Category: ReviewsHits: 17287
Dragon Age Legends (DAL) is a free-to-play Facebook / Google+ game being developed by BioWare San Francisco (formerly known as EA2D). It's a tactical strategy game with role-playing elements, and it's similar in many ways to games like Disciples, King's Bounty, and Heroes of Might and Magic (or Might and Magic Heroes, take your pick), where you combine turn-based combat with castle management and a hero character that you develop.
DAL made its debut on Facebook last November (and Google+ in August), and while it didn't start out with a lot of content, it has continued to expand and improve since that time, and it's now in pretty good shape. I started playing DAL in March (when I learned that I could unlock some items in Dragon Age II by playing it for a few levels), and even though I don't always have a lot of free time, I've stayed with it and enjoyed it.
Since DAL is a Facebook / Google+ game, you're only allowed to control one character per account, and that character can be a mage, a rogue, or a warrior. Those are the same three classes as in the other Dragon Age games, but after that everything else about character development is different. For example, instead of using the six attributes from the Dragon Age games, DAL uses attack (how much damage you do), defense (how well you defend), stamina (how much health you have), agility (how often you dodge and get a turn in combat), and luck (how often you hit and score a critical hit).
The skills available to the classes are also different. DAL is completely a combat game, so there aren't any skills for springing traps or influencing people. Instead, each class gets about 30 skills to help them damage or disable their opponents. These skills are roughly divided so that each class can specialize in multiple ways. For example, warriors can focus on weapon-and-shield combat versus two-handed weapon combat, and thrown weapon combat versus melee weapon combat.
Each time your character gains a level in the game, you get a point to add to an attribute and a point to add to a skill. Currently, skills have a maximum rank of 10 and characters can reach level 50, so even if you play to the level cap you can't learn everything, which is good. If you decide that you don't like your build then you can re-spec your character for some gold, but if you don't like your class then you have to start over to change it.
I've been playing a bow rogue in DAL. Bow rogues are one of the weaker classes in the game (BioWare still has some work to do to balance out the classes), but they get some fun skills including Throw Voice (enemies attack the targeted enemy), Rapid Shot (the rogue gets an extra attack), Pinning Shot (the targeted enemy is disabled), and Mass Volley (all enemies are attacked for three rounds after a delay). Most skills require mana, which can only be supplanted by using potions (or via the Steal Mana skill of mages).
Exploring and Questing
Gameplay in DAL comes in four flavors: questing and map exploration, castle management, guild versus guild combat, and raids. I'll start with questing and map exploration, since that is the largest part of the game.
DAL's world is made up of several maps (including Kirkwall and Orzammar), each of which is filled with a series of connected nodes. Nodes usually generate battles, but sometimes they also give you a prize, including one crown node per map (crowns are the special DAL currency that you mostly have to spend real money on to receive). If you haven't visited a node yet, then it costs you energy to move to it, with a higher energy cost meaning a tougher fight or a better prize. Energy replenishes over time.
When you visit a battle node, you're prompted to select two of your companions (which can be default NPCs or any of your friends who also play the game) and place them on the battlefield. Battle placement is straightforward. Each side gets two columns of three rows each, where your melee characters can only attack the column closest to them, and ranged characters can attack anybody. Movement after combat starts is not allowed. This is roughly the same system as in Disciples II.
Once you've placed your characters, combat then proceeds in rounds, and the upcoming order of characters is clearly shown in the interface. During each round, a character can use a skill or a regular attack, and also use a bomb or a potion. Potions mostly just heal or restore mana, but bombs can be more versatile. For example, there are Frost Bombs that disable enemies and Acid Bombs that lower the defense of all enemies. Most battles I fight start with an Acid Bomb.
In a nod to Dragon Age II, battles include waves of enemies. As soon as you've completed one wave, you move on to the next, with the character who finished the current wave getting to strike first in the new wave. That means your three characters often have to fight 20-30 enemies per battle, and it means you have to be careful, because any companions who get knocked unconscious are lost for the remainder of the battle, and if your character gets knocked unconscious, then you automatically lose the battle (unless you have smelling salts, and then you can restore your character to full health).
Each time you defeat an enemy, you gain experience points. If you defeat all of the enemies in a battle, then you also gain a random piece of equipment, which might or might not be useful to your character. If it isn't, then you can sell it for gold or gift it to one of your friends. Any friend companions with you at the end of a battle also earn a small, fixed amount of gold, which they can pick up by visiting your castle (or by building a treasury in their castle).
As you explore maps and fight battles, you automatically trigger quests. These quests are not especially noteworthy (I'm trying to remember the specifics of even one of them, and I'm drawing a blank), but they give you an extra reward (usually experience points and gold, but sometimes a special item or crowns) for completing them. There are also achievements you can complete for minor rewards.
To help you in your travels, you're given a castle when you create your character. This is where you spend the gold that you earn in the game, and you can build things like crafting labs (to produce potions and bombs), worker rooms (to hire workers for your labs), taverns (to improve the happiness of your workers), furnaces (to improve the efficiency of your labs), and more. Castle rooms tend to be expensive, so you won't build up your castle right away, but crafting costs are surprisingly low, so once you have your castle set up, you shouldn't have any trouble supporting your character for the battles to come.
Guild versus Guild Combat
To invite a companion to help you in a battle, that companion must be in your guild. Guilds start out with a maximum of 20 companions but they can grow to 30 or more companions through the use of great halls, which you can build in your castle. When you start playing the game, you're given a handful of default NPC companions (including Hawke if you own Dragon Age II) who level up when you do, and you can also add in friends of any level.
To make DAL a little more competitive, BioWare added in guild versus guild combat, where you select three of your companions, but then instead of facing waves of regular enemies, you select one of your friends and face people from their guild. Since your friends' characters are generally way more powerful than regular enemies (especially if they've spent money on crown gear), these battles can be tough.
Unfortunately, you don't get much in the way of a reward for defeating guilds -- just gold and a random item, but less than you'd receive from a regular battle -- and since your friends aren't actually there to defend themselves, you also don't get the sense of satisfaction that makes player-versus-player combat so popular in MMOs. This is a part of the game that needs some work. I'd rather see some sort of castle defense mode here, or a true player-versus-player mode.
Raids in DAL serve the same purpose they do in MMOs. They give you a place for tougher battles and better loot, and they require you to have a competent guild. In particular, you have to defeat "camps" of enemies, plus an end boss, all within a limited amount of time (under two hours for the best rewards). These encounters require you to fight at least 21 battles, which means you need to have lots of energy potions available (you can only receive energy potions as gifts from your friends, or more rarely by playing a daily scratcher game for random prizes) and you need lots of companions to assist you in the battles (since companions require rest for an hour or more after they've been used).
Right now there are two raids in the game, one for minimum level 10 and one for minimum level 40 (BioWare has also announced a level 50 raid, and there's space for what looks to be a cooperative raid that you can play with your friends). The raids are much tougher than the other battles in the game, and they require some careful planning and thought to get through -- all of which is nice and somewhat surprising from a Facebook game.
The only downside to raids is that while most of DAL is pretty friendly when it comes to friends -- unlike other Facebook games, it doesn't require you to have hundreds of friends sending you gifts every day to be successful -- raids are more restrictive. You need to have some time to devote to them, you need friends to send you energy potions to you can visit the raid camps quickly, and you need competent companions so you can survive the battles (the NPC companions are a little bit iffy).
Like most free-to-play Facebook games, DAL faces a couple of issues, namely how to make the game fun enough to play for those people who don't spend money on it, while simultaneously preventing it from being too easy for those people who do spend money. So far I think BioWare has walked the tightrope pretty well, and I've enjoyed the time I've spent with DAL. Just be aware that the game is all about fighting battles, and there is very little in the way of dialogue or story. This isn't a typical BioWare game, although BioWare seems to be working their way towards this direction.
Finally, unlike the other Facebook game I'm currently playing (World Series Superstars, which I wouldn't recommend), BioWare has shown a willingness to listen to players and make adjustments based on their feedback. BioWare has also been consistent about updating the game each week, to the point where if you start now you'll probably have enough new quests and content to see to last you for the next six months. So DAL seems to be in good hands, and I'm optimistic that BioWare will keep it going in the right direction.