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Feature Article

Nintendo's New RPG Masks Shallow Gameplay With Good Looks And Loot

This isn't the Nintendo you're looking for.

The latest mobile game from Nintendo is Dragalia Lost, an RPG developed by the Granblue Fantasy studio, Cygames. Despite carrying the Nintendo branding, Dragalia is the furthest throw from Nintendo's baseline in a while. If you expect that your love for Nintendo-published games is a good indicator of how you'll feel towards Dragalia, think again. I went into it expecting a fair amount of the typical free-to-play mobile experience--microtransactions, dopamine-targeted effects, etc.--but I couldn't have guessed how strongly these would come on from the beginning, and how little I would care about the gameplay that breaks it all up.

The core adventure loop involves sending out a team of up to five characters to engage in basic action-RPG missions. There's a story involving a prince who seeks to regain control of his kingdom with the help of dragons, but this is all doled out during occasional dialogue sequences that offer little in the way of surprise or substance. A typical quest lasts maybe two minutes, with small maps and a simple procession of scattered grunts standing between you and the inevitable boss battle at the end.

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The controls afforded to you are equally straightforward. You gently shift your finger in a direction on your device's touchscreen to indicate where you want your party to go, tap it multiple times to execute a brief string of attacks, and swipe vigorously in a direction if you want to dodge . Timing your dodges is about as complex as the game gets during the initial hours, which is another way of saying that combat and exploration are both relentlessly boring.

Once you've played for a while, you'll have access to secondary abilities and a full party to cycle through on the fly, taking over for the AI if only for the sake of variety. The fifth character on your team is an AI-driven character based on another Dragalia player's profile, which means you quite frequently get the chance to recruit someone with more experience and higher levels to beef up your squad. The selection of potential recruits seem to be picked at random by the game, but there are options if you want to play with specific players in true co-op fashion.

Odds are, however, you won't need much help, at least not at the start. In fact, you can go right ahead and turn on Auto Play if you wish, which lets the computer play out missions for you. This seems counterintuitive for an action-RPG, but after the dozenth shallow mission in a row, you might consider it to be a viable alternative to grinding manually. Each mission telegraphs what power level your party should be at, so you generally have a good idea of whether or not your squad can succeed on their own, without your intervention.

Once you begin down the path of automating quests, it becomes clear: Dragalia Lost isn't designed to be a challenging game to play, but it is designed to make you feel good about your modest accomplishments, with tons of flash and pazzaz, and dozens of items doled out after each outing.The question then, is: when does Dragalia Lost become challenging enough that you consider spending money? I don't think I'll ever find out.

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For as much as I'm curious to see how far down the mobile rabbit hole Dragalia goes, I already feel both bored by its systems and suffocated by the constant barrage of menus, currency, exuberance, and optional schemes that exist to tempt you to spend real money for a better chance at summoning new, high-level party members or top-tier items. Odds are you will spend more time managing all of this than you will actually playing Dragalia, and while it makes perfect sense given Cygames' background, and the mobile free-to-play market in general, it feels completely counterintuitive for Nintendo. Dragalia, like so many of its F2P kin, is little more than a glorified slot machine dressed up as a traditional game.

It's not completely surprising to see Nintendo take a stab at one of the most lucrative game types around with a new IP and a proven developer, but I, perhaps foolishly, thought Nintendo's involvement would set Dragalia apart from other money-hungry clickers. Dragalia can look attractive, and it more often than not sounds great thanks to a catchy soundtrack, but I struggle to find much more positive to say about it.

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Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.
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Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

It's just another gacha garbage mobile game in a sea of them.

Avatar image for linkblade91
linkblade91

Never played the game before but "The Prince" looks very similar to Roxas from Kingdom Hearts.

Avatar image for pharoe777
pharoe777

I'm enjoying this game, easy gameplay mechanics, fun story with great cut scenes.

Avatar image for Ganiam
Ganiam

I’m a tually having a lot of fun with the game.

Once you start doing the higher tiered events the difficulty really kicks in and the battle system becomes a lot deeper. Learning to use i-frames and force strikes can make it very fun, and unlike other Gachas you can only have one of every character.

Plus I love all the possible customization, the synergy between skills and even characters, and how changing your skills can completly change your playstyle depending on what you’ve equipped and if you know how to take advantage of it

I was pleasanly surprised by the game, but it sounds like the author of the article didn’t get far enough to experience any of it. Which is understandable because the early hours are kind of a drag

Avatar image for NaturallyEvil
NaturallyEvil

Good, Peter was the last person to figure out what mobile gacha games are. Now the world knows as a collective.

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mari3k

mobile games are not games, its brainwashing to make milk people.... please spare us with such reviews

Avatar image for sakaixx
sakaiXx

Its shit. nintendo or non, gatcha games can burn in hell together.

Avatar image for superdoyle1
superdoyle1

Wow, gamespot has actually started to review games.

That being said, it a mobile game, and its the gamey-est mobile game I've played.

The gacha's bad, but its not worse than the hundreds of other mobile games out there, this one just has the limelight because it was published by Nintendo.

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JustPlainLucas

Glad I didn't bother with this. I'd rather just buy 10 dollar actual games on my phone.

Avatar image for Renunciation
Renunciation

Nintendo has never been known as an RPG powerhouse.

Their console libraries have always had great RPGs, thanks to 3rd party developers.

Seems as though the 3rd party didn't do so well for 'em this time.

Avatar image for IanNottinghamX
IanNottinghamX

@Renunciation: Nintendo is just the publisher of this game. Cygames are the devs.

Avatar image for Elranzer
Elranzer

@Renunciation: Nintendo is known for Earthbound and Fire Emblem, genius.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Elranzer: Nintendo won't even release Mother 3. They're known for Earthbound games but not in a good way.

Avatar image for Renunciation
Renunciation

@Elranzer: Earthbound was co-developed by independent studios, Ape Inc. and HAL Laboratories; it was published by Nintendo.

Fire Emblem is co-developed by Intelligent Systems (independent developer) and Nintendo SPD.

Nintendo, by itself, does not develop any highly-regarded RPG franchises.