It’s not a genre I get into often but tactical, turn-based RPGs can certainly engage me. With some obvious homages to Heroes of Might and Magic, Crazy Goat Games has decided to take a stab at the genre with The Dragoness: Command of the Flame. Whilst the influences heavily dictate direction, my bigger issues are with pacing and repetition.
The story revolves around two warring dragon clans. The titular Dragoness is trying to bring peace to the land but she requires the help of your nameless Commander to do so. The prologue largely sets the conflict up with some static pictures and visual novel-esque talking portraits. I don’t find it especially compelling but the premise does at least explain what’s at stake. There’s not a lot of time for spectacle as the remainder of the plot is driven by text. For a conflict that could, theoretically look bombastic, it’s all delivered a little flat.
One thing the prologue does well is ease players into the systems. Gameplay is sliced into three parts. Firstly, you have an overworld the Commander can traverse. Here you can pick up resources, fight any wandering beasts and gain experience. Levelling up gives you the opportunity to pick a spell which can then be used in battle, providing you have the mana pool to cast it.
Movement is limited by movement points but each turn ends with you choosing one of three perks. The resources you gather can be used to purchase new recruits for your army and I would often clean the map out for these. Battles are plentiful and typically take place over a flat grid. Some of these might have obstacles within them but these do not double as cover.
I had plenty of time to consider movement and positioning but I did feel battles always involved trading damage. As such, protecting the more flimsy units can become a priority. There’s a variety on offer but I did find you faced a more diverse opposition compared to your more standard army. They take up some standard archetypes with ranged Minotaur’s typically kept at a distance. Tankier recruits carry more health and armour but take longer to position for melee hits. The composition of these fights kept me on my toes, although I could sleep walk through some of the simpler scraps.
Heroes sit on the sidelines. Whilst you’re mostly concerned with unit movement and attacks, heroes come with their own abilities that can be applied to buff your ranks. Enemies and friends alike have a health and an armour pool. The latter needing to depleted before hitting the former. I don’t think depleting armour comes with a damage boost but I could be mistaken. It’s hard to keep track of when range can play a factor in the damage you do.
There’s a lot of systems at play and positioning becomes key. With a mix of ranged and melee fighters, I’ve certainly had to consider if I was blocking a Minotaur’s arrow volley. It would’ve been nice to see more complex boards with elevation changes. As it is, fallen trees and debris act as obstacles.
The roguelite aspect hits once a mission is completed. Your hero’s level progress and spellbook is reset. Any units you finish the mission with ultimately go their separate ways. You have a camp in the main hub where you can hire a couple of units but there’s a lack of permanence which did stifle my enjoyment. Units do have upgrades they hold on to but these require gems to purchase. Whilst this does lead me to feel some units were disposable, I still felt losing them in battle could have big consequences. Especially if I had just blown a wad of iron to buy them.
Visually, The Dragoness: Command of the Flame is not that impressive. Maps tend to stick to the same familiar biomes. Whilst traversing into later areas does freshen it up, none of it really took my breath away. It’s functional at best. Much like the story, things are kept subdued. There’s a plain, flat look to arenas and repeat layouts appear quite often. The lack of variety had me losing interest fairly quickly and the repetitive nature of the game just exacerbated those feelings.
At times, The Dragoness: Command of the Flame can be an intriguing tactical RPG. Battles can be hard-fought although the frequency of these battles can really bring the pace down. Whilst they can be speeded up, there’s a lack of flourish when it comes to presentation. Staring at the same board wore my interest down and the repetitive nature of battling and traversing the overworld made playing this an occasional chore. There’s plenty of variety amongst units but the generic loop and length of the missions results in a game I’d prefer to tackle in much smaller doses.
+ Battles can be strategic and enjoyable.
+ Enemy variety is strong and diverse.
+ Saves frequently, allowing for mistakes to be rolled back.
- Fairly bland presentation.
- Battle arenas are barren and dull.
- Story is very slim and told flatly.