By Steve Baltimore / February 1st, 2019
|Title||Dragon Marked for Death|
|Developer||INTI CREATES CO., LTD.|
|Publisher||INTI CREATES CO., LTD.|
|Release Date||January 31st, 2019|
|Age Rating||T for Teen|
Editor’s Note: For simplicity, the italicized sections represent Marisa’s impressions, while the regular ones represent Steve’s.
I recently spent some time with the latest offering from Inti Creates, Dragon Marked for Death. I went into this one expecting your standard Action RPG with some different classes and some ho hum missions. What we got was way beyond what I expected. You will hear from both myself and my partner in crime for this review, Marisa. We’ll answer the most important question of all, was this game fun?
In this game you take control of a member of the Dragonblood Clan. This was a group of humans that were caught up in the war between the Celestials and the Astral Dragons. They were saved by the blood of a dying dragon named Atruum. Why he decided to give them his blood is not known, but anyone born into the clan from this day forward would bear the Dragon Scar on their body and worship Atruum. In present day, your clan has sworn revenge on the Medius Empire for destroying your home, but first you will have to prove your place in this world as the clan isn’t seen in the best light.
When purchasing the game, you have a couple of different options. You can take the fighter pack which contains the Empress and Warrior, or play more strategically with the Shinobi and Witch. These packs cost $14.99 each and you can purchase both if you want to have access to all four different classes. I played with the Warrior mostly, but I did check out the Empress as well. They are very similar, but the Empress seems to be a bit faster than the Warrior. She also seems to do a little less damage, but that could’ve been because the weapon I had equipped wasn’t as good as his currently equipped axe.
In terms of raw gameplay, the game does a decent job in tailoring a smooth and quick experience. Combat moves typically don’t have huge amounts of delay and it’s simple enough to access the menu and use equipped items. Characters themselves are also easy enough to understand that with practice, using their abilities is basically second-nature. Even the Witch, which relies on incantations based on repeated button inputs, is not complicated to play as. Speaking of characters, there are four different characters, two designated as Frontline attackers and two as Advanced attackers. Each has a specific playstyle, ranging from brute force to utility. This means that a party of four has tailored roles to support the group.
After the tutorial mission you will find yourself in town. Here you can visit shops, take items out of your truck and take on quests. The shops in town will provide you with weapons, accessories and consumables that will be vital to your survival. You do need to watch out when purchasing equipment, as a certain level is required to use most of it. Once you setup all your gear, it’s time to take on a quest. The objectives of these are widely varied. They can be anything from clean out the monster dens to catching up with a floating balloon. While some of these are less fun than others, variety is the spice of life and this certainly works in the game’s favor.
Combat and exploration is perhaps the game’s best attribute. Quest areas typically have treasure chests to find, along with other secrets. As usual for Inti Creates games, enemies have specific reasons behind their attacks. Like the frog enemy may suddenly do a tongue attack at times, but will only do so if you are close enough for it to trigger. For bosses, they can either have a specific pattern for attacks or have a specific animation to tell what they are about to do. As such, fighting enemies and bosses is not typically a chore. Quests themselves also help to keep gameplay variety.
Quests are where the majority of EXP and gold are received from. They can range from merely going from point A to point B, to gathering a certain amount of items, and protecting civilians. For the most part, the requirements to complete a quest are lenient. The actual main concern is the time limit. For some quests, particularly if you are playing single-player, the time limit can be exceptionally tight. If you don’t rush for the goal, you might merely have a minute or so to spare. Combined with at times bulky enemies, this aspect of the game can be rather annoying.
Unfortunately, the game’s progression can require a bit of extra work. The EXP granted from defeating enemies is typically merely a fraction of the EXP gained in a quest. Even then, much of the time completing a quest typically won’t give a level up even if your level is that suggested for the quest. What makes the issue worse is that you can only keep accessories and weapons found if you have successfully completed the quest. If you are having a difficult time completing quests, either due to running out of lives or time, minimal progress will be made. Even if you can complete quests in one go, it feels like you have to do every quest available to even keep up with the level curve. It would be best if enemies gave better EXP as to not have players feel they have to grind slowly to level up or do every quest imaginable just to complete the game.
Graphically, this is one of the best looking sprite based titles I’ve seen in quite a while. This came as no surprise to me when I found that the character designer was Toru Nakayama, known for his work on the Megaman Zero franchise. Throw in graphics designer Hirokatsu Maeda, who worked on the Gunvolt series and Blaster Master Zero, and it’s no wonder Dragon Marked for Death looks amazing.
The character designs are richly detailed and you can customize your avatar with a few colors. Enemy models are equally impressive, especially some of the bosses. That first big ogre you fight is massive and he bites the head off some guy right off the bat. I think the most impressive thing are the actual levels themselves. Some span many areas, from forest to caves, and onward to castle interiors. They are all masterfully crafted and look amazing. It really makes you want to explore each level thoroughly, not to loot items, but to take in all the amazing level design.
The soundtrack here is top notch. Most of the tracks are a mix of something you’d find in a medieval fantasy movie and a classic samurai film. The two styles mix together very well, and I found myself humming along often as I laid waste to all of the foes before me. The sound effects are pretty much what you would expect for a title like this, and you can customize the voice of your created avatar. While a few more voice choices would’ve been welcome, there is enough here to get the job done.
Combat here is your typical side scrolling hack ‘n slash. You will run around slicing up all enemies in your path. You do have some dragon skills that will allow you to do things like guard attacks, gives you some buffs or restore a bit of HP. You can also hold down the attack button to charge up for larger attacks. These usually cover more ground and do lots of damage. The odds are very much stacked against you most of the time. This is where the items you brought with you really save your bacon. The enemies will also drop some items that may fix your status aliments, give buffs or maybe even restore a bit of HP. This is all about luck and ironically, your luck stat plays into how often you get drops.
Now, this game is meant to be played with other players. Indeed, the game is best played with other people as it makes the time limit and bulky enemies much less of an issue. Having played with another online, it’s safe to say that the game runs smoothly as ever with very few issues. There was rarely a hint of lag while playing, not to mention the game’s balance became much more appropriate. That said, there were times where the other player would just disappear from the screen but was still registered on the minimap. This hasn’t affected the gameplay at all, but it was a notable visual issue hinting at an improper connection. The main issue in the end however is not so much the multiplayer itself, but rather that the game is specifically balanced around multiplayer. This is why single player is not as balanced. What could’ve been done is that if played in single player, the game merely auto-adjusts values to level the playing field.
The problem I found with the fighter classes is they simply take too much damage. The weapons have little range, so you have to be up close and personal with monsters to take them out. You do way more damage than the ranged fighters, but item management and effective dodging are very much key to staying alive. Though in general, this game is not really all that much fun in single player because of the difficulty. I highly recommended you play this one with friends via local multiplayer or the internet. Having even just one more party member that is ranged class makes a huge difference. You basically cancel out each others weaknesses and can fight as one well-oiled machine. Marisa and I played this quite a bit online and there was zero lag, and we had no issues finding each other to party up. Honestly, this is one of the smoothest online experiences I’ve had.
While I think Dragon Marked for Death isn’t balanced very well for a single player game, I think the online play more than makes up for that. There is a ton of quest variety, the levels have tons of depth and the game is just simply a blast to play with a friend. I’m not even a big fan of multiplayer games like this, and if I had more time I’d still be playing right now. I think the amount of quests here and replay value more than justify the inexpensive entry price, and hack and slash fans should grab a friend and be all over this one.
Game provided by the publisher for review purposes.
Action RPGDragon Marked for DeathInti CreatesSprite Work