Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Imagine a game where players have to piece together their own pathway using tiles to pickup power-ups, decide an attack strategy, and ultimately reach an end boss. You've just largely envisioned exactly what it is like to play Road to Dragons, a free-to-play puzzle/rpg hybrid in which players literally build a road... to dragons. The puzzle mechanics are pretty novel, but unfortunately its trappings are such that anyone that currently plays or has had their fill of collection-based gameswon't be particularly moved to jump in.
Road to Dragons starts with players selecting a type of hero (complete with differentiating attributes to match particular playstyles) and then moving through a few tutorial missions to get them firmly educated on the mechanics. In any given level, players have their hero progress across a map by selecting one of eight tiles, each of which can draw a particular path on the map for the hero to follow. If the path intersects with a treasure chest or an enemy, players will pick up loot or enter a fight respectively. The goal of any particular level is to reach a specified distance and defeat a boss dragon at the end.
The battle system in Road to Dragons is relatively simple. Upon entering a fight, traversal tiles morph into attack tiles that correspond to different combat types, and players can chain these tiles together to create combos. The idea of combat and traversal tiles coming from a common pools is probably the most interesting trick about Road to Dragons's gameplay, as the rest of it is well-trodden territory.
The campaigndoes a little worldbuilding, but the way the dialogue is written could use some work as characters largely communicate in very short phrases and often repeat themselves. This isn't a huge problem though, as the main draw to Road to Dragons is more its party-building mechanics.
I don't know if it's a new trend or not, but Road to Dragons follows a gameplay structure that is almost exactly like a handful of games I've played recently. The core gameplay loop is built around farming materials or party members in order to create specialized squads that are more capable of taking down particularly difficult dragons, and the point of defeating these dragons is to farm some other squad member that will help for a different or more difficult mission.
It's not a bad system per se, but it is one that can easily be seen as divisive. It's one that is most certainly built to encourage players to spend money, though skilled players can find ways to make progress by playing for free - albeit at a slower pace. I don't mind this collection system, but I do take issue with how poorly conceived it is in Road to Dragons. Unlike something like Monster Strike, it's way less obvious what units drop from which levels, and the user interface in general looks pretty nice but isn't particularly legible.
Road to Dragons feels a little like a knock-off, even though it clearly has a pretty original take on puzzle mechanics. Because it's so similar to other collection-based games, it's hard to think it can win over anyone that hasn't seen this trick done before elsewhere. If there were some slight changes to the way it presented itself and explained things it could have an edge, but for now it's just easier for players to just pick up a better built game of this type - if they're so inclined.