Thanks to the tremendous success of Blizzard's Diablo games, action role-playing games have become a full-fledged game genre that lets you play as a single hero wandering the land and killing monsters along the way. This is also the theme of I of the Dragon, an upcoming game from Primal Software. However, instead of letting you play as the human wizards and warriors from games like Diablo, the game will instead let you play as a dragon that flies around fighting monsters.
As a dragon, you soar over the vast countryside, flying high over valleys and swooping low over forests. It actually seems like quite a change of pace from the dungeon crawls that have become somewhat standard in the genre. As you fly over the world, you'll battle with swarms of monsters below, armed with three main attacks: fire, magic, and, interestingly enough, hunger. Not only can you roast your enemies, but you'll also occasionally need to devour them to keep your strength up.
In the game, dragons are benevolent creatures who serve as guardians of a peaceful world inhabited by villagers--sort of like a "good" version of Godzilla, but with wings. Your job is to fly from province to province, defending towns, killing monsters, razing their lairs, and pursuing quests. But there's also a strategic element--you can establish towns that you can use to rest and recuperate in.
The game takes place from a third-person perspective, so you're always looking at your dragon. The controls are rather simple; just click where you want your dragon to fly, and it'll fly there. Altitude is controlled with the keyboard; if you fly too low, you'll be more vulnerable to incoming fire from the ground, but if you fly too high, your attacks become less accurate.
At the beginning of the game, you choose which of the three dragons to play. As in most action RPGs, this choice is dictated by your own style of play. Each dragon has a distinct specialty, such as spellcasting or combat. Your dragon has a number of different attributes that can be upgraded whenever you gain a level, including speed, breath capacity, and mana regeneration. And the more that you invest in a certain skill, the more likely you'll unlock new and more-powerful abilities.
The game's spells are grouped into various spheres of magic, such as earth and death magic, and which spheres are available depends on the dragon you choose to play as. One thing that magic allows you to do is literally reshape the world. For instance, you can suddenly raise the earth beneath the enemy, inflicting large amounts of damage. Eventually, you may have the ability to shatter mountains. You can also use magic to summon units to defend you, which is a key ability if your dragon has weak combat skills.
When you destroy all monsters and lairs in a specific area, you can then build a new town there. The presence of humans ensures that the monsters won't come back, and you can use the town as a base to recharge your fiery breath and recover from your last fight. The villagers can defend their town from marauding monsters, but you'll usually have to assist them. But the villagers will also assist you in battle; for instance, they can fly into battle on magic carpets, helping to draw fire away from you. They may also produce traditional military units, such as knights and archers, which will assist you.
The graphics engine is capable of rendering large levels to fly around, and the terrain includes forests, deserts, and mountain ranges. There's a lot of detail packed into these levels, from expansive forests to busy little towns. Almost everything in the game is destructible or deformable, so you can literally burn down an entire forest with your fire breath if you're not careful. The magic system features plenty of particle effects, and the game also seems to have some nice visual details, such as trees that sway when you fly past them.
Primal Software is busy working on translating the game to English as well as on creating a new musical soundtrack for the North American version of the game. The developer also plans to include a number of other enhancements, like object and creature descriptions. I of the Dragon should be available sometime this spring.