DragonBound is a new Facebook game from Zotata. At the time of writing, it is showing up as the No. 24 top gainer in games by monthly active users this week. The game is built in HTML5 rather than Flash, Unity or a proprietary engine.
DragonBound is a synchronous multiplayer turn-based strategy combat game somewhat similar to Team 17’s popular Worms series. Two teams of up to four players each take it in turns to move their character and then fire one of several physics-based weapons at their opponents by setting an angle and power. If the attack connects with another character, they take damage according to the power of the weapon and how accurately the shot hit them. Players receive in-game currency rewards for particularly impressive shots from long range or at awkward angles.
Players have two main weapons available to them at all times and one special weapon which may only be triggered once per match. All must be fired accurately using either the “slice” system (whereby the player sets their shot angle and then chooses a power level by holding down the space bar) or the “drag” system (which theoretically is supposed to see the player clicking and dragging to set both power and angle, but which does not appear to work). Before the match begins, the player is also able to choose three items to take with them into the game — at the time of writing, these include “Dual,” which allows two shots to be fired in a single turn, or “Teleport,” which allows the player to immediately change their location to wherever they land a shot.
If a match takes too long to come to a conclusion, Sudden Death mode is triggered, at which point the screen tints green and all players get additional shots and do extra damage.
There are several game modes for players to choose from. “Boss” mode allows between one and four players to compete against computer-controlled opponents, while “Normal” mode allows for up to 4v4 player versus player battles. There is also a locked game mode called “Same Same” which players may only create a session of once they have beaten all of the “Boss” mode levels.
In terms of social features, the game uses Facebook to log in but then features its own independent in-game network. Players are able to either use their real name from their Facebook profile or change their name to a custom username. The first time a player wishes to do this, it is free; after that, it costs hard currency to do so. Players are also able to create and join guilds in order to team up with other players, though the proposed guild ranking leaderboard is not yet implemented.
Additional monetization stems from the in-game avatar customization shop — all items in here may be purchased with either soft or hard currency, but it is usually “cheaper” to do so with the latter, as it takes a considerable amount of time to earn anywhere near enough soft currency to purchase anything.
DragonBound is a good, well-presented game at its core but it has a number of significant issues at this time, the most serious of which is that it simply throws new players into its rather daunting main menu screen without any help whatsoever. Experienced multiplayer gamers will probably be able to feel their way around and work out what is going on, but a skippable tutorial walking players through how to create or join a game and what they are supposed to do would be to the game’s benefit. This lack of help also continues into the game itself — there are no tooltips or help screens throughout indicating what the various icons and other screen elements do, and it was only through trial and error that I discovered dragging with the right mouse button that it is possible to scroll the game screen around to survey the rest of the level.
With a bit of polish to make it friendly to new or inexperienced players, DragonBound could be a great synchronous multiplayer game. It’s highly competitive and based on some tried-and-tested game mechanics, but at present its cluttered, unclear interface and complete lack of in-game help makes it all but impenetrable to those who aren’t willing to try things out for themselves.
A solid multiplayer game that needs a significant degree of polish to make it accessible to newcomers.