They're in the game logo. They're in the game trailers. They're in the game screenshots. They're dragons -- the unique racial choice for players in Istaria. Playing a dragon was the one major feature that originally pulled me to this game. But what is it actually like to train your dragon in Istaria?
You start out as a hatchling who will eventually perform a Right of Passage at two pivotal points in your life -- first at adulthood, then when you become an ancient. Each right of passage empowers your dragon's stats... and of course size. If you've ever seen an ancient dragon, they're quite huge!
Dragon skills are broken up into Tooth and Claw (warrior-type) and Primal (magic-type). They have a spell set completely their own, both damage and healing. They also earn very potent skills such as Gold Rage and Silver Strike that require a cost taken out of the dragon's hoard. Oh, yeah. And dragons can breathe fire... and eventually ice, lightning and acid.
Hatchlings begin with the ability to glide. After a dragon grows to adulthood, this becomes the ability of true flight. Dragons can fly as high and far as they wish in the world of Istaria. It's quite an experience and very handy for getting out of a bad pull or a sticky aggro situation.
Dragons also have their own quest lines, factions, crafted items, racial cities, build-able lairs and a hoard to collect. So, playing a dragon character offers a very different experience in Istaria than their bi-ped (non-dragon) companions.
Dragon Lifecycle and Development
Your dragon starts out as a small hatchling in a big world... by small, I mean comparable to the size of a horse. Hatchlings have their own dragon-specific quests and are schooled by special dragon adventure and crafting trainers. Every ten levels, new dragon quests will open up, allowing the developing dragon to further hone their skills of primal magic or tooth and claw.
After reaching above level 30 in adventure and crafting skills, the hatchling will be able to embark upon an epic quest line known as the adult Right of Passage. Completing this quest line will transform the hatchling into a full-fledged adult, giving them the gift of true flight. Adult dragons also earn the khutit form, allowing them to shrink down into a bi-ped shape to better fit inside smaller structures.
Later, once the adult dragon has met the specific quest, level and age requirements, they can once again undergo a second Right of Passage to become a great ancient dragon.
During the first Right of Passage, a dragon must align themselves with a faction. There are two dragon factions in the Istarian lore: the Helian and the Lunus. Each faction has their own racial cities, legends and stories to discover.
Helians believe that though the dragons are a more ancient and powerful race, they should reach out to the bi-peds and offer guidance and companionship during the battle against the Withered Aegis. Choosing the Helian faction gives your dragon a boost in the Primal magic lines and tends to be considered the choice for those who wish to play a spell-casting dragon.
Lunus, on the other hand, believe bi-peds to be inferior, the cause of much strife for dragon-kind and, at best, tools to be used for their own ends. Choosing the Lunus faction gives your dragon character a boost in Tooth and Claw skills and is considered the warrior faction for the dragon.
Dragons equip themselves with... dragony things. Namely, scales for armor and claws as weapons and tools. Naturally, only dragons can learn to craft these things for other dragons. They are also proficient in spell crafting in both dragon and bi-ped spells. Each level of crafting a dragon earns benefits the dragon by adding bonuses to their basic stats.
Dragons are also the only race that can build lairs. Laircrafting is a dragon crafting school that you can unlock once you've leveled your basic crafting to a certain point. Lairs are multi-leveled 3-D housing plots that dragons can design and build into the face of mountains, cliffs and hillsides. These lairs can be created to provide storage, crafting locations... or just that really big dragon labyrinth you always wanted to build.
As a dragon grows in strength, so does the dragon grow their hoard. A dragon's hoard is a numeric and graphical representation of in-game items that the dragon "consumes." Adding items their hoard pile offers dragons a statistical bonus for each level. Hoard is also required to start the Right of Passage and to fuel a number of special dragon skills.
I have recently hit level cap with my dragon main but it's not over for me yet. I have enjoyed my time developing my character, the unique experience that playing a dragon offers, the lore and history behind the Istaria dragons, lair building, breathing lightning on my foes and giving them a good old-fashioned tail-whip. I enjoy testing the limits of my dragon's powers and I've been surprised at the things I've been able to accomplish both on my own and within a group. I'm looking forward to completing all the requirements for my ancient Right of Passage and eagerly await the story that will unfold for me once again.
For those that wish to see what it's like to become a dragon, Istaria offers a 14-day free trial. Come check it out and maybe one day you'll find yourself soaring the skies of Istaria, too.