June 18, 2024


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Dragon is Dead Preview: Just One More Round…

Dragon is Dead Preview: Just One More Round…

I beat Dragon which is the first boss of Dead at 5am. She died after about 3 seconds. I thought I was in a cutscene, watching him die, and I was – for about three seconds. Then the scene ended, one of his little henchmen hit me in the face, and I was back to the beginning. But I knew I had a successful build. I felt lucky. Twenty minutes later, he came down again, and I continued walking. When I finally bought it and returned to life in the Fountain of Life, I was happy to drag myself into bed…but I was already planning the next round.

So what I’m saying is that Dragon is Dead is a sick (free) game, and I’m sick. Developed by Team Suneat, who you may know as the team behind Blade Assault, Dragon is Dead is part Castlevania, part Diablo, and part roguelite, all in hack-n-slash glory of pixel art. Add in some unique RPG and progression elements, and Team Suneat’s latest dish is going to be a good one.

Let’s get this out of the way: Whether you’re wandering around the rotten, skeleton-infested remains of a once-sacred forest or just walking through a camp of tired, weary, and desperate soldiers, Dragon is Dead features absolutely stunning pixel art. You can practically hear those fragile tree branches swaying in the wind and smell the desperation of the small groups of soldiers working to keep the monsters at bay. Combine that with some excellent, atmospheric music, and Dragon is Dead sells its aesthetic – and mood – from word one.

But mood, tone, and aesthetics are only part of the package. Dragon is Dead plays well too. It’s a side-scrolling hack-n-slash game with obvious respect to Castlevania — Spellblade’s dodge animations are a very clear callback to Alucard’s dodge animations in Symphony of the Night — but it marries it with a Diablo-esque UI and a loot system that allows you Re-displays individual stats on weapons and armor. The leveling system is similar to Diablo IV’s – spells and abilities are divided into tiers such as “Basic Skills” and “Essential Skills” with many options and upgrades, and spending enough skill points unlocks the next level and its corresponding abilities. It opens up some great building opportunities that encourage you to specialize in abilities that complement each other and build your gear around those skills.

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There were two classes in the build I played: the aforementioned Spellblade, which specializes in elemental magic attacks, and the Berserker, which builds Madness using its elemental skills and then deals high damage with its elemental skills. They play very differently: Berserker is slower, more powerful, and hits harder, but Spellblade is faster, has a more generous dodge, and can build combos by stacking skills that use the same type of magic. However, they both look great, and it’s fun to build a cool mix of abilities and spells to hack through the demons infesting the world of Dragon is Dead.

But what I like most so far is the way Dragon is Dead deals with death and progression. This is Roguelet. This means that when you die, everything about your character is reset: your level, your items, power-ups like artifacts and soul gems, and everything that makes your build your own, with only two exceptions: your gear, and Magic Stones, a special currency that you can use to buy equipment. And re-record your statistics. After a few rounds, you’ll have a good feel for which abilities you prefer and what stats you want on your equipment to support them. Building up your gear after a run is important, but like the best roguelite games, it’s what happens during your run that separates a close victory from a brutal defeat.

As you run, you’ll come across Magic Stones, keys that allow you to open special chests, which are always useful, and gold you can spend in shops to get temporary boosts or new abilities; Artifacts, which will allow you to carry more than one potion, upgrade your health and resource pools, boost damage, or give you special perks like making enemies more likely to drop potions or dropping more artifacts once you open a certain number of chests; and Soul Gems, which provide constant upgrades to your basic stats.

Clearing areas gives you your choice of a pair of chests containing one of these items, but you’ll also be able to purchase them from stores and find them in certain areas. There are also special chests scattered throughout the environment that you can open with unique keys that you can find or buy in the store. Artifacts also have synergy, meaning finding two or more of the same type will add bonuses so you can get out of harm’s way if you’re smart about how you build during your run. If you’re looking for depth, Dragon is Dead looks like it’ll have it, but you’ll have to get a bit lucky as well.

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This means that you’ll likely have to change your build on the fly, for example, if you’re a Spellblade player playing a lighting build and you get an artifact that increases fire damage. Fortunately, it’s easy to do… provided you have the coin. Of course, the environments also change each time you pass, so no two races are the same, which is a good thing, because you’ll most likely die. a lot. At least at first.

At the start of each run, you can only carry one potion, and whether or not you find another potion or the ability to carry more than one potion at a time is largely luck. Sometimes, running won’t work for you, and you’ll die. Because your gear — your ability to buy more gear, reroll stats on any piece of gear you have, and the keys to those special chests — carries over between runs, you’re always moving forward, even if it doesn’t feel that way. But once you return to the opening town after a particularly close run and replace your magic items with rare items, and see how quickly the items die as a result? You really feel it.

You’re always moving forward, even if it’s not the case.

Once you get into the groove of Dragon is Dead’s combat, it’s going to feel amazing. Like any roguelite player, a lot of learning how to deal with any enemy is just practice. At first, you may not know what the enemy is doing or how to deal with him. The first time I fought Longmore, a three-headed tree who serves as the game’s first boss and the guy who kept me up until 5 a.m., I had no idea how to deal with the insane amount of flaming demon skulls. He sent it to me, and when I reached it, I had hardly any health to learn. Needless to say, I died very quickly.

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The last time? I was cutting down enemies standing between me and him like they were barely there, and when I got into combat, the skulls barely hit me. I was wearing more elusive items, so I was automatically avoiding some of them, but I was also better at manually dodging them. I was barely beaten. In my time with it, Dragon is Dead’s progression rewarded me for building over time and being smart with my gear, but it also rewarded me for improving as a player. It’s hard to get going, but Dragon is Dead seems to be on the right track.

With Dragon is Dead, I had to stop because I needed to sleep.

I have some minor concerns. First, while the lore of Dragon is Dead is great, its writing is a bit flat. Characters announce who they are, what they do, how they feel, and then dispense knowledge without much flavor or personality. It’s a small obsession, but when everything else seems so good, it stands out. The other is that the UI, especially in stores, doesn’t always give you a good idea of ​​how many resources you have of each type available. But it’s still early days, and the Suneat team has plenty of time to iron these out.

Usually, when I finish previewing a game, it’s because I’ve done everything I wanted to do. With Dragon is Dead, I had to stop because I needed to sleep. In a world where I didn’t have to write this, dear reader, I would still play Dragon is Dead. So far, it’s a beautiful game, feels great to play, has interesting and unique progression systems that reward long-term planning and player skill, and every round feels unique. If Team Suneat can keep this up, well… the sky’s the limit. Right now, I’m still thinking about the next round. In another world, I’ve outrun Longmoor, outrun that cave, cutting down demons and casting spells like daylight that will never come. Unfortunately, the previews don’t write themselves. But tonight? I will go back to diving. I have a dragon to slay.