Review: Drakenlords16 Dec 2016 1
Released 24 Nov 2016
Back in September we held a weeklong celebration on collectable card games, where we had a look at a variety of games slotted firmly into that genre. I noted in my article that that my knowledge on the genre was limited, but I’ll defend it by saying I have an addictive personality and I can quite easily get lost down a particular gaming hole at any given time. With so many other games to play (and needing to live a functioning life) collectable card games I have to keep at an arms length for my own sake.
Drakenlords damn well tries to drag me under, but does it succeed?
To begin with: have you played Hearthstone? Yes, it is a bit like Blizzard’s unstoppable juggernaut – a PvP card-based game, where the goal is to take out your opponents warlord, using both the skills of your own warlord and deck that builds up over time with a variety of offensive and defensive cards. Games are fought one on one, with a buildup of mana during each round unlocking more of your cards to use as the fight goes on - so far, so familiar.
One key thing of note, though, is the heavy emphasis on the single-player campaign. Drakenlords is a much more compact game, and full credit goes to Everguild for offering a lengthy campaign. As of speaking I have yet to finish it with a good six hours of playtime spent. Part of the problem is the game’s reluctance to go into detail about choosing which warlord to fight as. You start off with the Warrior and a basic deck of cards; he is durable and will get you through the first few matches by brute force, but soon you will come up against a metaphorical brick wall, and the game’s lack of communicating to change character was a surprising. By no means is this game breaking, but it is one of those small design choices that can frustrate a player and dampen their experience.
A typical round of Drakenlords feels quicker compared to Hearthstone due to the warlords’ increased involvement in the game. They exist as much on the battlefield as the minions, dishing out punishment as well as taking it – it leads to a number of tactical scenarios that I enjoyed greatly. Also, with the mana meter starting at 2, you have access to several more cards to begin with, and gain access to your most powerful cards a lot sooner. Hitting hard and heavy will usually win you the game, but several bosses can be a pain and need to be approached at from a different angle. Though it acts as a more compact, streamlined CCG, it still offers a variety of enemies with different shifts in tactical philosophy that I appreciate. It also gives incentive to head into your deck often to tweak and tinker to find the most suitable cards needed.
The early access version of the game behaved well for the most part, but for some reason during the last week I played it, decided to permanently change its language settings to Spanish. Thankfully that has all been fixed for the full release, with the game feeling smoother and faster across all areas, with the only real noticeable issue occurring when going back and forth between the game and the home screen – more often than not the “connecting to the servers” message appears and not a lot else, though fully closing the game and rebooting it is a quick fix.
One other issue that must be addressed is the IAPs. I can appreciate Drakenlords attempt to be an alternative to Hearthstone, and in the regards of being a similar, but smaller, compact experience, it succeeds in doing so. But that is the very point: it is a similar and smaller experience – so to charge booster packs for £7.99 and classify it as a ‘daily deal’ seems a bit much.
The in-game currency is red diamonds; the smallest bundle you can purchase is 600 for the sum of £9.99. To put that into perspective, quests can be unlocked for an average of 100 diamonds and a single pack of cards can be purchased also for a 100 diamonds. You can also earn diamonds by sending minions out to do quests, but the most I can currently get is 25 in a 24-hour period. There looks to be unlockable content to earn them sooner, but they have yet to show themselves to me.
This means not too long into the game you are going to run out of diamonds, leaving the only other route to earning diamonds through taking part in PvP matches. Killing enough minions over the duration of several matches will earn you diamonds, but it feels like a hindrance more than anything else. Considering the price of the average iOS games these days, I find the IAP content valued considerably steep. The flow of the game gets a little too close to ‘Pay to play’ for my liking, and it forms the biggest issue I have with it. It gets to the point where you either have to cough up the cash, grind through PvP, or wait several days for your minions to have collected enough diamonds to unlock more levels, and I would honestly rather just put the game down and go play something else.
As mentioned in my early access review, the game has solid production values with a great looking medieval-gothic / Magic the Gathering art style. The glitz, the glamour, and the RAM-intensiveness of other CCGs is dialed way back here, and I’m all the more for it. Which makes it all the more of a crying shame that Everguild have chosen such a system to make progressing through the game either a chore or costly. If I beat a boss that alone should unlock the next level, not the need to spend 100 diamonds.
Rambling aside, actually giving a score for Drakenlords is difficult. The core of the game is a decent edition to the CCG genre, and its functionality is solid, with an online PvP mode that has yet to crash on me. But games that do not unlock progression through achievement, and instead ask you to do so with currency (in-game or otherwise) are a total pain and blight on the industry.
It simply does not do enough outside of its core formula to warrant the way it allows you to access content through the game. I would rather point you in the direction of a freemium title like Cards and Castles, or suggest handing over the cash for the excellent Calculords.