Dragoneer’s Aria Tends to Drag-On and Drag-on
Dragoneer’s Aria is, at best, an average RPG. It does little to stray from the typical RPG formula. It’s not bad, but it’s not good. As a paint-by-numbers RPG, you will be all too familiar with the premise, the characters, and the gameplay. Not to mention the ponderous battle system. Playing Dragoneer’s Aria is like driving a moped instead of a motorcycle. It will eventually get you to where you’re going, but it’s slow, less adventurous, and even a little bit embarrassing.
There is usually one unique aspect about a decent game that can be enjoyed and exploited by gamers who have an interest in such an area. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything unique about Dragoneer’s Aria, except for the storyline. But the story is little more than an excuse for the mundane quest. It’s nothing that we haven’t experienced before; it’s just a slightly different premise. As the title suggest, Dragoneer’s Aria features dragons. No surprise there. But in this instance, the dragons in question are friendly – at least the ones that we are attempting to protect.
Valen is the young, coming-of-age hero of the story. He is in the process of becoming a dragoneer, one who is entrusted to protect the six dragons that were left after a fierce battle with the Black Dragon. Upon Valen’s graduation, the Black Dragon appears once again to threaten the peace as well as the remaining half-dozen dragons. Valen embarks on a quest with the requisite misfits that comprise your average RPG party. But due to the lackluster voiceovers, dialogue, and one-dimensional character development, this is anything but a party.
Party members consist of a couple of chicks with attitude and an angry, loner swordsmen. These characters need little babysitting since their skills and attributes level-up automatically. All you have to do is go through the motions and your party members will take care of themselves. Experience points are earned for successful combat. You can’t do a lot with these points, at least not as much as in some RPGs. Experience points are primarily used for health. You will find items such as potions that you can use as power-ups. These items can also be sold in the town in exchange for money which you can use to purchase recipes to craft other items into useable hybrids. This feature is underused throughout the game since you can’t always find new formulas. You’ll end up lugging around a lot of inventory in hopes of begin able to craft things with them later.
Attributes and skills are divided into three categories: Field, Battle, and Dragon. These skills include special moves, healing, increased power, and the addition of elementals with weapon attacks. You’ll need mana points to activate these special forces. You can’t use experience points. Most basic moves require one mana point, but the more sophisticated attacks will require more mana points. You will need to collect a hundred energy points to accrue each mana point. These energy points are accumulated during battles, and are awarded for successful attacks, blocks, weapons use, and for the general use of strategy.
Only 10 mana can be saved and brought into battle at one time. If the enemy is particularly strong, that can be precious little to kill them off. In fact, this restriction can get you and your party killed. Even if you manage to escape a battle, the monsters can hunt you down later. Although you can see how powerful the monsters are when you first encounter them, you can’t tell what they are so you won’t know what abilities to use. It’s virtually impossible to avoid battles, and you can’t take them by surprise, even though they have no trouble doing that to you.
You can replenish your mana in battle, but that leads to a lot of blocking and general avoidance which drags the battles out far too long. A mana boost attribute will allow two characters to increase their energy points from 50 to 300 with a special attack. As long as the other characters keep the energy meter high, you’ll be able to survive. But you shouldn’t have to be forced to using one main strategy for all the difficult battles. There should not be a limit on the mana so that we can just go in and kick some butt, especially if we’ve earned it. That would speed things up and make it a more interesting game.
In the Field category of skills, you’ll appreciate the ability to speed things up by being able to run across the map. I can’t even imagine how boring this game would be without this feature. The only map is the one in your party menu, and it’s about as generic as can be. All of the menus look drab and generic. Even the game graphics don’t have much in the way of excitement. The colors are subdued, and the monsters and environments take on the appearance of origami (folded paper) – except that origami actually has the appearance of three dimensions. You’ll encounter the same monsters in different skins, sometimes nothing more than just a different shade of green. The anime-inspired characters don’t look terrible, but they could be from any RPG released in the past decade. Elves, magicians, dwarfs, spirits, dragons, and the typical scantily clad chick with a personality disorder are all on tap. The voiceacting is weak, but I wouldn’t expect anything more. Musically the game holds up better. There is a variety of themes from single instruments to fully orchestrated themes. But I don’t buy an RPG for the soundtrack. And neither should you.
They say the show’s not over until the fat lady sings, but Dragoneer’s Aria should be the first song in the plump gal’s repertoire. It’s over before it begins.