Let’s get rid of the pricing controversy straight away. Dragon: Marked for Death has been released in two editions, each containing 2 out of 4 playable characters, and they come at less than 15 quid each. Both editions feature the same game, the only difference being the characters available. If you like the game, you can then buy the other 2 characters for the same price. Or you can get the physical edition with all the characters for 30 quid. It’s basic math really, and if you fail to understand this you’d better of playing, I don’t know, Monopoly with your gran that lets you win. Personally, I enjoyed being able to access the game for a fraction, and it’s quite clever to introduce more players to a game that lives and die for multiplayer.
Without further ceremony, let me introduce the four classes available.
THE DRAGON: MARKED FOR DEATH CHARACTER HOROSCOPE
Oh if you want some proper description, just watch the game trailer as they are showcased and explained quite well. Forgot to mention earlier.
I want to praise the artistic aspect of the game. Being initially devised as a PSP title, the game retains gracefully animated and pixelated characters, steering clearly away from modern high resolution and puppet animation nonsense. It’s a nice throwback and it looks great. I expecially enjoyed than you can zoom into the screen for even more pixel glorification.
Dragon: Marked for Death plays like an action platformer where you jump and gun through the levels to complete a quest. Both platforming and action are calibrated towards speed and fun, so the levels tend to be vast and filled with enemy, but without particularly deadly sections of platforming or bottomless pits. While the character plays like Megaman, the game plays like Phantasy Star Online. Dragon: Marked for Death is tailored to be a pick up and play multiplayer experience, but that doesn’t mean it is not enjoyable solo. There is a somewhat steep difficulty spike after the tutorial, which means that the first missions can be tough and slow-paced playing alone, with the risk of discouraging new players. You’ll probably have to play the first missions a couple of times, but after a few level ups and a couple of weapon drops later, the games balances itself pretty well, and from then on it is perfectly playable solo. There are also small differences to ease single player like when you access the inventory the game pauses, which obviously doesn’t happen in multiplayer.
Some people have been complaining that there are no checkpoints. I am not exactly sure what these people are looking for, but you have a number of revives per missions, which decrease your final score each time you use one, and if you use them all, you fail the quest. This is quite normal for this kind of games, and actually encourages you to play properly. So yeah, snowflakes.
The level up system is quite simple, you gain points to distribute and new weapons will change the appearance of your sprite, but you will not gain new skills or powers along the journey. You have a backpack where you can stock items you will be able in mission, and this is quite fun because it is limited to 8 items or something, so it’s up to you whether to fill it with herbs, antidotes or lamps to light up dark areas. You can also carry two weapons which becomes interesting later in the game when you start collecting weapons with different properties. The whole nature of level up and obtaining new items is grindy, and you need to accept the concept of playing missions several times which is part of the mmo philosophy, but the game keeps things engaging with good amount of content, and while it requires some dedication to get the best out of it, it doesn’t require stupid amounts of time or farming put into it.
Quests partaken are quite diverse, with a variety of enemies, bosses, platforming layouts and hazards. You could be climbing a tower where strong winds affect your movements, falling into poison pools, or bumping into enemies on slippery icy platforms and the likes. There are escort, defense, exploration, hunting and collecting missions so there is a good variety
At the time I am writing the community is alive but it is not as numerous as I would like it to be, hence limiting the quests available when you venture online. I am based in the UK, and I usually find hard to find quests using the “same region matching”. Luckily worldwide matchmaking works quite well excluding some small hiccups, so I am able to play a number of quest with people all around the world (mostly Japanese). However this is still limiting, because most of them browse for their region games when joining, thus making it harder for me to fill a room I am hosting myself. Other small nuisances come from a confusing lobby interface that hides quest descriptions under a submenu, doesn’t let you look at other people’s inventory and, while possible, it is not very intuitive that you can change the quest after choosing “Depart”. The whole multiplayer experience is based around instanced quests where you can chat with other players, but there is no hub to hang around with other people, trade or anything like that. There is a log in the options which feature a chat but it’s empty at the moment and it looks like a refuse that has just been left there.
Aside this issues, I am having a lot of fun in multiplayer, people are nice (probably because their interaction is limited), and quests can be played at various difficulty settings, meaning you will always find something to enjoy, even if it could mean playing a quest several times (this is common with MMOs though).
Considering the niche nature of the game, and the aggressive price tag, if you are thinking about giving it a try, I’d suggest to do so now to maximise your chances to enjoy the multiplayer action while the community is alive. I feel this is not a game you’ll play for a year, but if you are looking for a bite-sized action multiplayer title to enjoy with friends or some unknown folks online, Dragon: Marked for Death is perfect.
The game has received a bit of undeserved bashing online from people that failed to understand the game genre, so I hope I explained it a bit better, and if you like the genre, give it a try.
+ great art direction
+ solid gameplay and great multiplayer
-multiplayer lobbies could be improved
-community could be bigger