Mobile Infamy: DragonStory

Mobile Infamy is a semi-regular column reviewing mobile games.  I only cover Android games, as my distrust of all things Apple related is prolific and well documented.  

DragonStory 

From iTunes Store
Update 4:48 EST: Added Image

Developer: TeamLava
Business Model: F2P

Rating: 1 of 3 Stars
Purely Meh

Dragon Story is one of those games that I just want to love.  I really do.  I love dragons, I love breeding games, I thought it was a match made in heaven.  But…not so much.  Dragon Story has great visuals, good (if repetitive) music, but ultimately it gets in the way of itself more often than not.

Overview

The game is one of a clutch of DragonVale clones, a game that is currently exlusively on iOS from Backflip Studios. I haven’t played DragonVale, but a quick gander of the reviews on the Play store makes me think that this game is at least comparable to it’s inspiration.  The premise of the game is to hatch dragons from several “pure” types, like Fire, Air, Water, Forest, etc to create hybrid dragons.  To do this, you have to have places for the dragons to live (habitats), and have farms to feed them to grow them up and then breed them.

Cons

Like most mobile games, Dragon Story makes time it’s primary resource.  Outside of the tutorial and the first 10 minutes of the game, it takes increasingly long amounts of time to perform any action.  Those initial 10 minutes make the game move at a pretty good pace.  After that, wait times increasing exponentially.  Hatching your initial eggs goes quickly, only take a few minutes.  By the time you get to your hybrids still “early” in the game, the waiting jumps to hours.

Your dragons produce silver coins, the regular currency in the game that you can use to purchase more habitats, grow food, and buy decorations.  As you feed your dragons, they grow in level, which means that they produce more silver coins per hour.  Of course, to feed your dragon to each level costs more and more food, which in turn takes time to grow.  Each dragon has 3 forms, and every 3 levels, they can evolve to the next form.

Now, this time as a mechanic isn’t necessarily unheard of in the mobile and social games industry, but TeamLava seems to have missed the balance here between waiting and reward.  You spend far far more time in the game doing nothing but waiting than you do anything else.  In fact, outside of “waiting” the game doesn’t have much else to do.  As par for these games, you can spend real money to buy “Gold” the premium currency to speed things up for you.  The conversion rate is 1 Gold coin equals an hour (or any part of an hour) of time.  The cost of gold varies depending on how much you buy at one time but varies from 20 gold per dollar to 28 gold per dollar at the upper end.

But even though, the amount that you use that premium current is pretty intense.  For example, you have to “expand” your park.  To do this, you buy a 4×4 hunk of land, that inevitably has trees and brush on it.  So you buy your land which is several thousand silver coins, and you have to wait several hours for it to open up.  Ok, seems silly but I can handle that. THEN, depending on the type of foliage you have to pay, in some cases 50,000 silver coins (that’s a huge amount in the early parts of the game), and then wait hours to be able to clear that block so you can actually build on it.

 The game is also pretty battery intense.  On a given day, of below average use (checking in on the game every couple hours), the game actually used more battery power on my Android then my phone’s screen did, and that’s no good.  From a programmatic perspective, the game is clearly pretty inefficient piece of software.

Pros

Beyond that, the game’s graphics are visually appealing, and interesting.  I really enjoyed the general art style of the game, and the dragon forms are detailed and imaginative.  The game takes a very stylized approach to the game, and all the dragons are rather cartoon-y in nature, but I think for the nature of the game that it works.  The part that I found most engrossing about the game was the music.  It was a surprisingly enjoyable sound track, and I found myself wanting to have the game open more just to have the music on to listen to in the background.  However, unfortunately that piece is relatively short, and so plays on loop (I was incredibly disappointed to find this out).

Final Impressions

Overall, you can probably see I’m not horribly impressed with the game. While it uses most of what’s considered “Standard” in the industry, it does it in an incredibly unbalanced way that means that the game does more to destroy the engagement of the player, than draw them in.  But the art style and the music are both phenomenal.  There aren’t many of these types of games out there, so there aren’t a lot of options.  But, unless you are jonesing for a fix of breeding games, you can probably just let this one pass you buy.

Who Knew SimCity Could be Frightening?

Maybe it’s just a combination of the music and the minimalist videos, but the video the man, Vincent Ocasla, who  “beat” SimCity 3000 by getting a population of 6 million people is horrifying.  I stumbled across this over on Vice, which has the Youtube video about it as well as an interview with guy who created this dystopian horror–and it took years to create.  This is probably one of the most frightening things I’ve seen related to gaming.  The irony of it is that it’s based on a game that almost no one would consider scary … in the least.

While I am a SimCity fan, it’s been a while since I’ve tried my hand at managing a city (but I rocked Pharaoh back in the day).  Essentially, what Ocasla did is plan out how to build the “Perfect” city, but perfect in that creepy, “we are all robots” kind of way.  I don’t want to ruin the inherent creepiness of the video, so def. hit the jump and take the 5 minutes to watch it.

via The Totalitarian Buddhist who Beat SimCity

GamePro: Too Big and Too Hard

Despite the suggestive title, this article over on GamePro is interesting.  Davidson makes the argument that games as a whole are too big and too hard and that the majority of gamers (some 90% based on statistics that they offered) only play video games for 4-5 hours before stopping and moving on.  To be honest, I think that falls on me nowadays–while compulsively completionistic (I definitely made that word up) in most things, gaming I enjoy playing a few hours at a time and coming back later and continuing forward.  There are very few games I can say that I’ve “completed” in their entirety…the first ever being the Sega Genesis Game, Light Crusader.

This drives my friends who game with me crazy.   Most of them are hardcore completionists while I meander from title to title, typically enjoying things for a few hours and moving on, to come back later.  That’s why I have yet to finish Mass Effect. I think that means I might lose my gamer card?  I’m not sure…

Overall, good read — I won’t retype the arguments here but suffice to say, I agree with most of what it says — the majority of gamers nowadays can’t dedicate 100s of hours to game playing, and it’s nice to see the designers making adjustments toward that general goal.

UPDATE: For those who care – here’s the GamSpot link for Light Crusader — http://www.gamespot.com/genesis/rpg/lightcrusader/index.html?tag=result;title;0