Yesterday we looked at Elemental Kingdoms, a card battling RPG. Today we're back with a massively multiplayer online RPG/town-building hybrid called Dragon Realms from GREE International. The spiritual successor to last year’s Kingdom Age, Dragon Realms was developed internally at GREE’s RPG+ Studio. Hundreds of creatures to collect, cooperative and PVP play, and cross-platform multiplayer make for a lengthy and addictive experience.
In case the title didn’t clue you in, Dragon Realms takes place in a medieval fantasy setting. The story revolves around a war between three factions: the Silver Alliance, the Feral Horde, and the Undead Legion. Unbeknownst to all of them, a dark figure works in secret to orchestrate the conflict and sew chaos. What a jerk!
As the player, you’ll need to choose a hero from one of the factions and then work to uncover the source of the war and unite the warring factions. GREE promises to expand and evolve the story through future updates and in-game events.
Speaking of the title, it wouldn’t do for the game to have just one or two dragons. There are actually nine different types of the giant beasts at present, with more on the way. Each of these dragons can evolve into four different forms. The only way you could get more dragon in there is if the realms themselves were made of dragons. I don’t know; that might be too much dragon.
Gameplay in Dragon Realms is divided between two core components: realm (town) building and quests. The player’s realm starts with a single castle. As you accumulate gold and reach new level milestones, you’ll be able to construct a variety of buildings for your realm such as farms, granaries, barns, and more.
All buildings produce gold over time. They can also be upgraded to produce more gold, though it naturally costs gold to level them up. Some buildings provide bonuses for the player or other resources than gold as well.
As with most city building games, building construction takes varying amounts of real time to complete. If you’re in a hurry to finish a structure, you can spend gems (premium currency) to instantly finish construction.
Growing and customizing a town is much more fun when you can share your handiwork with others. Thankfully Dragon Realms allows players to visit the realms of people on their friends lists.
Dragon Realms doesn’t have an exploration element to speak of, though players do unlock new areas for quests by leveling up and other actions. To pick up quests, you simply select them from a quest menu. Each quest conveniently offers a Visit button that allows players to jump to its location.
Quests often have combat-oriented goals such as killing a certain number of monsters or battling against another player. Other quests require certain buildings to be created or upgraded, or for the player to level up. Quest rewards include gold, XP, and new heroes or items.
Guilds provide Dragon Realms with its MMO aspect. Any time after completing the starting tutorial, players can create or join a guild and team up with other players.
The main benefit of joining a guild is access to guild-specific quests. These include Epic Boss events that a single player couldn’t defeat alone and invasions that require coordination between guild members. Guilds can also gain access to unique buildings and special perks that give combat bonuses to heroes.
Dragon Realms has a strong competitive component as well. Players can engage in PVP battles at any time. The matchmaking system presents a selection of opponents of varying levels to choose from. The battles go by quickly and unlike Elemental Kingdoms there’s no real penalty for losing, so new players shouldn’t feel intimidated by the competition.
Winners of PVP battles receive XP and Honor. Honor is a unique currency that can only be acquired from PVP battles. You can increase your rewards by taking advantage of the game’s unique streak system. Each time you win a battle against another player, your win streak increases by one. You have a short amount of time to engage in a new battle and keep the streak going. As long as you keep winning, the XP and Honor gains will keep on rising.
Dragon Realms’ combat system is quite simple. Players assemble a team of up to 9 heroes of various races and species and then clash against a rival team. You’ll also be able to enter coliseum areas in which your main hero takes on multiple attackers one at a time. Either way, you just double tap an enemy to unleash your attack.
The hero collecting system is what really gives Dragon Realms its flair. There are over 200 heroes to gather, with more coming later via updates. Each hero has attack and defense ratings that determine its effectiveness in battle. Some heroes have special abilities like increasing the player’s attack, buffing other heroes’ attacks, and reflecting the opponent’s attacks back at them.
Heroes can be strengthened in two ways: leveling up and evolving. You can mix and match both forms of upgrades, leveling an evolved hero and vice versa.
To level a hero up, players select a base hero and up to 10 additional heroes to be combined with the base hero. Leveling up provides a significant boost to the hero’s attack and defense stats.
It takes two heroes of the same type to perform an evolution. The end result will be an evolved hero that is much stronger than the characters used in its creation. Each hero has four stages of evolution to go through.
While Dragon Realms undoubtedly brings loads of cool heroes and creatures to the table, their visual presentation isn’t always top notch. Sure, the character art seen in the trailer and during story scenes looks quite beautiful. But the actual sprites are small and don’t exude too much detail or personality. Using separate art styles for character portraits and sprites may be common practice, but I’d rather the entire game looked as fetching as those portraits.
Being a free to play game, Dragon Realms naturally has both standard and premium currencies. Gold is the standard type. You’ll earn it as building revenue and by completing quests. Honor can be earned through defeating other players as I described earlier.
Gems are the game’s premium currency. They can be used to acquire more heroes, level and evolve those heroes, and of course, speeding up building completion times.
MMOs – even largely asynchronous ones like this – live and die by their player bases. If nobody else is playing, you won’t be able to take on tougher foes and guild quests.
Luckily Dragon Realms has one big feather in its cap as far as player base goes: multiplatform support. iOS and Android players can join the same guilds, chat, participate in events together, and even battle each other. With players from the two largest smartphone platforms intermingling, the player base should last for quite a while.
Cross-platform multiplayer is great, but Dragon Realms lacks one very important feature at present: cloud saves. Save data is stored locally, not online. GREE is already working on Game Center support though, so the security of cloud saves won’t be too far off.