Saturday, 15 September 2012


Here's a review for an awesome game on iOS systems that a lot of you may play, DragonVale! This was the very first review I did over on my blog, Donarex's iOS Review Corner. and since then a lot has changed to the gameplay. You can now breed dragons in a new Epic Breeding Island as well as the Breeding Cave, race your dragons at the Race Track and there have been new dragons added such as the rare Gemstone and Treasure dragons, as well as a new Metal base type!

Developers: Backflip Studios
iTunes Rating: 4.5 Stars (5370 ratings as of 20 Feb 12)
Game Center?: Yes
Version Details: 1.5.0 released 28 Jan 2012
Age Rating: 4+
Price: Free

The Main Screen

If you like games like 'FarmVille' and you have a certain space in your heart for dragons, you will absolutely adore Backflip Studio's 'DragonVale'. The main aim of the game is to construct a dragon zoo and collecting different types of dragon, breeding them to create new hybrids and leveling them up. I found this game due an FMyLife post and I can honestly say, I have been addicted ever since I started this game! With a new update released every couple of months, it's not short of things to do and I'm still finding this game amazing fun.

The game has many different aspects to it. The main aim is to keep a zoo like collection of dragons in various habitats, collecting money from them. The habitats come in different types, as do the dragons e.g. plant dragons go in the plant habitat, fire dragons go in the fire habitat. You can also breed the dragons together to create new types or hybrids of types with 3 special 'rare' dragons that you can aim for later on in the game as well as "limited edition" dragons that are related to seasonal Holidays e.g. Bone dragon for Halloween and Love dragon for Valentine's.

The dragons are fed and level up, generating more gold through the use of farms where you grow food. There are other buildings such as shrines and boosts that you unlock as the game progresses which add more complexity to the game and other islands that you unlock as you level up - resulting in more space.

The game does include microtransactions for all the collectable/spendable items (coins, gems and food) which I kind of have a problem with. I think that coins and food should not have this option, they are easily available and once you reach the higher levels you're pretty much raking them in every few hours. 

As is the problem with all games that use microtransactions, they give peole with the ability to spend more money on games an unfair advantage over those without that luxury. That being said, everything is achievable without paying but some things would take a very long time to do so. Gems are used as a premium currency. However they're farmable by all players, with 1-5 gems available a day through the colosseum and also 3 giftable gems a day to send to your friends. 

However with most of the 'good stuff' costing between 100-2500 gems, you can see how this would quickly become a problem! There is however only two items in the game that have to be bought with gems alone, an epic breeding island which costs 125 gems and adds another place to breed new dragons, and a gem tree that costs 100 gems and allows you to send 6 gems a day instead of 3. 

Also upgrades to the nursery, where your eggs are hatched, and the hibernation cave are bought with gems and steadily increase to a respectable 50 gems for the final upgrades. The dragon eggs can all be bred and everything else costs coin not gems. A final use for the gems is you can speed up breeding, hatching and building times for the cost of 1 gem per hour.

Addictivity - 9/10
The game is crazily addictive and I would have given this a 10/10 were it not for the fact that, being a game like FarmVille the only reason to keep playing is that there are things to do and achieve. I honestly see this game getting very tedious and boring once you run out of things to aim for. 

That being said, the December update saw a vast improvement to the previous version; adding in more levels, shrines to help boost the level of dragons, new treat farms and also a festive Reindeer dragon for the winter season (The October update added a limited edition bone dragon which, unfortunately I missed!) Seen as the game was only released in September it's still in its infant stages and if the updates keep coming at this pace I think I will be playing this game for a long time! 

So far there have been 5 updates (the game is currently on version 1.5.0) and the two major updates that I have seen (December and January) have increased the life span of the game and added content in a steady stream; not too much that you get bogged down in updates and new objectives (like FarmVille...) and not too little so that you get bored before the next update is released.

Controls - 9/10
The controls are very easy to pick up; simply drag your finger to move the map around, pinching to zoom in and out, and tap things to collect food/coin or to check on your dragons, habitats etc. The only complaint I do have is when it comes to placing something on the map. You have to drag the thing around, which can sometimes be jumpy and you have to chose between zooming out and having trouble selecting what you want to place or zooming in and constantly having to move the thing then the map until you reach where you want it to go.

Menus - 10/10
The menus are extremely intuitive and easy to pick up and use. You have 5 main buttons on the main screen (4 of which you'll use) Goals, Visitors, Options, Friends and Market.

Goals is where it gives you level based missions to aim for, giving you food, coin and exp in return. Tapping it simply brings up a list of your current missions, a small hint on what needs to be done with the rewards for doing so underneath.

Visitors is a small button which has a changing number under it. This tells you how many people are currently in your park. Honestly I don't see why this is even included, dragons determine your income and that's generated regardless of how many visitors you have. All tapping this button does is tell how you can get more visitors, which from what I can see, does nothing (as of yet?)

Options is pretty self explanitory and Friends brings up a list of your friends showing you their level and allowing you to send a gift or visit their park. The game can be linked up to facebook and there's also a 'visit random player' button as well as the game centre buttons in this menu.

The Market is easy to navigate as well, splitting the items into 6 categories - Treasure (microtransactions), Eggs, Habitats, Decor, Buildings and Islands.

There are also 4 items at the top of the screen: an exp bar showing your current level and progress towards the next, and also 3 more partitions for coins, gems and food.

The Market Screen

Sound - 10/10
The sounds and music for the game fit it well. When a dragon is selected you get a noise depending on the level and type of dragon selected. You also get a nice munching sound effect as you feed your dragons and fireworks when you complete a quest or level up. The background music is very fitting and has 3 tracks that it loops through in a random selection.

Graphics - 10/10
The graphics for this game are very good. Although I don't think my small iPhone screen does them justice (maybe this game will be more at home on an iPad) The dragons all have 3 different graphics depending on the level of the dragon, which are fully animated on the map and when you select them and bring up the info screen. All the dragons start off cute as babies but many of them soon change into much more epic or ugly versions of their former selves. 

Each habitat, except the rare dragons' have 2 stages of size which have different images and are very fitting. The decorations also fit in well to the whole feel of the game and help fill in the gaps between the habitats and treat farms, allowing for full custimisation of your islands. 

The use of floating icons and bars help you easily know when farms, habitats or buildings are or will be finished.

Difficulty 8/10
The game is quite varied with its difficulty levels, some things are easily managed and others are reduced to sheer dumb luck. The overall mechanics of the game are very simple and fit the 4+ age rating given to the game. 

However some things, mainly the breeding of the 3 rare dragons, are complete luck even once you know how to do them. The rare dragon breeding is impossible to figure out by yourself and I was reduced to using the Wiki and Reddit pages to seek out help. 

There are no hints at all as to how to go about breeding these 3 dragons, and as it's luck of the draw, you could be trying different combinations of breeding, some of which can take a whole day to finish, potentially forever.

The 'Rare Trio' - Sun, Moon and Rainbow

Learning Curve 9/10
The learning for the game is done through expirmentation, paying attention and the use of the quest system. The quests are well designed, giving you a new set every few levels with new things you've unlocked and can do for that level. As you level up, new content is added to the game and new types of dragon, habitat and shrines become unlocked. It even goes as far as only showing items in the shop that you can buy, and what you will unlock with your next level up.

Once breeding is introduced you can easily find out how to breed the hybrids through the egg selection screen and looking at the icons at the bottom of the egg you want, however it takes a while to figure out that order matters when it comes to breeding (another reason why the rare dragons could take forever to breed!) For example breeding a Plant and an Earth dragon can result in either a Tree or a Moss dragon, depending on what side you put each of the parents.

Overall though I think the learning curve for the game is good, the game is easy to progress through for someone my age and I think it would be doable for a 4 year old, but some things would be beyond them - rare dragons!

Average Score - 9.3/10
Overall Rating - 9/10
The game is good, but it could use a little tweeking to making it perfect and then it would deserve a 10/10. Given that the game was only released in September of 2011, it has a lot of potential and has the time to grow into a great game. I wanted to give it a 10, but I'm going on the assumption that a 10 is a perfect game and I'm keeping it locked up for just that.

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