Battle of Giants: Dragons Review for Nintendo DS

Battle of Giants: Dragons Review for Nintendo DS

I Coulda’ Been a Contenda’

If you enjoy being abused by games, Ubisoft has a real treasure in mind for you. Riffing on last year’s Battle of Giants: Dinosaurs, dragons are now tossed into the mix to create an onslaught of beastly battles. Though these mythological creatures dabble in magic, this game’s anything but legendary.

Battle of Giants: Dragons screenshot

The tale is told through still art and text, which players will become greatly familiar with, since the opening cutscene (clocking in at roughly three minutes in length) is repeated each time you start up the game; no, you can’t skip it, either. After your noble dragon breed flees the hunting of humans, a new enemy is revealed. You must defeat rogue dragons intent on squandering the power of the ancients. The tale gives precious little to go on, and the gameplay does even less to hold players’ attention.

Battle of Giants: Dragons is broken up into four different worlds of play, each world consisting of a handful of areas you must conquer. Levels are relatively small, and you’ll control your dragon with only the stylus. You can traverse areas by land, or you can tap on your dragon to begin flying. Drawing near to other dragons on the map causes you to enter a separate battle screen where combat begins.

Battles work thusly: both you and your opponent are set upon small, stone tablets with various panels. The different panels represent the dragon body parts you’ll be using to attack with. In order to execute an attack, you need to make a slashing motion with your stylus from your dragon to your opponent. Depending on which panel your dragon is standing on when you gesture, you’ll attack using that particular body part. Each body part is equipped with a selection of gems, which represent the power of attacks. Once you issue an attack command, you’ll then be prompted to connect dots on the touch screen.

Battle of Giants: Dragons screenshot

Your dragon has both a health and orb (known in the game as Dirga) meter, and you’ll eat into your well of orbs any time you attack. When you initiate an attack, you can opt to either follow through with it or draw additional orbs in order to build up your meter for a super attack. Orbs can also be taken from your opponent if you successfully dodge an attack. There’s never really a shortage of energy, however, and the best course of action is usually to spam attacks before your opponent has a chance to counter.

According to the “tips” that occasionally pop up in the game, you can also block attacks. Unfortunately, the developers don’t seem to deem players worthy of knowing how to actually control your dragon, and absolutely none of the basics are covered, leaving it entirely up to the player to find their feet, so to speak. One of the very first objectives you’re given in the game is to burn a crystal, but first you’ll have to figure out how to execute your dragon breath. Considering the younger audience Battle of Giants seems to be aimed at, it’s a completely uninviting experience.

Battle of Giants: Dragons screenshot

Aside from the opening cutscene, you’re barely made privy to the reason for pushing through the story. There are orbs scattered throughout levels, as well as a few destructible elements. Once again, though, it’s up to the player to figure out what their purpose is, if any.

Once you’ve muddled through the fundamentals, you’ll uncover an adventure comprised of repetitive gameplay and utterly contrived objectives. “Find two gems” and “burn the [numbered] crystal” are usually the order of the day. The game likes to throw up walls after you’ve completed an objective, forcing you to take the long way back to where you came from in order to complete the next, nonsensical objective.

For the most part, controls are adequate. Navigating levels is fairly painless, though it’s easy to accidentally trigger one of the two menu icons located on the bottom of the touch screen. Battles are bit more finicky, and most players will likely find it difficult to engage in any type of real strategy. Flicking the stylus in order to get your dragon to attack, guard, or dodge only works about half of the time. We lost quite a few battles because our dragon refused to respond to our touch-screen inputs.

Battle of Giants: Dragons screenshot

Defeating certain dragons earns you gems, which you can then set into body parts, adding to your arsenal of attacks. It’s a pretty basic system, one that won’t compel most players to “collect ’em all.” From your lair, you can change your dragon’s colors and/or stripes, though neither affects your dragon’s stats. You’ll earn new body parts, which can also be tweaked, but again, these are strictly cosmetic additions.

After completing a couple of the game worlds, you’ll be asked to take the form of a different dragon. Don’t expect the gameplay to change up too much, though, as Battle of Giants is pretty much a one-trick pony.

Adding weirdness to mediocrity is a collection of unexpected battles. During the very first level, I entered a cave, only to be greeted by a T-rex. Later on, I found myself in a standoff with… a school bus. That’s not a typo. In spite of the uber-serious pretense of the story, players will come across some real oddities in Battle of Giants: Dragons. How about a robot as an end-stage boss? This sort of comic relief is right out of left field, and rather than laughing with the game, you’ll end up laughing at it.

Battle of Giants isn’t without its share of technical flubs, either. On one occasion, when attempting to land our dragon, we ended up stuck beneath the ground. The only solution found was to shut off the DS and restart, losing our level progress up to that point.

If there’s any value to be found here, it has to be in the single-card, multiplayer options. You can hook up with a friend for a duel, or play with up to four players in Tournament. It’s strictly battles – no exploration – but it’s a nice feature that’s virtually lag-free.

Regardless of our disappointment with both the story and gameplay, it’s hard to ignore the pretty visuals in Battle of Giants. The dragon models are attractive, and watching their flight animations is often enjoyable. Environments exhibit a surprising level of smooth detail, though there isn’t a whole lot of variety on offer here. Battle animations will surely be entertaining for anyone who is able to figure out the machinations of the game, though they can also be quite tedious to watch after the 100th time.

The music tries to add elements of excitement, with cadences that sound off when you’ve attain a gem or completed some other objective. It’s hard to feel rewarded, though, when you’re being forced to run through such trivial tasks. The developers have created a unique dragon language for the game, which is just another confusing addition in light of some of the enemies that pop up throughout the adventure. Battle sounds and other noises don’t do much to help elevate the experience, but the overall production is admirable.

Battle of Giants: Dragons is a pretty tight package, but it’s presented with little consideration for the player. The gameplay is absurdly obtuse, with objectives that amount to little more than slowly meandering through uneventful levels and engaging in battles that yield little reward. Visually, that game’s kind of a treat, though the sparse variety means the novelty wanes quickly. For good or ill, the game’s quite short, though players can fiddle with the single-card multiplayer if they find themselves amused by the battle system.

Though landscapes look very similar to one another, the game sports a lot of visual polish. 2.5 Control
Navigating environments mostly works just fine, even if the tasks at hand are the epitome of dull. Input recognition is very spotty during battles. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is subtle but well implemented. The unique dragon language and sound effects do little to enhance this tedious adventure. 2.4

Play Value
The single-player component could perhaps be appreciated as a means to learning the ropes, if the game actually saw fit to teach you anything. The multiplayer is a nice addition, but it’s hardly enough to justify the price of admission.

2.4 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Choose your dragon from one of the four corners of Tammabbukku: Ice Dragons – Powerful head-blows and defensive supremacy dominate; Fire Dragons – Masters of the breath attack; Wind Dragons – Devastate your enemies from above and heal wounds quickly; Earth Dragons – Ferocious tail-strikes and corrosive poisons render even the strongest foes drained.
  • Explore the land – Fly over the four corners of a mythological land as you search for gems and dragons; Discover over 40 unique maps; Use your dragon’s breath to uncover hidden treasures!
  • Battle other dragons and recover stolen gems: New real-time battles; Enhance your attacks with special combinations of gems; Use your dragon’s full range of abilities to win battles – Head, Tail, Claws, Breath, or Flight. Which attack will you choose?

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