Despite my past mixture of awe and cowardice for everyone’s big scaly friends, I decided to give Dragons and Titans a fair chance. D&T is an action-strategy game of the MOBA variety that is currently being developed by Wyrmbite - published by Versus Evil. According to SteamCharts.com, D&T has suffered a loss of almost half its population since the March graph, which will probably have an effect on the enjoyment of the remaining population if the matchmaking is like other games in the genre. That being said, what I played over the past couple fortnights is indeed a game (something quite a few newer titles seem to have trouble with), and it’s actually quite enjoyable at that. I might say that the community off-Steam is larger than the group with the client, but I don’t have any data to support that. The game is not without flaws I’m afraid, but it is functioning and the development team appear to be making a good effort of communicating with the players. Without further ado, let’s put on our bunker suits and hope that Christian Bale saves the day… again!
Aesthetics - 8
Dragons & Titans has style - which I have to admit. The real gem here is the view of the ground from your fancy winged lizard. You’ll fly over land, water, structures, and your home base is a big heaping pile of gold. This certainly gives the impression of large, sprawling environments (similar to taking flight your first time in WoW and other MMORPGs). The art direction has a medieval tone with a hint of childlike whimsy, which is no problem in my book. A truly scary dragon game will come out someday, but this isn’t going to be the one.
Dragons have been around in stories for centuries, and the survivability of their reputation really makes them seem like Kings of old mythology. Which is kind of cool, since they’re usually portrayed as ‘Kings’ in the stories and in this game. The rider might mount the dragon, but Wyrmbite has paid special attention to the storybook elements. The Hoards, which act as spawn points, are mountains of gold (literally mountains, they’re comparable to a lot of large things in-game) and the coins themselves even look good. The flying monsters are pretty well-detailed also, but their attacks leave something to be desired. What I mean by that is most dragons fire a series of fireballs/waterballs/whatever-balls instead of a continuous blast. Personal preference, I guess, but these seem more like pellets rather than something to be feared.
Gameplay - 6
Wyrmbite took the combat in a different direction with this title, and I’m not entirely sure if I’m sold. Maybe I’m just used to the old ways, as I had a similar experience with adjusting to Hi-Rez’s SMITE, and in the end I actually acclimated and liked it. So yeah, maybe it will take some time, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I have little control over what my dragon does. Movement in D&T works by clicking around on the map, effectively telling your dragon where to go. The dragons can’t turn quickly either, so you have to make a rolling motion in order to turn around or strafe/kite. This strafing or kiting is my major problem, because the dragon attacks while you bark orders. I like the feel of actually controlling a dragon like a horse, but the end result is drawing circles around enemy riders. If you do it enough, eventually they can’t hit you but you can hit them and blah - I’m not much of a fan at the moment. I have to say this particular style of movement/combat does have a pretty big advantage, in that it is far easier to get into than any other game I’ve played. The accessibility could certainly be useful so long as content is pushed out and updated. It is terribly repetitive however, and it doesn’t help that the community meta and game balance favor a single offensive play-style. With hard work and a bit of luck, D&T could surpass LoL as the most accessible MOBA out there. Luckily, a recent patch added a control scheme that is more akin to other MOBAs, but I don’t have much experience with it yet (changing entire control schemes takes some time for me, in all games). I’m going to give them brownie points for taking to the time to address the controls, which were a big topic in various reviews and discussions.
The developers were kind enough to grace the game with a functioning tutorial however, and a campaign to boot. Both were enjoyable and gave me a pretty good idea of what to expect in the online matches. The campaign I assume is being released in continuous fashion, so I’m betting there will be more to do by the time this review is published.
Innovation – 5
The above mentioned movement is certainly innovative, and I do love it when MOBAs try something unique, but its reception has been questionable. Since another control scheme has been implemented, it has yet to be seen which type of movement players will enjoy the most. Something I consider fresh, however, is the number of developer tags I see on Steam reviews, posts, discussions etc. There seems to be a lot of interaction between players and devs, with all of it being pretty positive. Other companies should take note that this is how you handle PR, especially after a rocky launch. Another nice feature is similar to one present in EVE Online: The Dragon Lord Council. While these lords are not elected, they are still held to a pretty high standard, and they do a good job of bridging the communication gap.
Polish – 8
The aesthetics rock, at least to me, and it’s a good thing that all of the menus function seamlessly as well. Besides some resolution issues, and some occasional spikes in latency (which may have been entirely on me or my ISP), I have to say that my entire experience was smooth and bug-free.
Social – 6
Dragons and Titans, prior to the Steam release, had its beginnings as a Facebook game. This provides the game with something that many MOBAs can’t boast - a second pool of potential players to garner fans from. The disadvantage of course is that this player pool comes from a social network, and they’re using a wide variety of (im)possibly buggy browsers to play. I didn’t run into any notable issues on the browser version, but I play primarily on the full client anyways. The social network upbringing did provide a good deal of social features however, but I don’t consider anything really groundbreaking.
Longevity – 4
My desire to play the game waned a bit after the original few days, but I believe there was more to it than the usual burning out. A combination of the different combat and the limited initial customization certainly put a damper on my motivation, but I could easily see that being rectified in the near future.
Value – 6
MOBAs generally reward you based on how much time you put into them, and I have yet to run into a system like this that isn’t well-received. D&T uses a free rotation system where a select group of dragons are available each week, and new dragons are introduced regularly. If you want a particular dragon, then you can grind up the currency or pay a cash amount. The rotating system has some advantages and disadvantages, but all in all it’s pretty fair. The tutorial unlocked 3 random dragons for me upon completion. A quote from fellow users that I liked was “this game isn’t pay to win, but it is pay to play what you want”, which illustrates a mixed community reception to pricing and the actual value of certain purchases.
Dragons and Titans suffered a very rocky start. Various reviews and discussions have painted this game in a bad light. As such, the population is low and I can’t guarantee a great experience for everyone. However, Wyrmbite has risen up to the challenge quite a few times and there is evidence of them paying attention to community discourse. With a gameplay molded after other successful MOBAs and a (somewhat) family-friendly style, Dragons and Titans certainly has a leg up on the other “dotaclone” games.
Tyler “Krowe” Rowe has been an avid video gamer since he first borrowed a copy of Starcraft more than a decade ago. Even though his copy of Brood War has long since been missing, he still searches high and low for interesting titles to add to his growing collection. He hates giving high scores, and hates playing truly low scorers, but at the end of the day, a game is a game.