Mobile games is a section of video games that tends to get a lot of flak. They can be low on gameplay and high on microtransactions. It can be hard to find one that actually feels worth playing. I personally used to not play that many of them because I could just play a game on a console or my PC. Nowadays though, I find myself having to be gone from the house a lot more so I can’t really bring all of that with me so I’ve had to branch out to find some more mobile means of entertainment. One of those such forms of entertainment is Dragalia Lost and I’m not upset at having found it.
Dragalia Lost is an action role-playing game developed by Cygames, the people behind GranBlue Fantasy, as well as others, and published by Nintendo. I first saw this game being announced on Nintendo’s YouTube channel and it really interested me. I’m a decently big fan of Fire Emblem and this game really seemed similar at the time, but with gameplay that reminded me of a mix of Monster Hunter and Dynasty Warriors. Safe to say, I was sold. In truth, the gameplay is a bit more like your typical action RPG with you completing these different dungeons with weaker enemies with a boss enemy at the end, though most of the endgame content is just a straight up boss fight with none of the dungeon.
While the gameplay is good, the biggest draw for me with this game is its story. Now, if you’ve played a lot of RPGs, more specifically RPGs from Japan, there is probably not many surprises for you in the main story of the game, but I’ve found it engaging to go through it nonetheless. In addition to the main story, every adventurer or dragon you get comes with a story that you can unlock that expands on their background or a different part of the world you might not know about otherwise. While it is nice to get new units in the game for the obvious impact of getting new options for how to approach the gameplay content, I find myself looking forward to it most because that means I get another engaging story to experience.
Before I got any further, I feel like I have to mention that while this game is free to play, it is a gacha-styled game. In a gacha, the main way they make money is by having you summon for new character, in this case adventurers and dragons, with a random chance of what you actually get to encourage you to buy some extra currency with your actual money to try and summon what you want. Personally, I wouldn’t say this game is as bad as some other games in the genre with the amount of free currency they give you to be able to summon with, but depending on the outcomes of your summons, you might have a different opinion.
Your game starts off in the kingdom of Alberia with Euden (the character you play as whose name will change to match your username in the game), seventh heir to the throne, and his twin sister Zethia, who is basically the Pope, getting a mission from the King, your dad, to go to a ruin and retrieve an artifact. As you progress through these tutorial levels, you get introduced to most of the main cast of the game as well as the basic mechanics. At the end, you get introduced to the Other who is the main antagonist of the story. You also get access to the dragon pact which allows you to transform into a dragon you have made a pact with. This is an ability unique to the royal family of Alberia, but since you are the main character, you are even more special and can pass on this ability to your allies and allow them to transform into any dragon you have formed a pact with. As you get further throughout the story, many twists and turns happen and you eventually run into the other royal heirs who have all, for one reason or another, sided with the Other. At the point of writing this, the story is just now getting into why your siblings have sided with the Other, but it is still ongoing with a new story chapter set to be released every other month.
In addition to the main story, there are always new events being released with their own stories. Some are self-contained while others have been getting sequels that expand on the story elements that came before. Most events don’t really have anything to do with the main story, but they do help to expand the world and introduce new elements that tend to appear again. My personal favorite event we got was when they introduced some Lovecraftian elements with some of his creations appearing as dragons as well as a rather dark mystery story. Not all events feature such a heavy story. There are quite a few of them that just revolve around having parties.
While many elements of the story might not be that new for anybody that has played a few JRPGs, I have enjoyed some of the changes they have tried to make to the staples of many fantasy writings. In the world of Dragalia Lost, humans are not the only race. The other races do feel like some of the typical fantasy races though. For instance, there are no elves, but the Sylvans, a humanoid race with rabbit ears and tails that live in the woods and are gifted bowsmen, fill the same type of role. Interestingly though, the game does take its time to introduce these other races with there only being two playable races: the Sylvans and the Qilin. The Rokkans, the fourth race introduced, have zero available adventurers. While this feels a tad odd, it is nice to not be overwhelmed with tons of different races. (At the time of writing this, a living vegetable[?] has been added to the game.)
One other thing I feel that is very important to mention is that the game does not shy away from religion. The major religion featured prominently is the Church of Ilia. For all intents and purposes, it is the Catholic Church circa the crusades, but a bit genderbent. You got your Auspex (Pope), priestesses, paladyns, inquisitors, and assassins. You even get a holiday that comes every December celebrating the birth of Ilia, the founder of the church, with gifts being given by the magical Saint Starfall. The Church of Ilia works with the Kingdom of Alberia to rule over the land and sets up churches in the different towns and villages to provide worship services as well as food for the poor and housing to the orphans. Honestly, for being a bit of a reskin of the Catholic Church, there is a lot of work to build upon that groundwork. Unlike a lot of the jRPGs I have seen though, this church isn’t presented as evil. You run into some people in the church who are bad, but many of the adventurers you can get are from the church and are really good people, and that extends out to the assassin and inquisitor. My biggest issue is that all we know about Ilia’s position in the religion, at least at this point in the main story, is that she brokered a peace deal with the dragons to end a war. That’s it. By that logic, many a politician could also found a religion, but I hope that is just us not knowing enough of the story at this point.
The gameplay of Dragalia Lost is fairly simple, and, from I’ve been told, is possible to be mastered, though I’ve yet to “git gud” enough to be able to do so. The controls are rather simple: move your finger to move, tap to attack, tap and hold to charge a force strike, and swipe to dodge roll. It’s fairly simple though I have found some trouble getting force strikes to trigger and getting my character to move only a little bit. Timing is very important since most enemy attacks display a zone when they will hit and a lot of them able to be dodged with a well-timed roll (or so I’ve been told) or you can use a skill to be able to use the invincibility frames from it to avoid taking the damage. Interestingly though, some skills have your character leap and that leap can allow you to dodge attacks that other skills won’t let you. Probably my favorite part of combat is the effects of your skills and dragon transformations. They can get really crazy and over the top and the change into a dragon feels really special.
You are allowed to play this game solo, but there is a coop mode that allows you to connect with up to three others to attempt quests with. I say allowed to play solo because, while you can attempt the endgame content solo, it is kind of required to do it in coop with just how much better human players are then the AI, which isn’t bad, but there’s a lot it won’t do that a player will. Besides the basic skill difference, the biggest difference between a human player and an AI companion is they can also transform into a dragon. Your dragon transformation gives you a big boost to your stats as well as gives you an ability that is more powerful than that of a regular adventurer. To help with the coop is a pretty extensive room system which can be used to allow only certain characters of different mights and elements to join as well private, invite-only rooms and local only rooms which only work in close proximity. One somewhat recent feature is a guild system. Now, this isn’t required, but if one does join one it will allow them to send text messages to each other as well as set up guild-only rooms. Personally, this is a feature that I normally would never touch, but you do get some daily rewards for opening your guild tab daily so I broke down and made one. If anybody is looking for a friendly, casual, and Christian group, Christian Gamers is always there and willing to have a new member.
The art in Dragalia Lost comes both in 2D and 3D. Gameplay happens in a 3D world while the story all takes place 2D. While both kinds of art is well done, there is no denying that the 2D art is superior. My biggest compliment for it has to be for its character art. I’ve played a few other games like this one in the past and while most have nice art, I’ve noticed that many of them don’t have all the units sharing a similar artstyle. Dragalia Lost doesn’t really have this problem. All the art for the adventurers and dragons look like they all conform to fit a like theme. The wyrmprints (cards you can equip to adventurers to provide buffs) don’t follow this pattern, but the art presented here all looks well done. During the gameplay segments as well as on the home screen, the characters appear in 3D models. They are okay, but every one of them has a degree of chibiness to them that makes them look a bit cartoony. It can look especially weird on some of the younger and shorter characters since their model is the same size as the bigger brutes. On the other hand the dragons look a lot better in 3D, though a lot of them share the same base design as others. Character design is nice and varied with some ranging from the most emo of assassins, to the most fantastical of historic Japan to all the shades of European fantasy in-between.
The sound design present is of a pretty high caliber, but that might be because a lot of the music present wasn’t made for the game. Much of the tracks present are from the J-Pop artist Daoko and is pretty good, but that should be expected when you take already existing songs and tweak them to your needs. One thing they do that really helps with the songs is the adventures, while walking on the home screen or idling in a menu, actual bob to the music. That bobbing in time with the tune will even change if you switch songs. Voice acting is also really well done. Now, I personally play the English version so I can’t comment that well on the Japanese version of the game, but from what I’ve seen they appear to have gone in pretty heavily on the Japanese cast. Plenty of the characters are voiced by some of the top people in the industry and are used for a lot more scenes than the English cast. With that being said, I’ve wholeheartedly enjoy the English dub even if I don’t recognize really any of the talent present. Perhaps my favorite thing is the dub is recorded in Canada and there is a lot of varied accents that help to make the very diverse cast actually sound diverse. Sounds for effects and skills also all sound good.
My biggest complaint about the game has to be its stability. Most of the time it is good, but every now and then, and this seems to happen to me most around a crossover event, it gets really unstable. At one point I had it only stay open long enough to play two quests which was maybe 10 minutes if I included the time it took to boot it up. Just recently I was encountering similar issues, but it was inconsistent with the amount of time it would stay open. I felt really bad since it seemed to happen most when I’d host one of the coop quests. It would just stop running while I was loading the team into the quest and, with how coop is handled, once the host leaves, everybody is disconnected, moved into solo play, and bots take the place of the other players. There have also been some times where an update was dropped that was required to continue playing, but it took nearly a full day to appear on the iOS store to be able to be downloaded. I’ve also experienced some different bugs (my favorite being a dragon I was fighting flew off the map) and glitches, but most of them seem to get fixed rather quickly if it is game breaking. While I always tend to look forward to the next content update coming, I always dread it a bit since it could bring some stability issues which don’t seem to get fixed as quick as the major bugs do.
Morally, there is a lot going on here. Biggest thing is the bit mentioned above with the in-game religion’s heavy Catholic influence. As somebody who has played other RPGs from Japan, I’ve gotten used to it, but this might be a big concern for others. Violence is present, but not much is shown. Most of the time you are killing monsters, but there is a mode where you just fight other humans. When killed, they just fall over and their corpses disappear. Some boss monsters can have bits of their bodies destroyed with either tails appearing cut off or hands blackened and broken. The most violent parts come from the story where there are people more definitively killed. Nothing here is shown, but it is sometimes described or implied. There were a few instances where characters would appear bruised and bloodied. Language is present and used somewhat frequently. Language is what you’d hear from a PG-13 movie, but without the f*** or s**t words said. Other words from different time periods and slang from different areas are used such as the old a*** spelling of a**. Game never uses the Lord’s name in vain, mainly because he doesn’t exist in the context of this game, but his replacement’s name is used. Gross humor is used. There is a lot of sexual content including that of the females as well as the males with a couple instances of gay baiting. Lots of females wear pretty skimpy outfits including some that shouldn’t be so revealing such as one paladyn’s armor looking like a cheerleading uniform. Quite a few of these characters are made to be more sexualized as can be heard by their suggestive dialogue, but these problems extend to the males. Quite a bit of the males have exposed chests and are wrote in a manner that clearly sexualizes them. Some of these characters are wrote to entice the same-sex-minded individuals without fully committing them to being LGBTQRA+ so if your mind doesn’t go there you probably won’t notice. Worst offender is a guy that says he grew to love another man, but that part of his backstory ends with him shooting and killing him in a duel. The most unfortunate sexualization, for me, is the underage characters. There are a few females wearing rather revealing outfits in addition to the younger males and female characters that have some questionable story bits. There is some creepy interactions between some relatives that feel a bit incestuous, but none of this is confirmed and is most likely just fetish baiting like the gay stuff was.
About any kind of magic imaginable is present, but none of it is really presented as evil. Magic involving death and darkness is just another element right next to light and ice. The humans can pretty much do all forms of magic, but the biggest, most powerful stuff is mainly done by the dragons and special bosses during events. Magic has been shown that can combine souls. One adventurer that you can get is a formerly dead Egyptian-styled leader, but it is not really explained why she is back alive all these years later or if she is actually truly back to life since her skin is so cold that she gives free hugs in the summer. Oddly enough, there is an enemy type that is called the undead, but it is never explained if this is actually the dead or just a creature type called that. Most forms of magic are your typical fairy tale / videogame system with ice, air, fire, light, etc. though the shadow category has some darker sounding spells. There is also this Lovecraftian story that has some elements from his stories present, though this is still based off a fictional form of magic. There is also some form of magic that allows a form of time travel. Characters you meet, while normally broken at first, tend to get better with your help as the story with them progresses. The main character is trying to help his siblings be redeemed even though they are working with the enemy and can seem to be pretty evil. There is some racial bias present, but that is from people not a part of your team and forming bonds between the races is a common story element. Interspecies love is something present with dragons even wanting to be with the Sylvans and humans, though it is never stated whether this is accepted or even possible.
Dragalia Lost is a game I started playing right around the time it launched and I’ve had a very good time with it. It certainly has faults, but the good outweighs the bad for me. If you are looking for a mobile game and aren’t turned off by it being a gacha, I recommend you picking this up. It is free after all, and you can easily play it without ever spending a dime on it.
-Paul Barnard (Betuor)