Rise and Shiny recap: Dragonica

I was so glad to get back to normal this week, logging into a new (well, newish) game to enjoy and to write about. Dragonica, from what I remember, had been shut down some time ago. Somehow, magically, the announcement of its return slipped past my eyes, but here it is. It seems gPotato EU is going to be publishing it, considering that that's where I found it. I know, I know -- I work at Massively.com, the worlds' coolest and most reliable source for all things MMO, so how did this news get past me? I have no idea.

Still, I was glad to see it sitting on my hard drive, waiting to be played. I never gave it much of a chance before, mainly because side-scroller combat games were normally good for just a weekend jaunt or two. I hate repetition, generally, and sometimes the combat in these kinds of games can be boring at best. I was pretty surprised, though, once I gave the game a chance and learned some of my moves. It grew on me really, really fast. Also, it ran like a dream and was adorable to the point of nosebleed, which always helps.

Still, there's more. Click past the cut and find out!

If you are not familiar with Dragonica's style of game, it is a side-scrolling action game. This means that the world is rendered in a semi-2-D style, and characters spend their time running sideways and back and forth instead of in full 3-D fashion. It sounds as though the world would feel flat and boring, and games like MapleStory are often what comes to mind when people think of "side-scrolling." You'd be surprised to find out that side-scrollers are an entire genre of their own, and a fully realized one at that.

If the game is done right -- and Dragonica is -- you do not even notice that you are exisiting in a pretty flat, left-to-right world. Your character does move up and down in the environment, but it is limited. Really the only difference is that camera control is generally locked. One of the advantages of this has got to be low system requirements and consistency. If the game is rendered the same for everyone, the developer can aim for an easier range of PC strength.


"Despite the fact that you are spending your time mainly moving back and forth, you feel as you would in any other game."

Combat really does its part in distracting the player from the "flat" world. In one of the most clever bouts of design in Dragonica, enemies will occasionally fly toward the screen and shatter it. It is humorous but gives a real depth -- literally -- to the action. Despite the fact that you are spending your time mainly moving back and forth, you feel as you would in any other game. Also, this 2-D world offers you the ability to control everything directly from your keyboard, which is very handy for those who are more comfortable with that. Key bindings are wonderfully easy to change by simply dragging slots around on a virtual keyboard.

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Combat is repetitive, but luckily the combo system is easy and fluid enough to allow players to really smash some heads. As I leveled and opened up new abilities, I became better at destroying my enemies in more and more spectacular ways. If I had the ability to swipe five or six enemies into the air and then spin them in a tornado of death -- at only level 10 -- then just think how amazing the combos must be at higher levels! The skill trees are standard stuff, and the abilities seem relatively basic, but when you combine them together, the game really shows you how fun combat can be.

As many would expect, there is a certain element of grind to the game. In fact, every mission I received instructed me to go out and kill a certain number of baddies, but the game is set up to run more like an action-filled Mario Brothers with a fun story attached. Throw in the social element and you have yourself the ability to grind through dozens of mobs without breaking a sweat. The game is designed to play like a grind, to allow the combat to shine through. It's balanced with visits by voice-acted NPCs and a cute main story, though.

Even with all of the great things about the combat in Dragonica, I can only imagine the game taking itself more seriously. The animations are great, and the chibi style of the game is not distracting. Characters could easily be brought into a more complex and in-depth story, or perhaps the game could present players with more serious moments. In other words, the game ran and looked good enough to take itself more seriously, and I wish it would. I often play games that are cartoony or silly looking and I find myself thinking, "I'm still attached to this character... why not give him some real content to play with?" I would simply like to see some more "serious" moments in Dragonica.

Perhaps at later levels the game becomes more in-depth. The housing system looks to be very good, but I got no experience with it. Dare I say it -- players could even roleplay in a game like Dragonica. Why not?

gPotato's attached cash-shop is, as could be expected, a little pricey. I have found that the publisher generally has some of the higher-priced items in cash-shop games, but it's also true that the items you get are some of the highest quality. Furniture items, for example, are really nice in Dragonica, and the cash shop is laid out perfectly. gPotato might have its issues with getting prices right, but at least you get what you pay for. I could see myself plunking down 20 bucks for a house full of furniture, but only because the product was made right in the first place.

Keep Dragonica in mind if you own a laptop, as well. Just be aware that it does seem to have some installation issues on different machines. Once it's installed, though, you will find a great game for leisurely grinding out an afternoon or a great alternate game to play with your guild. After all, it's free, and that's always good for accessibility.

Next week, I will be looking at another side-scroller, this time Ghost X. The game is so cool-looking and so stylish that I had to jump back in for an updated look. Join me in game to smash some head! My name is Beauhind, so my nano and I will be waiting for you!

Now, go log in!

Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Raptr!
This article was originally published on Massively.