Dragon Eternity review

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.