Sawbuck Gamer

Drakensang Online

Money For Nothing

The fantasy game Drakensang Online follows the well-worn tourist-trap model.

By Ryan Smith • July 23, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

Drakensang Online is a tourist trap. This shoot-and-loot fantasy role-playing game, done in the style of Diablo 3, is “free” in the same way that walking the streets of New Orleans’ French Quarter or Vegas Strip doesn’t cost a dime. To really enjoy the splendors of these places, you’ll have to open your wallet.

But when I call Drakensang Online a tourist trap, I mean it as a sort of backhanded compliment. Trudging through the game’s moss-covered forests and dank dungeons in order to mouse-click hordes of Tolkien-esque creatures to death is strangely satisfying. Drakensang also features a smartly filtered alternative to the muddled player-versus-player systems of other, similar games. You can choose whether to fight against other players or not, meaning you aren’t required to suffer at the whims of bloodthirsty newbie-slayers.

Instead, Drakensang Online bullies the player with an economy gamed to favor those willing to drop lots of real-life cash to purchase in-game currency called Andermant. Ten health elixirs, for instance, might cost the equivalent of a dollar, and a particularly spiffy jerkin may equal $4. When you’re fending off several bog monsters with a freebie bow that hits like a Nerf gun, it’s hard to maintain a vow of thriftiness. That’s especially true when the “Buy Andermant” button remains suspiciously lit up on your toolbar as if patiently waiting for you to give into the siren’s song of the ultimate power in Drakensang Online—the almighty credit card.

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695 Responses to “Money For Nothing”

  1. Brainstrain91 says:

    I played this in Beta while ago. Do you still have to buy the “ammo” for all of your abilities as well? In the game when I played it, if you weren’t lucky with drops, you’d run out of resources and have to pew-pew with a basic attack till something dropped. Or until you payed.

    It’s also a really nice-looking game, considering it’s browser based and fires up in a flash.

    Also: for a game like this (well, for most games), the three-paragraph format seems deeply silly. If you’re going to tell us so, so little, I’m not sure why anyone bothers. For a ten-minute flash diversion, it’s fine. For anything else, it just looks like nobody’s trying.

    • blue vodka lemonade says:

       I would like to see slightly longer reviews as well, though across-the-board rather than just in Sawbuck. While I really do appreciate that reviews here aren’t 80% filler words–“utilizing a strategic top-down gameplay filter mechanism, internet utilization utilizes magic graphics deprocessors reigns supreme still in this fantasy webventure”–I would also like to see a little more on the basics of gameplay, graphics, performance, etc. just to get a better feel for whether it’s something that would interest me in the first place.

      • John Teti says:

        We don’t write reviews with a concern for the gameplay/graphics/etc. checklist, and that’s not going to change. There are a zillion sites that already provide that. I’m not saying you’re wrong to want it; I just want to be up front and say that we’re not going to write that way.

    • John Teti says:

      I wonder if you realize just what a shitty thing “It just looks like nobody’s trying” is to say. Step out of anonymous-internet-commenter mode for a second and think about that. We work hard to produce this site, so you can take your sense of entitlement and stuff it. If you don’t like the capsule-review format—which, by the way, used to be a single paragraph on The AV Club—that’s your prerogative, and your preference is perfectly reasonable. But don’t you dare come in here and say “it looks like nobody’s trying,” or sniff, “I’m not sure why anyone bothers.” I have absolutely no truck with that noise.

      The real shame of it is that you had something of substance to add, which is the whole point of the comment threads, and then you had to spoil it by being a dick.

      • Fixda Fernback says:

        What about this:

        “It looks like nobody’s trying……because you’re all just so damned good at your job, it seems effortless!

        I’m not sure why anyone bothers……to do anything else, because we all want you here working overtime, giving us more of the best video game related content to be found anywhere, online or off!”

        (In other words, that guy obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about… you guys fucking rock.)

      • Cornell_University says:

        I was sort of surprised to go to the AVC and find out this wasn’t linked on the front page.  seems when that happens there’s always an uptick in rude and pointless criticism.  not that I don’t want yall to be gettin’ the clickthrus, it just seems to be the case most times.

      • George_Liquor says:

        I’m surprised the only consistent name-calling in the comments is coming from the editor-in-chief. Come on Teti, I love this site! You and your staff have worked hard to turn it into something really special, and you’ve managed to foster an atmosphere of open, intelligent discussion. Please don’t drag down the level of discourse here by calling random readers dicks.

        • John Teti says:

          I’m glad you love the site. I work really, really hard on it, and when somebody comes in here and says otherwise, it pisses me off, and I’m going to be honest about that. It’s not a “random reader,” it’s a specific reader that’s being really fucking rude. I’m pretty sure the site’s discourse will survive my calling that out for what it is. Cut me some slack, man. I’m human.

    • Girard says:

       Sawbuck Gamer’s SOP (as I understand it) is to provide capsule reviews of cheap games, in part, I think, to help readers navigate the glut of cheap/free games and determine what’s actually interesting or rewarding to spend our time, if not our money, on. The way they’re formatted in the daily entries on Gameological is a bit longer and more informative than when they had to cram a dozen such interviews into a monthly feature, too, which is nice.

      This contrasts with the longer essays on bigger games, including reviews and features, which are typically more in-depth thematic analyses. This makes sense, as those larger games tend to have more thematic and ludic depth to plumb, and there aren’t a jillion of them clogging up app stores and Newgrounds and so on.

      Of course, a small/cheap/indie game that deserves a deeper analysis (your Limbos or Braids or Cactus games, or whatever) may warrant a deeper exploration. But a rip-off, “free”-to-play generic Diablo clone seems well enough served by a capsule review that indicates that this “free” game has less to offer, and may be more costly than, purchasable games like Diablo or Torchlight.

    • MattKodner says:

      there are so, so many ugly flash games that ask the player to make a blue ball big enough to tip a red scale over. I choose to ignore those, regularly, but a lot of people don’t. And a lot of people enjoy those little blips, because they were made well to some degree, if not gracefully. But I would never say that the designer didn’t try to make a good game. 

      People who don’t try generally don’t do anything at all. Creative, productive, or otherwise. It’s unbelievably easy to do  nothing today, and a lot of people choose to do just that. 

      What I appreciate about this feature is that a lot of the games being reviewed are made by real, working people, who spent their spare time making something to share for free. Gameological is trying to give them an honest appraisal while most sites don’t bother past a buzzword-y tagline. 

      Having said that, I do like that you at least complimented the game. 

  2. Effigy_Power says:

    Replacing skill and luck with cash-value and liquidity is not a model that I think will ever really gain a firm hold, even with my general cynicism and low hope in man’s common sense.
    Sure, there are already plenty of games that successfully drain gullible players of money for weird, pointless items, most of which are cosmetic in nature. Brainless repeat-clickers like Farmville (sorry Farmville players, but really…) may thrive on the same emotion that makes people buy Gucci belts and $200 earbuds by P. Diddy, but RPG players, for all their flaws, will always expect a bit more than that. Not much more perhaps, but enough to keep this model the fringe-benefit for people who pay money to have their tenure at XBL illegally hacked and extended.
    They say that “a fool and his money are easily parted” and there’s certainly plenty of proof for that, but those fools will give up their money no matter what. They certainly don’t need elaborate pretense for it.
    As much as I love being cynical, in this case I am pretty confident that a certain standard of sense will prevail. And if I am wrong, well, at least I tried to see a bit of blue sky.

    • Electric Dragon says:

      A lot of these games are basically based around Skinner boxes. It’s not so much the buying of the Gucci belt that’s addictive as the putting of an extra coin in the fruit machine because this time, it’s gotta pay out. And occasionally it does pay out, with the flashing lights and the ding ding ding and the gushing stream of small change, and the thrill of winning activates the pleasure centres of the brain to the extent that you don’t realise you’re a hundred down and you’ve been playing for three hours. But one more go and you’ll strike it really big this time.

      • MattKodner says:

        skinner’s steamed hams have a similar effect on me, huh. that guy thought of everything

    • George_Liquor says:

      To me, literally buying your way through an RPG defeats the purpose of playing an RPG. The fun of these games lies in the journey from level 1 Serf to level 1000 Sumerian God.

      • Fixda Fernback says:

        I feel the same. It’s like, why the hell are you playing an RPG if you don’t want to devote some time and effort to it? Isn’t that the point? Taking up a role, and playing it, rather than cheating your way through (Which, face it, that’s all pay-to-win is, glorified cheat codes that you now pay for instead of getting in a game magazine)?

    • Girard says:

       You mention of XBL makes me wonder – has any game tied micropayments to an “achievement” system, either overtly or implicitly? Because with the way achievement-seekers and Gamescore-tallyers obsess over that stuff, it could push @google-6108c5611fbc5b86af5df565c4b4b048:disqus ‘s “Skinner Box” conception to an insane new, perversely lucrative, level.

      • Electric Dragon says:

        Achievement Unlocked – Easily Parted.
        Achievement Unlocked – Empty Wallet.
        Achievement Unlocked – Loan Shark Bait.

      • Cornell_University says:


      • stakkalee says:

        I posted some links the last time we talked about these ‘freemium’ (God I hate that word) games.  In Japan there’s a game mechanic called konpu gacha that’s based on the broader gacha mechanic.  Gacha is essentially gambling – you’re paying for a loot drop with random items.  Konpu gacha takes that a step further: you get a special prize when you manage to accumulate a full set of items, ie. a full suit of armor.

        The mechanic is so exploitative that the Japanese government (and the South Korean government as well) are considering regulation or an outright ban.

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         I’ve not seen any achievements directly tied to paying for extra content on XBL, but it is usually not too far along starting new DLC that you will get one of those “Baby’s First Steps” achievements for starting a new mission or whatever, so there might be a tenuous link.

        I will admit that the “Achievement Unlocked” sound provokes a pleasurable response. However, I can’t say that I have any interest in “cheevo hunting” or getting 100% achievement completion.  On the former, it just seems like a hollow experience, one that would end up devaluing thing I obsess over; On the latter,  well…I paid for the game not the metagame.  I’m not sure I understand the need to build Gamerscore either; Someone’s always going to have a higher one than me.  I have a higher one than my friends who play a lot of MW3 multiplayer, but less than the friends who have owned a 360 longer than me.  That seems like the correct symmetry.

      • PseudonymJones says:

        The You Don’t Know Jack Facebook game has an achievement you can only unlock by buying it for like $0.25.

        I’ll admit that I nearly bought it because A) it’s just a quarter, man B) the proceeds go to Jellyvision C) I thought it was pretty funny D) this generation of games has developed in me an intense desire for achievement collection.

        Ultimately, I just bought more YDKJ games instead.