Aug 11, 2011

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Dragoneer’s Aria Review

Dragoneer’s Aria Review

*Originally published October 29, 2009.  Republished here for your convenience.

In Dragoneer’s Aria, you play as Valen (who is ultimately joined by three others), a new Dragoon (think of it as a knight class that defends dragons).  However, at your initiation ceremony, everything goes wrong: the evil black dragon Nidhogg has reawoken and is causing chaos.  It is up to you and your friends to seek out the elemental dragons and protect them from evil to ultimately destroy Nidhogg himself.

DA does have some interesting unique elements, some of which could definitely be refined in future games, and that definitely deserve mentioning to keep those from thinking this game has nothing distinguishing to offer.  In fact, were it not for some of these aspects of the game, I would perhaps say it deserved the terrible scores it has received.

Although it isn’t the most unique RPG element, I personally really enjoyed the crafting aspect of the game: it really made it fun to try to find new ingredients and create new weapons.  While not without its flaws, without crafting, the game would definitely fall farther on the side of bland than it does otherwise.  Basically, the system works this way: you either find or buy recipes, which you can then use to make various items.  More complicated recipes may actually require you to craft several other items first (from other recipes) in order to create all the ingredients you need.  For example, a higher level sword may require you to use a low-level one via a recipe to create a different low-level sword, that must be combined with other ingredients to make your new, more powerful weapon.

It’s actually surprisingly deep and fun, and an element that really added to my overall enjoyment of the game. The only problem with the system is that you must buy recipes blindly (you don’t know what ingredients you’ll need until after you buy it), and it can be difficult to near impossible to acquire some of the ingredients, as many can only be obtained as enemy drops through chance.  While this can be part of the fun in some ways, as it leads to mystery and adventure and the “thrill of the hunt,” it will likely drive completionists insane, as you fight enemy after enemy and never get the “attack rune” you need to create a particular weapon, for example. It’s also a little disappointing that you can’t buy a recipe for all the items you want (i.e., some of those darn hard-to-find ingredients); however, some gamers may consider this adding to the challenge of the game.

Another unique element is the magic system, which has two aspects.  Throughout the game, you will obtain a dragon orb from each dragon that will grant you two magical elemental attacks (a single-enemy attack and a multi-enemy attack).  Each character can only equip one orb at a time, and the more you use a skill, the more powerful it will become.  The other magic spells come from jewels called lusces, which cannot be purchased, but which you will find in treasure chests and as enemy drops.  Each lusce will grant a single power, for example, an elemental attack, healing, or reviving a fallen ally.  Like the dragon orbs, the more you use the lusce, the more it will luminesce (stronger it will become).  For instance, your heal lusce will level up, so that you can heal at level 1 (1000 HP) or level 3 (1500 HP), etc., depending on how much energy you have and how much HP your character needs.  The twist with the lusces, however, is you can only equip them if you have open slots in your jewelry.

Yes, another interesting aspect of DA is rather than traditional armor, your characters can each equip a necklace, bracelet, and ring.  Various accessories will have different properties, but they will also range in the number of slots available to place lusces.  You will soon find you have far more lusces than you can possibly equip, meaning the system introduces an interesting strategic element as you juggle not only which jewelry to use (sometimes you might prefer a lower-level item with more slots over a higher one with less) and also which of the many lusces to bring into battle.

Your characters will also each have 1 additional skill, called their field skill, which can be used while roaming around the open world.  The most useful one is the heal skill, which will gradually heal your party until you run out of energy or encounter an enemy.