May 22, 2014
Dragonwood Academy from XMG takes the basic formula from Hearthstone (sadly not on Android yet!) and makes it something that can be easily and casually played: but in this simplification, the game becomes less a clever-but-simple strategy game, but more of a limited-interaction grinding experience, for better or for worse.
The combat works in that players have a set of three “stones” that have health and attack ratings, each stone attacking in order against an enemy with three stones that go in a set order. A stone attacks another one, occasionally triggering a special ability if it has one. This goes on until the enemy is defeated, and players go on to the next round. There’s unfortunately no multiplayer, just singleplayer, with the goal being to get the longest win streak possible by building powerful enough teams, as players get chests after each win that contain trinkets, and when ten trinkets are collected, they give the player a new stone of that trinket’s rarity. Gems can be bought and earned, spent on more chests, and on boosts, healing, and continues.
The problem within the combat is explicitly that there’s no control of it whatsoever: players sit back and watch everything just kind of happen. This wouldn’t be so bad if the combat was intelligent, but it appears to be that stones attack enemies in terms of random selection, not based on any sort of sense, like if two enemy stones are left, a powerful card won’t kill a card that would kill it sometime.s The good news is that the computer is regulated by randomness too because they make the exact same mistakes, which is at least fair.
Still, it is my greatest peeve with games that have randomized combat: they should at least give players intelligent options, instead of playing in the favor of the game by just being random. After all, it makes it more likely for players to lose or take damage when a suboptimal strategy is forced upon them: and gems can be spent on healing, revives, boosts, and continues, of course. Again, at least it’s quite apparent that the computer is bound by the same rules, but I’d like the agency. And considering that the game is really just a simplified version of Hearthstone, which is already an easy enough game to pick up on, it feels unnecessary.
Really, this makes Dragonwood Academy just a mindless grind where players turn the lever, and get the satisfaction of building out powerful lineups, without needing to develop strategies, necessarily. And frankly, I can accept that this sort of game can exist: it’s for a casual audience that wants to just enjoy the thrill of a game like Hearthstone but with much less effort. And the game does lack energy systems, wait timers, any malarkey like that: it’s just about diving in and playing, which isn’t an intense activity. So while perhaps I think it could be a lot better — make manual attacking an option along with automatic attacking — it’s far from awful. I just feel it could do a better job a simple game to play.
However, it is regardless worth the download if only because of the greatest geek-culture pun in recent history: Joffrey Winger.