players for protection from other tribes or the dangerous world beyond.
The core idea in Durango: Wild Land is about discovery and building a society from nothing. And the society that’s possible to build happens to look absolutely bananas. There are many jobs and classes to pick from like any traditional MMORPG but Durango let’s you switch between them, allowing complete and total freedom to play the game any way you see fit.
The level of discovery and flexibility in Durango also seems to have Nexon quite optimistic about it’s life-span, as they have stated plans to service Durango: Wild Land for a minimum of 10 years. That’s a lot of society building, and one gigantic sandbox to do it in, which took Nexon 5 and half years to complete. Nexon has also stated plans to have the game exist in one massive server, though initially it will be separated by region for fairness. Eventually those individual servers will merge into one gigantic world where players from all regions can interact and rebuild society as they see fit.
Plans to monetize the game have also been outlined and Nexon has repeatedly said that IAP will be directed toward decorative items and not around things that will give players a competitive edge, “The top priority is to make the game last long rather than rake in a lot of revenue. The model is focused on providing convenience, reducing wait time, and costumes. We want players to purchase emotional satisfaction instead of character performance in the game.” as stated by Eun Seok Lee, director of What! Studio, who developed the game.
The sheer scope of Durango seems absolutely massive, with players being able to merge items to create new materials in order to build items, everything from tables to entire villages. There are tribes to join, where players can forge alliances against other tribes, suggesting at least some focus on PvP elements. Solo play is also just as much of an option, with the system aiding players so that there is no reliance on other players, so you can be as anti-social as you want, while still enjoying the massive world.
Ultimately it seems survival and creation is at the heart of Durango, with dinosaurs always a constant threat in the sandbox world. Durango promises to push the boundaries of exploration and player-interaction further than anything previously seen in a mobile MMORPG, with Mr. Lee sharing a particularly amusing story from the beta, “There are many things you can create in the game. You can even draw on a signpost, and there was a player who drew faces of leaders from each country in the world on the signpost. Then, the Indonesian tribe conquered the Korean tribe and took this signpost as their loot. The Korean tribe was angered by this and waged war against them for the signpost. They were enjoying the content in a way that none of us could’ve imagined, just by making the signpost as their trophy.”
Durango is currently already live in Korea, and it seems a world-wide launch is drawing close, though Nexon has not been very clear with launch dates for North America. It was noted during the pre-launch event that players in North America took a more “easy-going” approach to game than players in other regions, so refining the policies, business model and other elements are still ongoing.
Whatever the case, Durango: Wild Lands will be like nothing previously seen on a mobile device and will push the boundaries of what the larger gaming audience has thought possible for the platform. With this, and other MMORPGs on the horizon, expectations are high for 2018 and a shift in the gaming paradigm is due. We will keep a close eye out for more news on Durango: Wild Land in the coming weeks as the game moves closer to a global launch.