Dragon Awaken is new free-to-play MMO from Proficient City, the developers behind Wartune – an wildly successful MMO in its own right. In a tried-and-true theme, players become a warrior, own and train dragons, battle enemies, and more.
This review is based on gameplay from the closed beta, which ran from February 28 to March 8.
Action right from the beginning
Dragon Awaken begins with a tutorials that didn’t feel like a tutorial. Instead, the action starts fast and I was fighting a dragon within seconds. Abilities and components are added one at a time, so the player feels as if they’re gaining as they go instead of being held back by the overly-long explanations of most MMO introductions.
Quests are displayed in a feed and clicking on it sends you into automatism — not as heavy as SAO Legend, but close enough. The game does a lot of the work for you. However, in battles you do get to choose your attack moves. Fighting is turn-based, which can be good or bad depending on your preference.
The game is aimed to be real-time strategy that allows players to develop their own strategies against increasingly difficult enemies. Plotting out my own battles moves was engaging enough that it took away from the pain of the heavy automatism of the rest of the game.
Training with Dragons
Within a few minutes of playing, I was rewarded my first pet: a dragon whelpling. As you can imagine, the thing was pretty darn cute.
In Dragon Awaken, players will be able to earn and train different types of dragons. Each have their own set of stats. Some even ignore enemy defenses. They fight alongside you in battle and even command your battle units while transferring their stats onto your men.
Since so many MMOs keep their pets restricted to the cash shop, this was what set Dragon Awaken apart. Fans of Rappelz may find the pet system here to their liking.
It seems awfully familiar
Besides the epic dragon system and training, the game didn’t seem to be contributing anything new to an already overcrowded genre. Admit it: fantasy-based dragons are cool, but may well be the most cliché theme in free-to-play MMOs.
Still, we were only able to test aspects of the gameplay during the closed beta and with a limited time window. With any luck, Dragon Awaken’s lack of distinctiveness may only exist at the beginning of the game and might fade as players progress. As the audience grows, we can only hope that Dragon Awaken grows with it.
It’s beautiful to look at – as long as you don’t read
From the start, it’s clear: Dragon Awaken is a beauty of a game. The artwork is meticulous and the characters are gorgeous. Even the backdrops glow.
I hit my first glitch in the game about thirty minutes in and had to restart the client to continue playing. The game picked up right where I left off, so no progress was lost. The inconvenience was minimal and hopefully bugs like these will be worked out by launch time.
Unfortunately, writing is where the game falls flat. The narrative is awkward and the dialogue is contrived and stilted. An exclamation point after nearly every sentence gets old – fast. Like, lightning fast. It’s a pity, since the rest of the game is such a visual treat.
Is it play to win?
Dragon Awake is free-to-play, but like many MMOs of its kind, there is always the option to buy into the game to gain rewards. During my test, it took about 15 mins before I was hit with the obligatory “Upgrade to VIP” pop-up window. The game includes Diamonds, which one could conclude will probably be the game’s premium currency. How much this will impact gameplay and whether paying players will vastly outrank the non-playing ones is something only time will tell.
While parts of the game feel all-too-familiar, Dragon Awaken does offer some potentially unique aspect through its battle strategies and dragon training systems. Not surprisingly, fans of SAO Legend should enjoy the game’s similar format and feel.
Overall, Dragon Awaken has potential. As the game launches and goes mainstream, hopefully it will grow to emphasize what makes its special instead of taking away its unique aspects and making them accessible to paying players only, as so many MMOs have done in the past.