When a successful children’s movie like How to Train Your Dragon gets a sequel, gamers should expect a licensed game companion. Dreamworks’ Dragons: Rise of Berk is one of these. Players and fans, get ready to feed and train some familiar faces. Also, get ready to wait.
Rise of Berk is a free-to-play building game. The idea is to construct your own version of Berk from the cobbles up. It’s essentially Farmville with a How to Train Your Dragon skin over it.
Players begin on the familiar Viking archipelago. Cartoon-like text bubbles kick start the adventure, tasking the player with sending Toothless and Hiccup to find dragon eggs and resources. Soon Toothless is off and flying, exploring nearby islands. Players can gather dragon eggs from the wilderness and hatch them on Berk. As with most games of this type, players must collect resources like fish and wood to level up their dragons and environment. Quest revelation works well and should be particularly entertaining to fans. Most achievements completed before clicking through the quest are still rewarded. Characters’ comments are as funny as in the flicks, but without the voices.
Every in-game action takes time, as expected in building games. As players advance the wait times grow. Oh, you thought Toothless would be back in an instant with that new dragon egg? No way: he’ll be back in half an hour. Oh, you wanted to remove that small rock in the meantime? It’ll cost you twenty fish and ten minutes. You’d rather just put down another Viking hut? Oops, you’re out of room! Better get rid of that rock. Like most building and breeding titles, Rise of Berk is a balancing act of time, resource expense and level up requirements that quickly becomes a boring waiting game.
This is not a problem in and of itself, but when combined with the freemium model, it places Dragons: Rise of Berk in a group with games that attempt to take advantage of players’ interest, investment, and impatience. In this case, players can skip sending Toothless out to search for dragon eggs and simply buy whichever dragons are unlocked with runes. Runes are the early-unlock currency: they can be used to speed up all actions, buy dragons or area expansions, and can even be traded for fish or wood. Runes, of course, can be bought via the Play Store for real world cash. So why bother to actually play the game at all?
If your answer to the above is “because it’s fun,” then keep in mind the real challenge is not to buy any runes at all. Runes are acquired by completing quests, removing rocks and unlocking rider dragons, as well as by annoying friends via Facebook. Toothless can even find the all-important runes when out searching nearby islands. If you play a miserly game and make sure Toothless explores as often as possible, you can store enough to buy the dragons that can only be acquired via runes. Like I said, players should be ready to wait. The timers, rune dependency and inability to turn wood or fish into runes limits the fun of the game to spurts that get shorter the further players progress. I wouldn’t recommend Rise of Berk for younger players, despite the fact that it will appeal to the youthful audiences of the films, because there is too much waiting in higher levels. Lock the IAP ability on your phone before you let your kids play this one – or any games even close to the pay-to-win model. Or better, don’t download them at all.
Rise of Berk does not offer any new additions to the genre. There’s no breeding, no dragon combat, and players cannot take direct control of any dragon during training or otherwise. These aspects would make for a more interesting game. As it stands, Dragons: Rise of Berk is a standard building affair designed to take advantage of the How to Train Your Dragon license with the added insult of in-app purchases. Dragon training rewards patience. Conversely, impatience will punish the player’s wallet. Anyone who is not a fan of both building games and the movies would be better served patiently waiting for another game.
Is it Hardcore?
Nothing original about this building sim. It is only for fans of How to Train Your Dragon.