The words of the day: simplistic intricacy.
Those two words sum up the whole of what Fight The Dragon (FTD) is all about. At first glance, the core gameplay appears simple – and it is. Upon a deeper inspection, however, the intricacies begin to emerge – particularly in its level designer, which I will go into more later.
FTD is essentially Little Big Planet meets a simple overhead hack-‘n’-slash. A number of community levels and a few tutorial missions await the player within this game. The interface to select your adventure is easy to use and find what you’re looking for, and there is a search system that allows you to find a level that matches the difficulty you want, whether it’s a favorite of the community, or you can do a direct search for a specific title.
The first order of business is to choose a character class: Fighter, Black Rogue, Fire Lord, and Ice Wizard. Each of these classes has their own unique abilities and stats, which offers greater variety and opportunities to customize multiple playthroughs. The appearances of your character can also be customized (to an extent) afterwards at your home base.
While there are many options for combat in this game, the ones that will be used the most are the basic attack and a class-specific special attack (A and B respectively on an XBox controller, which I recommend using). These moves are all you need if you employ a hit-and-run strategy like I do. That’s the simple side of it; the more intricate side is that you can also block, dodge, and use another special move as well if you want. But that feels a bit superfluous sometimes and the majority of your time will be spent just hacking and slashing with your basic moves.
The game also provides ample possibilities for platforming adventures if combat is not where your interests lie. Climbing, running, and leaping across chasms and lava appears simple enough. However, doing it *well* takes a little more attention and skill. Then try doing it while some skeleton shoots arrows at you or a pyromancer blasts you with fire. Or do it over lava where you have to think, “Okay, I have to time my sprinting right and aim perfectly or I’m gonna fall into hot burning lava and – dang it, now I’m dead. Back to the checkpoint.”
After a level, you can donate your unwanted equipment and excess gold to the Loot Shrine, building up enough credit to eventually earn a reward. The more credit you build up before seeking a reward, the greater the reward. It's a nice way to reward the people who spend time collecting what is often useless armor or weapons dropped in a level.
But it is with the level editor that this game truly shines and brings to the forefront the reason FTD works so well. Looking at a custom-designed level, it’s easy to assume that only someone who has played the game long enough and mastered the minute details could create something intricate and amazing. At least, that’s the mindset I went into the level designer with.
Boy, was I wrong.
Within a matter of hours, I had created a level that involved a good amount of platforming and combat, tested it multiple times, and then released it to the community. I had only played the game a few hours before to learn the basic buttons and get a feel for the game. The instructions on how to use different components and how to connect cause-and-effects (i.e. kill this enemy, door opens). Enemy stats can be modified to vary every time you enter a level. There are also a lot of different options for what kind of level you want to create. Various indoor and outdoor biomes are available, and you can mix and match at will. You can create a massive level before you reach your “building point” limit, and that is half of the fun.
**To see the level I created in my first attempt, look up Necrypt in the level gallery.**
However, there are a few points that should be addressed in terms of what this game does not do so well.
- Currently there is no way to rebind buttons on the controller. Sometimes the button combinations to do something are not intuitive or easy (i.e. pressing RB and Y together to switch between primary and alternative weapons).
- Music tracks for the levels are limited to 9 arrangements that sound very similar.
- Sometimes when creating a level, if you accidentally enter “Event Picker Mode,” you can get stuck there and be unable to leave. Let’s say you place an enemy and you enter this mode . You have to select an object for it to be connected to, but if there is no such object around, you are stuck in this mode (hitting B does not free you from the mode).
- Combat can feel extremely simple and not be too exciting after awhile.
- A few more options available in the character customization would not be amiss.
All in all, Fight The Dragon is great fun. The negative points I listed above are nitpicks at best, and they don’t interfere too much with the overall enjoyment of the game. And as it is in Early Access still, I look forward to some of the features 3 Sprockets have yet to release. But if you’re looking for a great game that is constantly growing in a community and bringing forth new features, take a look at Fight The Dragon.
Having tried this mode with one of my friends, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. While split-screens tend to be too small to make out details clearly, having a two-player split down the middle wasn't terrible. That may have been because we had a laptop hooked up to a TV, though.....
One way that this mode would be improved would be to have the split be horizontal instead, giving a greater field of view for each player. Granted, the reason that this was not done was to accomodate the vision lost by whoever would have the Keys or other information on their screen, but I tend to prefer seeing more side to side so I can tell what threats are around.
Another annoyance (which may have been altered in an update just after this experience) was that two people could not be at the home base at once. Which made the process of transfering goods into the Loot Shrine tedious because one person would have to use the Player 1 controller to drop off loot and money, then he/she'd have to return to the house and switch to the other player. THEN the controller would have to be handed over to that person so they could do their transfers. It doubled the administrative tasks needed before we could return to what we REALLY wanted to be doing: adventuring!
I'm happy to report that I love the continued growth in content provided by the developers for this game. Almost weekly there's a new update that adds more to the experience than the last and improves it. More features for the level designer are being implemented, fixes are being made to some bugs -- all of this attention given to ensuring that this game continues to excel both surprises and delights me, and it makes me regret less and less that the DAY AFTER I purchased FTD there was a 50% off sale.
Kudos to 3 Sprockets; you've done a great job with your game. Now keep at it and continue to impress me more and more.
**Review updates yet to be included/experienced:
- Online Multiplayer
- The Dragon Fight