Review : Dofus
Full disclosure here : I did an internship at Ankama, the developer/publisher of Dofus, for a couple months back in 2007. One of the reason I got it at all was that I loved the still-young game and had actually checked if they were offering such opportunities.
More than 5 years later, not even the disappointment of no being picked up for a permanent position could diminish my love of Dofus. First and foremost, there is some jingoism going on there : it was a passion project by 3 penniless Frenchies and it just happened to launch its beta at perfectly the right time (2003) to offer a French-speaking, cheap, multiplatform alternative to Asia-originated Free-to-play like lineage and expensive title like WoW.
So, Dofus is a Flash game, originally playable in your browser, now client-based, that can thus be played on any platform; when you thought a Mac would be better for your journalism studies or when you think Linux is the only worthy OS, finding even one good game that works on your computer is a boon. Plus, free download of the very-light, very-easy-to-install client, indefinite trial period with only a level cap, and a mini-price of 5euros per month once you wanted to get more.
The art style is very anime-like and cute, which explains its popularity with both genders, leading to one of the most well-balanced community in that regard. On the other end, that same community's average age is in the teens. To round up the aesthetics, the musics are really well-down and have even been collecting into CDs.
Actually, the marketing and abundant merchandising, like the mangas, plushies, or magazines, are what explains the popularity with high-schoolers. Some say the IP is being corrupted by this overly corporate approach... I can understand that, but I think the owners have done a good job of keeping it low cost. The game suscription itself has transitioned to a system like Eve Online : you can still pay with your real-life money, or you can accumulate enough soft currency (kamas) to buy the hard currency (Ogrines) and pay with the latter; inversely, you can buy Ogrines with dollars or euros and resell it in game to get more kamas, which let you buy ressources or equipment in the auction houses. So this game can be entirely free-to-play if you know how to "farm" enough kamas - which isn't that difficult. And all that with weekly updates.
The in-game economy is entirely player-driven, even with the addition of the Ogrines. Anything can crafted, if you have the right profession and the adequate level in said profession; likewise, if you want to augment the initial stats of the equipment. All ressources for the crafts can be looted in game – or bought from someone who looted it.
The ultimate loot, the ones who give their names to the game, are the Dofus, magical dragon eggs with some very-sought-after properties. Nowadays, there are equipements that gives some of the same advantages, but the Dofus are in a different quipment slot, allowing to stack the bonus. On of the appeal of Dofus is that all of the 14 classes (some suscriber-only) have several viable builds. Oh, each of these build has its preferred equipent, so you'll end up looking like a lot of other players – Unless you use some « living items » to hide what you wearing and thus how you fight.
Apart from the aesthetical aspect, hiding can be very useful in PvP, one of the better aspect of the game. You can play solely against the environment if you choose; but, in addition to passing opportunities for experience, kamas, and special equipment, the combat system is conducive to actual strategy and not to just mindlessly wailing on your opponent. Why that? It's a turn-based, mouse-controlled (though keyboard shortcuts exist), 2D/third-person system that even people with zero experience in gaming can pick up easily, thanks to the tutorial zone.
Remember how I talk about PvP, different builds, crafting and all that? You can safely experiment, reset and start anew in that zone, up to the level 16. If the fact that the client is free to download, the trial period is indefinite, and the colourful screenshots, aren't enough to make you try Dofus out, than you are not as lazy or girly as me.