There is a lot to be said for browser games; they have come far in the years since they were first introduced. In fact I remember when best graphics you could hope to get came from something like Mafia Wars on MySpace. Then we watched as it slowly evolved into games like Farmville, Cityville, that café game, and virtually a thousand other clones of them. Even games that tried to break the mold like Galaxy Online II only resulted in yet another horribly similar game, even if it did draw a strikingly large and obsessive audience. Things took a change when IGG created a few ACTUAL MMORPG’s for the browser, and since then things have gotten better. This week I was charged with reviewing a title from 37 games called Dragon Atlas. If you know 37 then you have probably heard of SiegeLord which is yet another clone of the various strategy games you’ve already seen on Facebook, though it’s not on Facebook, so we have to give it that at least. With that being said, I want to start out by thanking 37 for finally giving browser gamers something new! I have very few complaints about Dragon Atlas, at least apart from my own personal reservations, so let’s take a look at it and maybe, just maybe you’ll find your new favorite game.
What is Dragon Atlas?
First and foremost, Dragon Atlas is a browser game, and it is an RPG. It is not, however, an open world RPG. Unlike Runescape and others of the same type, it does not feature a world that you can freely walk about. Instead, you are presented with a world map that allows you to move from point to point.You are represented by a game piece which honestly looks more like a chess piece than anything else, and there are several different point types that you can land on. For example, you have your enemy points, which also look like game pieces. One piece can equal several different enemy types, and as the game starts out, you are a single person with a trained dragon. Interestingly enough, your health is tied to the dragon, so if you go down, so does he.
Other pieces on the board that you might encounter will include teleporters, switches, towns, and anything else the developers feel like throwing in there. The interesting thing is that as you click on any location on the map, you will see a representation of you, your dragon, and anyone else in your party running along the bottom of the screen. As an interesting twist on the art, they run along what appears to be a large hamster wheel, though it is simply a representation of the terrain, and like I said, art direction.
The Combat System
The combat system works as you would expect in an RPG, though it is semi-real time, which is a bit of a change. Instead of controlling the abilities of each person/dragon in your party, you simply indicate when each person is to attack, and they will do so with whatever they happen to have equipped. This includes every ability as well as weapon you have given them. The better equipped they are, the better they will do in battle, but keep in mind that their individual level cannot exceed yours.
As you enter combat, each of your characters will have a cooldown timer which is displayed on the action bar at the bottom of the screen. You can see your enemies’ cooldown timer by looking above their heads and looking at the white stopwatch which gradually changes color as they become ready to attack. You can reduce your cooldown timer by making enhancements to your own abilities, which becomes available as an unlock after a certain level.
I’m going to be honest here, the entire game is made to feel as if you are in an anime, from the storyline, to the combat, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you are in PVP it actually makes for some epic battles, especially if you feel like turning auto attack on. Ah yes, the auto attack, I forgot to mention that, didn’t I? If you are a particularly slow clicker, or if you have been sweeping an area for a long time, you will be glad to know that you have the ability to turn on the ‘auto attack’ after level fifteen which causes the AI to choose attacks for you as they become available. In fact you will probably want to have this turned on anyway as the AI can activate an attack faster on the server side due to input lag on your side. If you need to fight a more strategic battle however, then you may want to switch to manual control, for example, if you want to hold your dragon attack back until the final battle in a scenario.
Increasing your Party
Until you reach a higher level you will be stuck with yourself and your dragon, and your character will either be a mage or fighter depending on what you chose at character creation. Once you hit that certain level, you will be able to recruit mercenaries at the local tavern, adding them to your party as you wish. I recommend you choose a healer as your first addition. Actually the game kind of recommends it too, so you don’t have much of a choice there.
Once you have more people in your party you will be able to take it up a notch by participating in Arena battles. Trust me, you didn’t want to do it before you had more party members. Actually, when you start out you will probably lose most of your fights anyway. Low levels aren’t exactly prevalent in the arenas at the lower levels and the higher levels that are in there have spent a lot of time developing all of their characters.
As you increase in level you will increase your character in several different ways. For example you will gain valor points from completing story based missions, and you can use these to add skill points to your talent tree, so to speak. If you are like me, you will find yourself with literally thousands of unspent valor points by the time you get to a challenging fight, and then you’ll find yourself laid out on the floor.
The other method of character advancement is through gear enhancement which increases the stats. Early gear can only be enhanced by +2, but later on you will find or buy gear that has much more potential.
Going at it With a Group
I’m just going to say it straight up: this game takes a strange approach to grouping. What do I mean by that exactly? When I reached a certain level, the game gave me a list of people and told me that I was now qualified to be friends with them. Seriously. They were all around my level and I kind of understand the sentiment, but I like to have better standards for who I make friends with than just their level. Well, that aside, I went ahead and added them. Later on the group instances and exp dungeons became available, and it gave me two options: I could either broadcast a group dungeon to the world, or I could broadcast it just to my friends. The friends the game had picked out for me. I chose to broadcast to the entire world, and what I got was someone on my friends list. That didn’t bother me so much as the fact that it said close friend in dark purple underneath their icon. That’s great, so they’re my close friend. Who the hell is this person. Well it didn’t matter much, we were about to go through battle together, and potentially form a bond much deeper than…okay who was I kidding.
I will say that the cooperative dungeons are quite fun and can be helpful if each person is playing a different class.
This game, like any other game, is not perfect. When I started by first character I played through for a bit and found a literal game breaking bug that forced by to roll a new character. The problem was that sometime after upgrading my dragon for the first time, I went to the world map, met with the appropriate NPC, and could literally not go to the next objective. It simply was not on the map. I tried refreshing, I tried checking my dragon’s upgrades, I went back to town to talk to other NPC’s, I logged out, nothing would work. Eventually I gave up and started a new character who was able to get past that bugged point. This bug may have had something to do with the limitations at the early stages of the game, but either way, it happened, and someone with less determination might have simply quit and found something else to play.
Another bug I ran into was the ‘hamster wheel’ at the bottom which usually displays your character and items in the world that he or she runs into. In order to use teleporters must walk onto them in-world and then click them at the bottom on the wheel. At one point during a mission, the wheel vanished and I was unable to do anything but leave the instance after working pretty hard to get through it. That’s not amusing at all.
All in all this is a great browser game. It sets out what it accomplishes to do, it is very smooth, and enjoyable in a pinch. Additionally, it has an outstanding player base, though they admittedly do not talk much. Still, this is one browser RPG experience I can recommend.
-Game Breaking Bugs
-No Direct Combat