Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Finding your identity is an integral part of the process of maturing, but it’s pretty obvious that Dragonwood Academy: A Game of Stones has absolutely no clue what it wants to be when it grows up.
The characters and world are a strange mash-up of Harry Potter-esque teenage wizardry and character art that looks straight out of an online social game for tweens. Meanwhile the stock-standard monsters, while sporting some pretty nice artwork, would be far more at home in a generic fantasy RPG. Then the gameplay’s visuals, with all of the simplified portrait cameos, quite obviously gives a nod to Blizzard’s Hearthstone. The result is kind of a jumbled mishmash of influences lacking clear direction. And all of that is before we even address the gameplay.
Players assemble their team using three different stones... or cards, characters, monsters - whatever term one prefers to use for the collectable creatures that the player controls. Stones are organized in rarities based on the type of gem they are, from Opal all the way up to Amethyst. The player’s team of three are assigned numerical positions that indicate the order in which they will act during combat. The player’s team is then turned loose against a series of computer opponents, attempting to rack up as many wins in a row as possible before being taken down. So in a way, it’s kind of like Arena runs in Hearthstone.
But did I mention players don’t control the combat at all? Yeah, that’s kind of a big thing.
Combat runs completely on its own. Literally. But sadly you don’t even really have time to go make a sandwich while you wait as the fight only lasts about 15-20 seconds. Still, if the between-round stuff could be automated too, there would be pretty much no reason to involve humans in this game at all. Some stones (I’m really having a hard time continuing to refer to them as such) have special powers, but they seem to activate randomly now and again, without any means for the player to trigger them.
It’s really quite a bizarre proposition because it doesn’t feel like XMG Studio knows who they’re targeting with this release. Is Dragonwood Academy a game for very young children, serving as a rudimentary introduction to CCG elements? This seems likely. But if so, it does a poor job of communicating anything but the most basic concepts and some of the artwork may be a bit too dark. Is it a game for older children? This seems to be a likely option as well, but the lack of depth and interminable grind seems unlikely to hold their attention for too long. Much the same can be said for adult consumers.
It’s a shame too, as a greater degree of player agency could have made Dragonwood Academy: A Game of Stones a very cute, free-to-play offering. As it stands now, it feels more like a proof of concept piece rather than anything worthwhile or engaging.