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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Review: Fight The Dragon (PC)

Review by Nick H.

Fight The Dragon is a clever little title that does not wow with technical achievement, but provides plenty of fun, balanced gameplay and ample opportunity to flex your creative muscle to boot. The end result is an action RPG that is stronger than its individual parts and provides a great cooperative experience.

At first Fight The Dragon seems simple to a fault. You'll pick from one of four characters that feel suitably different to begin with, but offer a surprising lack of customisation in a day and age where it seems like many RPGs try to give as much micro level control as possible. Still, each of the classes handles well in the game itself and feels balanced with the others. The overlap in their abilities is more pronounced as more time is spent with the game, but it is hardly a deal breaker.

But I got over all that. The biggest real complaint I have about Fight The Dragon is that the multiplayer which is so much fun has so many rough edges on it. Characters bump into each other (making narrow passages an occasionally frustration comedy of errors at times) and worse yet they cannot battle the titular dragon together. The dragon itself is a cool mechanic, reminding me a little of the role of the Ur-Dragon from Dragon's Dogma. You are not expected to beat this dragon in one go, but there are notable markers alone the way as you whittle down his health across multiple attempts and ultimately defeat him.

The greatest strength in Fight The Dragon comes from its ability for players to create their own modules. This reminds me of a lightweight version of the old Neverwinter Nights module creation. Here you can create sandboxed quests that others can download and play. The tools for creating quests are simple yet impressive. It is all built around a tile-based system and it has been used extensively by the community with thousands of options out there for download already. Of course any time you are working with community built content, the quality can range from broken to outstanding and everything in between, but it is easy enough to find the good examples of content out there worth investing time into.

Related reading: The developer of this game, 3 Sprockets, also produced Cubemen 2 across various platforms, and it too was heavy on the user generated content. 

As someone who spent a great deal of time in the module community for the original Neverwinter Nights game, I can see where this editor will give Fight The Dragon a good deal more life than it would have had as a simple action RPG. The downside is anyone looking for the next great narrative in RPGs is likely to come away disappointed. The disjointed nature of the game, relying heavily on these created campaigns, means that there is no coherent storyline to follow. I admit that I found that disappointing, but the ability to write my own tale with my own modules negated that concern in a different way.

In terms of the gameplay itself, Diablo and its loot-heavy system immediately springs to mind. The combat itself is much simpler, and is less about taking on hordes of enemies, which could have benefited from more variety. Of course, you can do ridiculous things like trying to overwhelm a person with your level design by flooding them with enemies and bottleneck landscape designs, but the engine isn't at its best when doing this. Rather, the best adventures will have players looking for chests and secrets all over the place.

The visuals are more charming than technically impressive. The often bright colours and chunky style remind me of 3D Dot Game Heroes, an older title for the PlayStation 3 I enjoyed more than a little. While the characters and landscapes are not comprised of small blocks in the same way, so don't have the same distinctive artistry to it, the largely overhead perspective and blocky environmental levels are impressive nonetheless.

Fight The Dragon could have used multiplayer polish, but the end result is a title that provides solid action RPG mechanics that is more fun with friends than solo. However, what Fight The Dragon will really hang its hat on is the accessible yet fairly robust editing system for creating new content for the community. This will likely keep people coming back for a good long time.

- Nick H.
US Editor

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Review: Fight The Dragon (PC)
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