Review: Dragon’s Breath

Dragon’s Breath

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On this occasion I’ve chosen Automation 300. This intro isn’t hugely exciting, a picture of some boozy pirates, some terrible chip music, a scroller. Very low-effort.

So, we get the logo, then some scrolly text with a nice wibbly reflection at the bottom while some awful chip music warbles on.

Before I go any further it seems wise to discuss what the game is. So it’s not your usual hack and slash or shooter or whatever else. Dragon’s Breath is a strategy game. Your objective is to find 3 pieces of a McGuffin for reasons I really won’t bore you with (the story is dull as dishwater). To do this, you need to get one of your dragons guarding each of the 3 pieces in different towns and villages on the map.

This means that you need dragons. In this case you need to hatch them from eggs, and you need to make them as strong as you can. You do this by cooking them slower on a lower heat. Cooking dragon eggs costs money, which you collect in taxes from towns and villages under your rule. You will need to capture towns with your dragons and search those towns for the McGuffin – capturing towns also generates cash. There’s a spell book with which one can cast spells on the eggs, the hatched dragons, my towns, and the enemy.

So, to the game. I get to pick one of three characters, I’ll be lazy and pick the bloke on the left. I’m not sure it makes much difference but Greta Thunberg on the right is scary. Interestingly it looks as though there’s some palette-splitting going on here as moving the mouse below a certain point changes its colour to red.

So I arrive at a map. This is the world. I click on my character’s portrait and begin.

This is where the magic happens. The icon row at the bottom is important. There’s a picture of me, but that doesn’t do anything just yet. Next a return to the map screen, then an icon to check my dragon collection, with only one dragon currently available.

Mousing over different bits of the dragon reveals different statistics. It’s pretty of course but I’d prefer a straightforward table. This dragon is a bit short on eyesight, wisdom and strength, but at least he’s healthy. Nothing a good spell can’t fix.

Next up is the eggs screen. Continuing a theme of gorgeous pixel artwork wasted on a poor UI it’s not immediately clear why there are different-coloured eggs, nor does the manual explain anything useful. I eventually figure out click an egg then click the empty space in the middle to get the egg ready. I click and drag the valve on the right to what I think is minimum heat as that leads to stronger dragons (though for the life of me I can’t remember where I read that). I do the same for all 4 eggs so I have a set of fearsome dragons ready to cause chaos.

Clicking from the egg screen to the spell screen via the crystal ball icon gets me here. I’d like stronger dragons. This will require that I decypher the spell book. Ingredients are on the shelves and mousing over them reveals their contents. There are 3 tools, from left to right: Cutting, grinding, mixing and adding unaltered. There’s also a bunsen burner (which will be familiar to anyone who hated chemistry lessons at school). There’s a condenser on the right. You can adjust the flame and the condenser using knobs nearby. Between that and the different ingredient types, it seems that spells will have quite a few possible combinations.

Reading the shelf and cross-referencing with the book, it seems I have Acrus (a power modifier), Churl (has power over the mind), Tius (directs spells at humans and villages), Rasqon (directs spells at dragons), Ceeocor (directs spells at eggs), Magoem (also directs spells at eggs but be careful of side-effects), Igele (negative mind/sense), Ulin (see Tius), Haloros (mind control), Mionacal (not clear what it does), Arolig (improves flight at a cost to strength) and Oreganse (growth).

I want to get a better egg so I’ll use Ceeocor as director, Ulin to improve eyesight and mind at a cost to power and growth, and Oreganse to try to counter the negative effects. This is definitely a game where you’ll want your notebook to scribble out spells to re-use them. The Ceeocor must be mixed with no bunsen or condenser, Ulin will be added with the condenser and Oreganse will be ground and burned. That took a while… And there’s no feedback on whether or not it had any effect.

Looking at the books is revealing. I have some money, not enough frankly, and there’s a trader waiting for me.

Clicking the door in the main menu brings me a trader selling spell ingredients, but at this point funds are tight and I’m not sure the ingredients actually do much.

Back in the book I can check out gossip. Not sure how much help that is – maybe the full game had a proper paper map or something.

A quick look at the map and I find a village I might like to check out. Let’s send my dragon there.

More zeal improves your chance of capturing the square but at a cost to your dragon’s health. I’ll use the minimum zeal. I need to wait a game month to see if it was successful.

It turns out I only chose raid rather than capture. Let’s try that again.

So I’ve captured a village, fantastic. I’m going to hike the tax. I have a dragon so they can bite my shiny metal ass. Gotta wait for my 4 eggs to hatch before I can do anymore work.

Looks like my finances are dire. More tax needed.

The enemy is camped in my back yard. I am NOT happy. Still waiting for dragons. The books are finally balanced and a healthy profit coming in so I can hopefully get somewhere once my dragons are ready.

I’ve lost my village! Nooooo! So.. no village, no tax money and currently no dragons. This isn’t going well.

My dragon hatches, but then my dragon in the village where he was overthrown gets killed by the enemy’s dragon.. what? Even worse, that animation wasn’t MY dragon hatching, it was someone else’s. For fuck’s sake.

And I’m fucked.

Someone got their dragon killed.

In the end though, I have no money, no villages and no dragons. I’m fucked.

So, the game.. is it any good? Well it’s no Midwinter. It’s not bad, and things like the spell system make it seem very deep, but it’s really quite shallow in that really you’re just trying to build units to attack and balance a budget. The magic, in truth, is mostly hampered by an arcane interface and an awful manual – it would possibly feel less deep with a proper interface (even something as simple as previewing the effect of each action before committing to it) but it would be a lot more manageable for my modern sensibilities. As it is, it feels like the magic is padding a game that isn’t as deep as it likes to think it is.

Graphics are mostly static, and they’re pretty, but the shots shown in magazines were deceptive and conjured something in my 10-year-old imagination that the game couldn’t deliver. Sound consists of awful chip music.

In the end, there are better games doing similar things – I’d much rather play Powermonger or Mega Lo Mania if I want to fight battles.

Resources
Manual: http://www.replacementdocs.com/download.php?view.3073
Spells: http://www.replacementdocs.com/download.php?view.3075

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