PC Reviews

Dragonfable Review: An Adventure Unfolds

With a looming deadline for Flash’s demise, you would think that all Flash games will fall by the wayside soon, but one game continues to flourish in these trying times. A turn-based Flash RPG published by Artix Entertainment, Dragonfable delivers both an engaging story and satisfying turn-based combat. The game does have a rather bumpy start, and much time needs to be invested to fully appreciate the combat system, but on the whole, the experience is well worth it. 

To begin the game, you create a free account and make a character, customizing their appearance and choosing between three base classes: warrior, mage, and rogue.

The main story itself is free to play, with care taken to ensure that free accounts can complete all fights in the story. A one-time upgrade is available for those who wish to fully explore the turn-based combat. In-game currency can also be purchased, which is mainly used to skip some grinds and purchase some quality-of-life improvements. 

There are currently three main story arcs or ‘Books’ as labeled in the game, and you can choose to begin from either the first or third, although the backstory and motivation of some characters may be unclear if you choose the latter. Much of the story is told through cutscenes and text, providing a relaxing experience for those short on time or energy. 

 

In Book 1, you begin by obtaining and hatching your own baby dragon, before plunging into a journey to collect the eight elemental orbs before the evil Sepulchure can. Littered with simple humor, this arc has quite a light-hearted and jovial atmosphere. 

Awkward writing, however, often inserts this humor into otherwise serious situations, dramatically reducing tension at some key plot points.

The world, on the other hand, is generally quite cohesive, and exploration occurs fairly naturally. Simple wandering will often lead to plot progression, lowering the need for a rigidly structured story. 

With the defeat of Sepulchure, a fiery new villain, Wargoth, arises, terrorizing the planet. So begins Book 2. You must stop his murderous rampage across the world. This is overall a rather short, focused arc that sets up a good foundation for the events of Book 3, set five years into the future. 

In this book, a new organization, the Rose, has arisen and is dead-set on stamping out all traces of magic. Their leader, Jaania, blames magic as the root of both previous conflicts, believing it to be the key factor that allowed both Sepulchure and Wargoth to devastate the world. 

Although she does have noble intentions at heart, her organization often puts innocent lives at risk. Aligned against the Rose, your character resolves to put an end to their heavy-handed ways. 

It might have a bumpy start, but the story continuously develops 

From here on, the plot becomes more nuanced, doing away with clearly marked ‘good’ and ‘bad’ guys. Instead, the frequent clashes between you and the Rose, along with the rise of other villains, provide many opportunities for both sides of the conflict to be heard. 

Most characters, including your own, develop a fuller, more rounded personality. Major improvements in writing also tighten the overall plot, and lead to some genuinely engaging and emotional moments. 

Unfortunately, the world in this arc is somewhat disconnected, without the same availability of exploration as in the first arc. 

Gameplay consists almost entirely of turn-based combat. In fights, you have access to up to 14 unique abilities to defeat your foes. Your base class gains access to new abilities every few levels, up to level 18.

Other classes are usually trained by handing collectibles to a person. Combat effectiveness is mainly determined by your class and equipment.

 

For free players, combat is pretty basic, with only your base class fully unlocked. Other unlockable classes, such as Paladin, Necromancer and Deathknight, have half their skills unavailable to free players. They function well enough, and some are better than your base class even with this limitation, but ultimately the combat system is fairly limited. Additionally, many items cannot be equipped by free players. 

The one-time upgrade allows for full use of all unlockable classes, as well as many good items. This is mostly relevant for an end-game optional challenge arena called the Inn at the Edge of Time, as all story fights are designed to be simple enough for free players to beat. 

While theoretically accessible from the very beginning, all these challenges are recommended to be completed with good gear and high levels, which require some boring, repetitive grinds. 

Once obtained, however, the turn-based combat system can really shine. All challenges incorporate unique mechanics that require careful thought and planning to overcome. 

Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses, encouraging players to experiment with different combinations of classes and equipment for different fights. Some challenges can be stalled out by a tanky class and some defensive gear, where you aim to outlast the enemy. Other challenges, where enemies start weak but grow strong rapidly, would be better suited for bursty, high-damage classes and offensive gear. 

While over a decade old, the game is still updated frequently. The developers continue to fix bugs, introduce quality of life improvements, and remaster old content. Both the community and the developers share a close-knit connection, with ideas and criticism frequently acknowledged and implemented. New quests, challenges, and story updates are rolled out on a weekly basis and often provide an enjoyable experience. 

Finally, to address the issue of Flash. While Flash will not be supported on most browsers like Chrome or Firefox by the end of 2020, the game can still be played on a dedicated Artix launcher, downloadable through the main website Dragonfable is set on. On this launcher, Flash will continue to be usable for Artix games like Dragonfable for the foreseeable future. 

Overall, the game does have a few flaws, but it still provides an entertaining adventure. While the story has a somewhat bumpy start, it has been refined to provide an engaging, gripping narrative.

The turn-based combat is very satisfying and encourages a high amount of strategic thinking, although the grinding for some end-game gear is a bit much. There is a huge amount of content available for free, and the one-time upgrade is definitely worth it if you want to fully explore gameplay. With highly dedicated developers constantly offering improvements, the game’s future definitely looks promising. 

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