Dragonheir: Silent Gods Preview - A stunning, fantasy RPG recently featured at WWDC23
From the publisher of Marvel Snap
A mysterious, cloaked figure leads a band of followers into the depths of a cavernous lair. His masked face and glowing blue eyes suggest a magical aura about him. He remarks that they’ve arrived at their final destination as he approaches an immense gate that blocks their path. A successful roll of a polyhedral dice opens the gate and the band of interlopers enter the chamber of the Dragon Queen. An epic battle ensues with a mix of in-game combat and stellar, special effects-laden, cut-scenes in which the cloaked figure finds himself subdued by the Dragon Queen. All we know of him is that he is the Child of Chaos, and 1,200 years have now passed since his defeat.
This intro scene is the first tantalising taste of what this highly anticipated, sandbox, cross-platform, RPG has in-store and it immediately captures your attention. Aside from its stellar 3D cut-scenes and equally impressive in-game visuals, what stands out most is Dragonheir: Silent Gods’ sense of mystery and atmosphere; a feeling we were treated to throughout our playthrough of the game during its recent Closed Beta II test for Android and Windows.
Getting startedStarting out in the game, there are three races to choose from for your character: Human, Half-Elf, or Dwarf (we opted for dwarf for our playthrough). There is a fourth option teased with Lizardfolk but, sadly, this kinsfolk isn’t currently available although we do hope to see it in the final version.
All of the character models are extremely well polished, with designs and detailed textures that remind you of how far mobile gaming has come in recent years. If we were to nit-pick, we’d say that some of the cloth and hair textures appear a little flat at times, but the realistic lighting and material effects make it barely noticeable whilst you’re playing. The only major gripe is the lack of character customisation options which, at present, is limited to just one character model for each kinship type, and only a few presets available for adjusting hair and clothing.
That being said, these features are usually one of the last things to be fully refined during development so there will likely be far more options in the final released version.
Opening gameplayContinuing the sense of mystery that we were treated to in the intro, Dragonheir: Silent Gods plunges our character into a ghostly, forsaken realm that exists neither between the real world or Valhalla (or whatever afterlife awaits Dwarves). With no memory of how we arrived there, we’re presented with little option but to press forward into the unknown and attempt to escape The World Beyond. From the outset, the sense of atmosphere is in full force with the cold, barren landscape evoking images of Mordor and Dunharrow - which feels apt for a game that’s steeped in fantasy - and its spectral inhabitants (called Bewildered Souls) providing for an eerie vibe that makes us wish to leave all the sooner.
With the aid of a band of companions, who similarly wish to escape, you set out to put an end to the impending evil the Child of Chaos presents (we won’t spoil exactly how he returns), by battling enemies, retrieving items, forging armaments and potions, and levelling up your heroes as you go.
The companions you recruit is arguably the area where Dragonheir: Silent Gods excels best. Not only are all of the supporting characters you encounter beautifully designed, but they’re also equally imaginative in their distinct personas, not to mention that the voice acting is especially strong throughout.
What of adventure?When it comes to the adventuring side of Dragonheir, you’ll find yourself navigating across an isometric map that, for the most part, is pleasurable to explore. This is thanks in large part to the carefully planned level design which provides easy-to-follow paths that seamlessly join together, as well as a heads-up display map which places markers on your objectives. This means that whilst there are plenty of opportunities to wander off and explore, it’s always easy to find your way back on the right track. This is something that can be appreciated a lot more when you finally do escape The World Beyond, and get to venture across the beautiful pastoral planes and mountainous landscapes of the material world, Adethia.
When it comes to adventuring, almost every possible action you can think of, from stealing, treasure hunting, weapon forging, to puzzle solving, is available as an option in the game, and the success of your action will depend on the roll of a polyhedral dice. This element of randomness enhances the sense of adventure tenfold and will make you genuinely ponder what the best course of action is to take for any given situation.
CombatCombat plays out in real-time, auto-battling fashion. The strategy comes into play before the battle commences, requiring you to first choose which of your heroes to deploy (you can commit up to 5 heroes in any given battle) and strategically place them in formation on a battlefield grid. There are a wide variety of unit types available, including: Defense, Support, and Damage Dealer, and these will fall into several categories of element type. This means that each one will have particular advantages or disadvantages against certain enemy types, especially when it comes to their special attack. Forbit, for instance, possesses the ability to stun enemies with his special attack which is best targeted at clusters of enemies that threaten to overwhelm a particular hero in your team.
The UI display is relatively intuitive, with the range of your heroes’ attacks displayed depending on the grid space you hover over, and the various menu screens and interface buttons laid out in a way that’s easy to click on, without cluttering the screen.
As you might expect with an auto-battler, you will be spamming your heroes' special attacks a lot, but that’s no bad thing as each one comes with a unique battle animation that’s always pleasurable to watch whenever they roll around. On top of that, you’ll also on occasion have the ability to call an ally to your aid, like the Dragon Lelwanis, who’ll rain down a devastating attack on your opponents.
Overall?Beyond the execution of its narrative, combat mechanics, and visual design, which, even at this early stage are as near perfect as you could wish for, Dragonheir: Silent Gods’ approach to open-world exploration and hero progression make it one of the most unique and multi-layered RPG experiences we’ve had the pleasure to try. It’s safe to say that we’re awaiting the global launch with eager anticipation, especially as Nuverse has committed to making Dragonheir a cross-platform title (available for PC, Mac,iOS, and Android) that will operate on a seasonal basis once it's released. It’s a structure that’s uncommon amongst contemporary RPGs, but one that promises the potential for Dragonheir’s gameplay and story content to soar to even greater heights.
Dragonheir will feature a native iOS and Mac version once it’s released, but if you have an Android or Windows device then you can join the CBTII to try the game right now.. If you'd like to stay up to date with all of the latest Dragonheir: Silent Gods’ announcements then you can pre-register via the official website, as well as join the game’s official Discord channel.