Dragon City (iOS) review
Dragon City is an iOS game from Spanish developer Social Point. It’s a port of the company’s popular Facebook game, which we reviewed here, and is available now as a free download from the App Store with additional in-app purchases. By signing into the game with Facebook, players may pick up where they left off and sync progress between the mobile and social network versions of the game.
Dragon City, for the unfamiliar, is a game in which players construct habitats and then populate them with dragons. These dragons can then be bred together to create other types of dragon, or used to battle other players. The eventual aim of the game is to collect all of the available dragons in the game, of which there are well over 150.
In our previous review, we noted that Dragon City had a lot of potential, but that its lack of narrative progression, drab quests and unbalanced difficulty curve marred the experience to a significant degree. While the Facebook version has evolved a little over time and the iOS version incorporates some of these improvements (while seemingly stripping out access to some other features such as the “Dragon Book” tracking which breeds the player has collected so far), many of the most significant issues are still present and correct — most notably the lack of story progression and any sense of “theme” to the quest objectives. Given the attractive, well-animated and cartoonish nature of the game’s visuals, this is a shame; the presentation would make it ripe for a bit of characterization, but the game’s text remains somewhat dry and businesslike for the most part, with a few exceptions in the dragons’ flavor text.
The game has two main social mechanics — visiting and helping friends, and player vs player combat. Visiting and helping friends is exactly the same as in other games of this type — players have a small stock of energy with which they can click on their friends’ dragon habitats to “help” (though it’s not clear exactly how they’re “helping” in thematic terms) and may also send them gifts. PvP, meanwhile, unfolds through the game’s “Combat World” mechanic. Previously, this was limited to players of level 10 or higher only, but this restriction has been removed, allowing all players to battle against one another assuming they have some dragons on hand.
The Combat World is split into “leagues” in which players must defeat several opponents in order to progress, but may only participate in up to three combats every six hours. This is an aspect of the game worth engaging in, however, as rewards for completing leagues include hard currency, which may be used to bypass some of the game’s hefty wait times for hatching new dragons. The actual combat component involves selecting a team of three dragons, then picking an opponent to battle against. Battles unfold in a turn-based manner and do not require the opponent to be online at the same time — the computer instead takes control of the opposing dragon. Each dragon has one or more elemental affinities, and different affinities have different strengths and weaknesses. The artificial intelligence routine is not very good at taking advantage of these attributes and regularly spams attacks that have no effect whatsoever on the player, making combat very easy if the player has the right dragons in their team. Given that there’s no way of seeing what the opponent’s battle team consists of prior to the battle, however — aside from visiting their island and making an educated guess — this is more a matter of luck than anything else when competing at higher levels. There is also no real “risk” factor involved in the combat — dragons cannot be injured or permanently lost, so the only thing the player loses if they fail in combat is some time.
The rest of the game is very similar to its original Facebook incarnation. Play is still throttled through the game’s soft currency system rather than an energy mechanic, and item prices do not appear to have been adjusted to make the game less “grindy” for free players. It’s a shame that Social Point doesn’t seem to have addressed some of the most glaring issues with the game, but given the game’s extremely strong position on Facebook (MAU rank of 12 in the 10,000,000+ tier and DAU rank of 9 in the 1,000,000+ tier) there’s probably very little incentive for them to do so, as players are clearly still flocking to the game in droves. As such, it’s worth a look to see what a successful dragon-breeding title looks like — but as it stands it’s still merely a “good” game rather than a “great” one.
You can follow Dragon City’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.
This game has been a notable success story for Social Point and is consequently worth a look now that it’s hit mobile, but it remains a bit drab and directionless in places.