I am an absolute sucker when it comes to action/RPGs. If you give me stuff to whack and a steady drip of new and better things to use for the whacking, I will probably get some fun out of it. So, when 3 Sprocket’s Fight The Dragon came along, I jumped at it. I am certainly glad I did. The obvious comparisons to the juggernauts of the genre, Diablo and Torchlight, are apt. What this does different makes for an exciting new dish made out familiar ingredients.
You start off by generating a character, of course, out of a few choices. You have the warrior archetype, a couple of mages, and so on. There is nothing too groundbreaking there. I opted for the ice mage, as his passive power of healing while standing in water seemed like something I could use. I was right….
After creation, your character pops out of a house and you can wander around a small area to choose multiplayer, single player, and so on, each with a sign post. This is a nice little touch that works better in game than a simple menu. I chose to start an adventure and was presented with a map that showed my home surrounded by grey squares. Selecting a square lets you fill it in with a random adventure. If you want a little more control, you can pull up a menu here, sort out the different options, and choose an adventure that fits your mood. Are you looking for something easy or soul-crushing? Something with more puzzles or just straight up action? The amount of variety here based on user created content is seemingly endless already. (More on that later.)
The action itself can be controlled with the classic mouse and keyboard approach or using a gamepad. Both work fine in this one, but I ended up preferring the gamepad. Once you jump into the action, it is very satisfying. With a sword, you automatically do a combo, finishing with a spinning twirl to deliver a punishing blow. The wands I ended up using as a mage were also great, allowing me to harass enemies at a distance. (Harassing from a distance is how I can enjoy visiting a bar and still survive the night, so applied life lessons for the win.)
The action is bolstered by the sound design. The shattering of skeleton bones, the groans of defeated orcs, the squishy sounds of a defeated boss mage help add up to a great time. The music itself isn’t bad, and it fits the mood of the game, but I favored turning it down and pumping up the sounds of the actual action.
One thing I did not like at first but learned to appreciate was the loot progression. It seemed as though everything I picked up for a while was garbage. I found myself using a sword that was denoted as “junk” for quite a bit longer than I was comfortable until I found a suitable replacement. This was surmounted by the “prayer” system. In between adventures, you can visit a shrine and donate trash and gold to the shrine. After donating enough, you can “pray” and be rewarded with your choice of three pieces of gear or stat boosts. This can be cumulative between adventures, meaning that you go and donate and leave it as is until you come back after another adventure to add more and get to the next tier of loot. (There are multiple tiers, from green to legendary.) This last fact I only discovered on accident.
Now, when you feel that your character is beefy enough, you can choose to fight the dragon. This takes place in a separate arena that can only be accessed using an item you gain after clearing an adventure. That dragon is a jerk. I’ve tried a few times now, and I still haven’t managed to finish him off. I relish the chance to keep trying, though.
Clearing dungeons and gaining loot isn’t the only way to play, though. The feature that Fight The Dragon uses to hang its hat is a simple to use, but robust dungeon creator. Now, I am not one who gets excited for this type of thing. When I pick up a title, I prefer for the darn thing to be made. But for those who are so inclined, the tools are here. From my experimentation, anyone who wants to design a simple dungeon all the way to creating a full fledged campaign won’t have too steep a learning curve to surmount. Everything was laid out in an intuitive manner and the interface allows itself to be used, not learned.
Now, we come to my one real complaint. A whiny, self-important complaint to be sure, but a complain nonetheless. It seems that the example of Minecraft has lead makers to believe that if user created content is a feature, blocky and ugly graphics are okay. I won’t go so far to say that there isn’t some charm here, but the look of this game is really off putting. Gear is reflected on the characters, and I usually get excited about making my avatar look more awesome (in a totally not girly Barbie kind of way) but the actual appearance of this game removed my excitement for this feature.
If you can tolerate the look, I highly recommend Fight The Dragon. It is a loot driven slash-them-up where the loot actually means something, and is not just a disposable item on the way to the next thing. There is already a healthy selection of content to explore, from developer created to user made. I can say that I have not found a map that wasn’t fun yet between either, which is probably a mixture of my good luck and the tools the players were given. It also receives one of my biggest compliments that I can bestow: even after my review is done, I will continue spending time on this one. That dragon needs to go down.