Dragon Eternity is a new iPad-only iOS release from Game Insight. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases.
Dragon Eternity for iPad is actually an adaptation of Game Insight’s Web game of the same name, and includes cross-platform play with the browser-based incarnation of the game. There are some restrictions on the iPad version of the game, however: players may only level up to 30, may not play “mini-games” that are required to complete certain quests — these objectives may be skipped for free on iPad — and may not engage in the game’s “sea battles” system. These restrictions are apparently temporary, so presumably the full functionality of the Web version will be implemented into the game in due course.
Dragon Eternity is a massively-multiplayer role-playing game in which players take on the role of a custom character and direct them through a series of largely combat-focused quests. Rather than attempting to emulate the 3D perspective of computer-based MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft and the numerous free-to-play offerings on the market, Dragon Eternity instead adopts a top-down view from which the player sees an overview of a complete area, and is able to interact with the inhabitants — friendly or otherwise — by tapping on them. This method of presentation removes a lot of the immersion factor inherent in being able to actually wander around and explore the world freely, but it is an eminently more sensible method of control for a touchscreen-based game. It also eliminates the large amounts of “travelling time” found in more traditional MMORPGs.
Players will be following one or more quests for the most part during their time in Dragon Eternity. Early in the game, these quests are designed primarily to introduce the player to the game’s various concepts and interface elements, but as they progress they begin to tell a story. This story is fairly generic fantasy fare, but is reasonably well-written. Those expecting spectacular cinematic presentation will be disappointed, however — the game’s narrative unfolds almost entirely through text.
To complete quests, players generally have to visit a specific location and either interact with a character/location or defeat a specified number of enemies. Interacting with characters is a simple matter of tapping on them and occasionally tapping on responses to dialog, while combat is a much more interactive affair than many other games of this type.
Combat unfolds in a turn-based manner. On the player’s turn, they have a short period of real time to choose their actions, which can include using items, casting spells and selecting a “stance” for the turn. Different stances confer different benefits — an aggressive stance provides a 25% bonus to attack power, for example, while a defensive stance provides a similar bonus to defense. Once the stance has been selected, the player character automatically attacks and damage is inflicted on the enemy, assuming the attack hit. The player character also recovers mana with each passing turn, and when enough mana has been charged, spells may be cast. The player does not gain access to spells until they have made a certain amount of progress through the game’s campaign, so combat is initially rather simplistic and grows in complexity as the player gains power. Some combats see the player fighting alongside allies — either computer- or player-controlled — and while the enemy character is attacking these allies, the player is sometimes left twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do until the enemy targets them again. Given that combat unfolds “live” and potentially involves other players, there is no “fast forward” or “skip” function, which can be a little frustrating.
The game’s social features include the ability to chat with other players either nearby or in a group. The game also provides the facility for players to join and create clans to work together with others, too. The game allows the facility to both cooperate with and compete against other players. Cooperation is achieved either by joining a group/raid and collaborating on communal objectives or by using the “Combats on Location” button in the corner of the screen to assist other players with battles they are currently engaging in. The competitive element comes about primarily through the “Battlegrounds” facility, which allows players of various levels of ability to compete against one another in team-based combat. Like in other MMORPGs, players may register their interest in competing against other players and “queue up” for a Battleground while doing other things — Battlegrounds trigger their events every few minutes, with the tougher battles occurring less frequently.
Dragon Eternity is a deep, complex game that is sure to please those who have been looking for an MMORPG experience that works well with a touch interface. A few niggling little faults here and there let it down a little, though — few of them make it difficult or impossible to play, but most are worth mentioning. Probably the most serious issue that occasionally reared its head was a random disconnect problem that prevented playing any further at times. This occurred a couple of times during testing, once during a PvP battle, and spoiled the experience somewhat. It’s possible that the issue was a result of the connection the game was being played on rather than a problem with the game itself, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Other issues include text which hasn’t been adapted from the Web incarnation of the game to fit the iPad’s interface — for example, in the quest introducing the Battlegrounds, the player is invited to “click on the crossed swords icon in the lower-right of the screen” when in fact the Battlegrounds button is in the upper-right on the iPad version. Similarly, the player is often invited to click on menu options “to the left of your belt” when the iPad version positions the menu on the right of the screen. These are minor issues, but may confuse or put off more casual players.
Despite these issues, though, Dragon Eternity is a solid, well-presented game that provides a deep, satisfying free-to-play experience for gamers craving something a little more complex than the usual iOS fare. It’s not perfect, and fans of the game’s Web incarnation may be disappointed with the currently-missing features, but there’s a strong foundation for a great game here.
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An excellent mobile MMO that is all the better for not trying to be World of Warcraft.