Dragon Force - Working Designs/Sega of Japan
by Nathan Stehle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dragon Force is a strategy role-playing game ported by Working Designs and programmed by Sega of Japan (originally). That was in case you didn't know. Much has been made of the delay of this game, which in unfortunate (the delay). Although it is a bit on the tardy side, Working Designs does deserve praise for bringing this game out, especially with the large amount of text within the game. With all the current titles on hold (Policenauts-Konami, Devil Summoner-Atlus, Legacy of Kain-Crystal Dynamics) this game would otherwise might not have made it to the US in anyone else's hands.
To start, I will state that I love RPG's, strategy games and Working Designs' games. Now that any biases I have are aired out you still wonder if you will enjoy this game, the questions you need to ask yourself are these: (1) Did you like Dark Wizard for the Sega CD? (2) Did you like Iron Storm? The two games are disparate but have one common feature: strategy (duh!). I never did get a chance to play Warsong, which is to my detriment. Dragon Force is obviously the most similar to Dark Wizard, but DF is very much its own game with a unique style of play. The bottom line is is that if you find strategy games to your liking, they
Dragon Force will be a good purchase (even for ca. $63, the MSRP).
Dark Wizard was a fun game with a lengthy quest, particularly if you played as all four leaders. Dragon Force features eight different leaders with fairly diverse, different and well-developed story lines. Dark Wizard featured four leaders, with different and moderately developed storylines. The problem with the Dark Wizard plots was that each pretended the other three generals never existed. DF incorporates each leader into the eight different stories that play out nicely.
Gamers looking for a quick gratifying RPG fix will _not_ find it here. If there are gamers looking for an involved game experience with depth and fun, then most will find it in Dragon Force. The writing of the game is top-notch and fits the struggle for dominance of the continent of Legendra.
There are numerous 'characters' or generals, some generic, some not. The good number of unique generals or characters in the game and the interactions between each (who hates who, etc.) will not be seen by playing as one leader, or even after 2-3 times playing as different leaders. These interactions, while not crucial to the plot, provide variety and something new each time you play.
The game essentially centers around conquering castles and keeping them, eventually leading to your uniting of the continent of Legendra. One quick highly opinionated comment-Legendra gets my vote for the lamest name ever for a country, etc. ever in an RPG. All the battles are fought in real time with up to 100 troops for each commanding general in a given fight. The downsides to the battles (the only two) are that each general can only command one type of troop under their command (even a special item could rectify this problem) and that there are a limited array of battle tactic to choose from when you start an encounter. There are ten basic units which give a decent mix, but another 10 would have been fantastic. The battles are well done in terms of atmosphere (music, graphics, etc.) and execution. The sounds and music make each engagement seem like an epic encounter. Viewing the battle can be done using a smooth-moving camera with a variety of camera positions (all are side-on though). When zooming in on part of a battle, there is some pixelization, but it is minimized reasonably well. The most impressive feature of the
battles are the spell animations which are not always mind-blowing (there are a few that are) are effective in using the panning camera and showing their impact on the enemy. There is nothing like seeing the enemy troops being shredded by a powerful spell. There are a solid number of spells, which keeps the variety there, but there could be more in the game. Many
gamers will doubtless enjoy the number of spells, so I am being a little picky on this point.
The remainder of the game is acceptably done, but keep in mind, it is an RPG, and the graphics of the game are showcased in the battles. The sound however (music and game sounds) show an excellent variety lacking in many RPG's. Each leader has a unique score which is a great feature, or at least the three I have played as did. The battle music could have been more varied, but it suits the game well. The music and the sound sin the game are clear and crisp and meshed exceedingly well.
The game sounds are dominant when they need to be, and the music is dominant when it should be.
The part of the game that will bore most gamers who aren't strategy fans is the domestic mode. Here you award and interview the generals and try to convince the captive generals to join your army, or try to have them aid your cause. Interviewing is the most tedious part of the game, but fortunately it is not necessary each turn and saves the game from becoming a real tiresome bother. There is a healthy variety of items to be located while searching within the domestic mode, which makes the
game that much more fun.
The strength of Dragon Force is the attention to detail, without becoming so mired in it that the game is burdensome. The game is _not_ graphically mind-blowing. Nor are there tons of anime sequences (the stills are gorgeous). The CD storage capacity is instead used to give a rich and varied story with a staggering amount of text (but not overwhelming) in the game. By bringing such a game out in the US WD has realized that gamers deserve a great game with depth. The best part about
DF is the replay value, sadly lacking in most RPG's. There is something fun about dominating your enemies and conquering the continent that makes it fun.
- + Fantastic spell animations
- + Great use of battle camera to view battles, spells, etc. and the user has control over it too
- + Minimal pixelization
- - Overhead maps could look nicer
- + Excellent variety for game music
- + Game sounds varied, clear and crisp
- - Battle music could use a bit more variety
Lasting Power: 9
- + Tight and efficient menu system
- + Easy to command troops and use spells
- + Large number of character can be daunting, but sorting options for the generals makes them easy to manage
- + Strategy/RPG fans will enjoy this game.
- + Load times are around 3 seconds, and only as frequent as an attack on an army.
- + Doesn't get much better with 8 different leaders with unique stories and plot twists
- - More troops and battle formations would make this game more varied and being able to mix troop types would help
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