Dawn of the Dragons (iOS) review
Dawn of the Dragons is a new iOS game from 5th Planet Games. It is the official mobile version of the company’s popular social RPG, which is also available via Facebook, Kongregate and Armor Games — though there doesn’t appear to be a means of linking players’ Web-based accounts with the new mobile version. The game is available now from the App Store as a free download.
Dawn of the Dragons was 5th Planet Games’ first game, and frankly it shows somewhat in its rather lacklustre gameplay — though its interface has at least been revamped somewhat for the touchscreen display of mobile devices. The game takes the form of a text-based role-playing game in the mold of Mafia Wars and its ilk, tasking players with working through a linear series of quests that require nothing more than repeated tapping of the “Attack” button, expenditure of energy and occasionally purchasing prerequisite items. These quests are at least supported by some well-written flavor text, which is more than some other examples of the genre offer, but the gameplay in this component is as free of strategy and skill as ever. Things get marginally better in the boss fights, where the player has the opportunity to use consumable items from their pouch to restore their health and confer other benefits on themselves, but for the most part it is an eminently unsatisfying, grind-heavy experience for the solo player.
When playing with others, competitive play is possible by engaging in player vs player combat in various different forms once one attains level 11. This will likely take several play sessions for non-paying players, because despite the initially rapid pace of leveling (and consequent energy restoration) the energy requirements to complete quests ramp up very quickly. Alternatively, players may compete in “raid” battles against powerful bosses with enormous amounts of hit points, and must collaborate with others to take down the foe over the course of a week. Attacking a raid boss usually requires the expenditure of a “stamina” resource rather than energy (though some bosses require energy and/or “honor” instead, the latter of which is acquired on each level up), and the damage inflicted (and taken) is determined by the equipment the player has purchased. It is also possible to engage in raids with a guild of players and help each other out that way. In all raids, the player is given an alphanumeric code to give to their friends and allow them to come and help out easily, and all raid members’ contributions are tracked so at the battle’s conclusion it can easily be seen who contributed the most damage.
Other mechanics in the game include a “Legion” system, whereby the player may recruit generals and troops into their army to help them out in boss and raid battles, and also purchase special tactics cards to confer various bonuses. There’s also a crafting system, though this is little more than the system seen in mobile “card battle” games where all the available colors of a particular item must be collected in order to acquire a different, better item.
The game monetizes through the use of its hard currency Planet Coins, which can be expended on special items of equipment as well as the facility to restore resources such as energy and stamina. Planet Coins may also be exchanged for soft currency if desired. Items are also available in “packs” that contain random combinations of goods, and usually guarantee a rare item of some description.
On the whole, Dawn of the Dragons is extremely disappointing, and doubly so because excellent Web-based games like Legacy of Heroes and Legacy of a Thousand Suns make it abundantly clear that 5th Planet Games is capable of much better than this. The gameplay is dull and derivative, the interface is painfully slow to navigate and refresh due to the game’s heavy reliance on data, and the game itself is riddled with bugs — on five separate occasions during testing, the buttons used to add stat points following a level up “stuck,” added too many points and caused a sound effect to loop continually until the app was closed and restarted; the game frequently loses its connection to the server — this even happened when standing right next to my router, so it wasn’t a Wi-Fi issue; and more than once the game either refused to log in completely or simply crashed on startup. Ultimately, all this adds up to an eminently unsatisfying experience — and an unshakable feeling that 5th Planet would probably have been better off adapting one of its more recent, more creative and more interesting titles to mobile platforms.
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Boring, broken and buggy; 5th Planet has proven several times already that it’s capable of much better than this.