Every so often, I’ll go to the search function on the Steam store and type in the word ‘dragon’ to see what comes up. Normally it’s the same old same old. Dragon’s Dogma. Skyrim. Dragon Age. Dragonball games. Far Cry 3 – Blood Dragon. Then there’s the stuff which is most likely good, but I don’t want to play. That Dragon, Cancer is probably absolutely amazing, but I’m trying to escape reality, not be reminded of it.
Most games with the search term are either JRPGs, RPG games of some sort, or side-scrolling games. Assuming that you actually get to be a dragon, most of the time you’re a generic warrior going into a world of dragons and shit and just killing everything. Occasionally you’ll be able to ride a dragon. By the time you find Grim Dragons on the list of games, you’ll have scrolled past all sorts of games that just happen to have dragons in them, DLCs that mention dragons and, for some reason, GTA V. Probably because it’s an Early Access game.
This time, I’m being cautious. Grim Dragons has a free demo. It’s the work of a single person, so development will be slow. But possibly faster than most other dragon games. So I downloaded the free demo and decided to try that.
The way Grim Dragons works is rather nice. It’s built in Unity. The landscape, trees, terrain, everything like that, they’re all 3d. Rather standard looking terrain. The characters are all 2D sprites. Your character is a 2D sprite. A 2D character in a 3D world. It’s a super interesting way of doing things, and probably means the developer can update the game far more quickly. Each character only has a few frames of animation, much shorter walk cycles and a very cartoony look. The landscape kinda feels out of place but could easily be made to fit by giving everything the same outlines the sprites do. The animations are really simple though, just a handful of sprites. The flying animation is just two images.
Your abilities are basic as well. You can breathe fire, claw enemies and eat them to regain health. You can walk around and jump. You can also fly. Flight is weird. By default you have two heights to fly at, hovering above the ground or going slightly higher by pressing jump. But you can also wall-jump to go higher, even when flying. Which means you can get to the top of the map with ease.
There’s a story as well. It’s actually exactly the sort of story I’d expect from a play-as-a-dragon game. There are these weird pink ugly things making noise and disturbing the peace and you’re an annoyed dragon. All that noise has woken you up, you’re in a bad mood and you’re hungry. You see these weird pink things, some that just run around, some that hit you with silver claws (swords) and some that fire annoying spiky things (clearly archers). And you kill them all, because they’re invading your territory and they’d probably do the same.
There’s no real cut scenes or anything. A popup box with your character’s mood appears on the side of the screen as the dragon’s voice plays, telling you that there’s stuff going on. I assume later on, when there’s discussion with other characters, other boxes will appear for them. Subtitles are on all the time, but the dragon’s voice is nice and clear and I love the voice they’ve given him. Just a really simple, vaguely annoyed voice. None of this overly important, powerful stuff, just an average dragon, doing dragon stuff.
The worst problem for me currently is the controls. Aiming to hit enemies is tedious due to the limited directions of your sprites. You can spend a whole minute trying to line up with a single enemy so you can claw and eat them. Sadly the fire breath is even worse and seems to have almost no range. It’s very hard to use effectively. Combined with a slightly awkward camera, you might get mowed down by archers if you’re not careful.
Unfortunately, there’s not much content to the game right now. A voice-acted chapter one which introduces you to the world, and a roaming around area. The first chapter guides you through all your abilities then leaves you alone to kill things, with three vague goals. Burn all the human houses, kill all the humans, kill the slightly stronger human. Really, these are perfectly normal goals and probably what I would do anyway.
But for now, there’s not quite enough content to warrant me buying the full game. Especially if it’s basically the same as the demo. But if they DO produce more content, I’ll definitely be buying this. And buying copies for friends, even if it has no coop or anything.