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  1. #1

    [NSW] Dragon Marked For Death

    Impressions based on the Japanese version, which like many other Inti Creates games already includes English. The western versions of DMFD are scheduled for end of February.

    Dragon Marked For Death is a sidescroller, and thankfully not a Metroidvania. Stages do offer different paths and secret areas with treasures, but each is a self-contained entity ending with a boss encounter.
    Before doing anything else you have to create a character, chosen from four different classes: warrior, tank, thief, and magic user. You can costumize colour (just part of the sprite, not everything), voice (just shouts, there's no "full" voice acting), and name. I went for the magic user, and after an introduction where your clan is decimated by the Celestials for unknown reasons, capturing the oracle, Amica (C, not G). You set on your journey to free the oracle and exact revenge, which first brings you to a tutorial level.

    Controls are standard: jump, dash, attack, item menu, and in the magic user's case (or better, witch's case) a chant button. To cast spells you need to press the chant button and use the face buttons to create the spell; while chanting you're immobile. A quick look at the in-game help revealed rather long strings to cast spells and even spell modifiers (increase spell level, widen area of effect, give homing properties) and the spell immediately fizzles.
    Once you chanted the spell is not casted immediately, but held in reserve for a short amount of time (usually enough to chant a modifier). Pressing the attack button (Y) will cast the spell. You can't hold more than one spell at a time, at least at the start.
    After a short while I noticed that spells aren't as complicated as they first looked: all basic elemental attack spells require to press four times A, B, X, or Y; the healing spell is a clockwise circle starting at B; the empower modifier is B and X repeated four times.
    It's actually rather easy to learn once you figure out the logic behind a spell (like the clockwise sequence for healing), and bosses seem designed around all the limitations you have. The buttons you press to chant the spell are visualized on the screen with different colours (red, yellow, green, blue…guess which colours are associated with face buttons) and the witch also enunciates them in a cute way (like B being "beh").

    Controls feel very similar to Azure Striker Gunvolt, and perform flawlessly. Stage design is clever, forcing you to use your resources at their best: the witch doesn't have a particularly powerful jump, but she can create platforms to propel her to higher places. I still have to try the other characters and for now I'll stick with my first choice, but I'm pretty curious to see how everyone plays.
    If this evokes memories of Dragon's Crown, you are not that far off. The structure is very similar: get quests at the tavern, check shops for items, clear quests to level up and progress. There's even local and online multiplayer, and hopefully Dragon Marked For Death doesn't fall in Dragon's Crown's trap of forcing online into the second half of the game.
    So far enemy variety hasn't been great (a lot of giant bugs and their recoloured relatives), but the two bosses I've faced were great fun.

    Visually Dragon Marked For Death is clearly the derivate of Gunvolt, but it also reminds me of Yggdra Union for some Celestials and the town hub is reminiscent of Princess Crown. Spritework is very well done although it looks a bit…uhm…pixelly on a large screen, I wouldn't have minded a slightly higher resolution to have less jaggies (but not to eliminate completely). The colour palette is subdued for every element on screen with the exception of attacks, which are slightly more saturated for better readability without breaking the overall style.

    I was very curious how DMFD would play and from what I've seen so far my hopes haven't been betrayed. I'd say it's a notch above the opening hour of both Gunvolt games, and I really hope it will continue to stay strong throughout its duration.

  2. #2

  3. #3
    I'm really enjoying this one as well, but I don't think they've nailed the boss scaling yet. The bosses are geared towards multiplayer and it shows. They have way too much HP. I have faith in Into Creates though as their post-launch support is usually amazing.

  4. #4
    I've probably hit a wall in progressing through the game.
    Well, that didn't take long...
    I have a number of quests available, but most of them are for level 10 or 15, and I'm level 9. I've tried two level 5 quests and I couldn't finish them. One goes on for a while after the boss and I cannot complete an enemy fountain (time runs out before), the other tasks me in defending sails on a boat and the witch lacks the dexterity and damage output to do it alone.
    I think one of the main problems is how slow you gain levels, but probably it's due to the nature of the witch...
    So I've started a warrior and unfortunately the available quests are reset, so no way to quickly level a new character.

    I guess the moment I try multiplayer is sooner that expected... @Nico87 , if you want some co-op just give a holler.

  5. #5
    Well, after bashing my head across that wall I broke it down.
    It took a good number of failed quests (either by death or time up), but I crawled to level 10 with the Witch and I was able to open up some more quests.

    One thing with DMFD is that character levels come in incredibly slow, I'm at level 12 and after completing two level 10 quests I'm still there. I've tried a couple 15 quests, but I don't last particularly long, almost every enemy takes around four spells of the opposing element to be took down, and of course the Witch has the vitality of a wet napkin...even level 10 quests can test your skill, and those last two quests I've completed left me physically spent, gasping for hair after the final enemy goes down and "Quest Completed" appears on screen. I felt genuinely accomplished by going through bosses and enemy fountains with the Witch: she requires good positioning, quick reflexes to cast the spells, and a bit of thought on which spell it's best suited to the current situation.

    All quests require you to explore the stage you're in, and in some cases you will run the timer out searching for the right way to yeah, be prepared to replay quests a lot, learn from your mistakes, and run from enemies when you know that you don't have time to fight every mob.

    Some quests have somewhat cloudy objectives: for example I was tasked to restore the city water spring, which became poisonous, and for doing that I need three fruits. At first I though I had to collect the fruits and bring them to the starting point, there was a water well right there...I reach the first fruit and I can't collect it, I need to push it with my attacks around. I start throwing the fruit around and reach a point where I use all the spells trying to get it over a tall barrier, but to no avail. I give up and continue to explore, and find the second fruit. Nice, I try t push it around, even uphill, and reach another barrier. After attacking the fruit a bit, I backtrack a few steps back, return and the fruit is gone.
    I give up on the second fruit, I find the third, and once again I reach a barrier I can't seem to launch the fruit past. I backtrack towards the starting point, find the second fruit again, I push it around and by mistake it lands into a poisonous swamps and the wasmp become a water spring, the game gleefully informing me that 2 other springs remain. So it wasn't about bringing the fruits back, but rather plunging them to nearby pits I thought were only stage hazards. I let the timer run out (quitting beforehand will forfeit items, money, and experience), retry the quest and complete it.

  6. #6
    @Nico87 Are you able to clear the quest "Undying Dragon"? The one starting with an escort and then you have to defeat two dragons? I defeated one, collected a Door Key but it doesn't open a locked rock door in the same cave as the dragon or a wooden door in the second part of the stage.

  7. #7
    Sorry for the late reply! No, I'm still stuck on the second boss. I've put the game on hold for now. Would've kept going if the blue laser thing before bosses was actually a checkpoint... The level design for that stage is also basically the same as the stage for the first boss.

    As for some of the weird quests you mentioned, a good few of them are 100% meant to be completed by more than one player.

    It's a bit sad, really. This game (as in a 2D action sidescroller) has in no way enough pull to make people play it online over a good period of time. Would have been perfect as a single-player only game like their other releases.
    Last edited by Nico87; 11-02-2019 at 10:28 AM.

  8. #8
    I've reached what I think is the final boss. I've tried it once and every one of its attacks kills my Witch in one hit. Oh joy! I don't know if I'll have enough patience to grind my way to level 30 (currently at level 27) as that boss is level a level 25 quest.
    The difficulty curve is all over the place in this game: I was able to complete with ease level 20 quests when I was 17, while I could only complete lower-level quests when I was overlevelled for them.

    All quests can be completed alone, but some will drive you crazy due to how obtuse they are and how tight the time limit is.

    One quest in particular is set in a tomb with randomised traps and there's a key to see how traps are set, however the game never explicity tells you how, and I was forced to go to GameFAQs to see how that particular quest can be completed: turns out that if you zoom in the camera you reveal otherwise invisible signs to see where the traps are.

    In fact, I had to search how to reach the final boss too, I completed all available quests and after trying a few of them at higher difficulty setting, I declared defeat.

    You need to complete eight "optional" objectives in certain quests, and if you do you'll get a blue flag besides their name. I got one of those flags relatively early in the game by pure coincidence, and I've searched for a manual or some official resource to know what that flag meant, but to no avail. I don't remember ever reading anything about secret objectives in tutorials or during dialogues, and the game doesn't offer any kind of advice once you've completed all quests.

    I'll post something better structured once I collect my thoughts, there are several structural shortcomings but despite that I kinda like Dragon Marked For Death, completing a quest is always a relief and I've found pleasant going around the various locations slaughtering enemies.

  9. #9
    The game will be available to PS4 users this July.


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