A Dark Dragon is one of the most polarizing games I’ve ever played. It’s one that I’ve played excessive amounts of without knowing whether I like it or not. This predicament frustrates me, as it means that I must play more of it to truly understand what this game is, and what it’s trying to do.
On one side, A Dark Dragon is a blend of genres, mixing them together with a degree of skill. It’s text-based with the resource and base management of strategy/simulation games along with the overworld exploration and turn-based combat of an RPG. You allocate villagers to different jobs, e.g. gathering wood, checking traps, making leather, etc, until you eventually make a compass allowing you to traverse the overworld, which is filled with random encounters and caves to explore. This aspect of the game is compelling; the exploration is challenging enough to keep me on my toes, and the decision making involved in crafting is especially rewarding. And running out of water before making it back to town is a devastating experience, one that I can’t help but enjoy.
The issue that I have with A Dark Dragon, the reason I have conflicting opinions on it, is its use of in-app purchases. It’s not pay-to-win so much as it is pay-to-save hours and hours of time that would be spent grinding. A Dark Dragon is the perfect example of a game in which the micro-transactions negatively affect the balance of the game. I had to grind my way, spending countless hours gathering resources to craft some armor, only to have the next mandatory upgrade cost twice as much resources and twice as much time, and I could only respond with a frustrated sigh.
Steering away from the business model, SpongeMobile’s offering to the contemporary Android RPG cannon also has an issue with its story, i.e. there is none, but there really should be. The World is intriguing and begs you to ask questions about it. There’s a black ghostly figure that speaks at the start. Who or what is it? Who are these hooded people that come into your village? What is the Dark Dragon and why should I care about it? One look at the title screen is enough to fill you with both dread and wonder. However the game gives you nothing but vague exposition and an abundance of typos, causing me to question whether I’m putting more care into the game than the developers put into making it.
Then there are the boss fights, which by themselves are the same standard turn-based battles, only taking a little longer. When you kill the bosses, it initiates the most immersion breaking event I’ve ever seen: after exploring a dark cave or house, scrounging for supplies, dead bodies at every step, you meet the boss, kill it, and a victory theme straight out of Final Fantasy plays. Then you’re taken to the Google play page to rate the game, killing all tension and bringing the pace to a screeching halt.
It’s a real shame. I want to love this game, and I’ve spent enough time on it to suggest that I do. Yet I can’t bring myself to recommend it. A Dark Dragon is a game with striking visuals, a wonderfully dreary atmosphere, and tense exploration, but with priority placed on either wasting your time or your money.
Is it Hardcore?
A text-based RPG/simulation with a lot of potential and ambition. Unfortunately it’s wasted due to endless grinding and a poor business model.