Game Reviews

Dusk of Dragons: Survivors review - “A dawn of a new era for the survival sandbox genre?”

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Dusk of Dragons: Survivors review - “A dawn of a new era for the survival sandbox genre?”

One of the wildest pipe dreams of every coming-of-age teen going through an edgy phase of life is to reserve the VIP seat and watch the world aflame, succumbing to all sorts of merciless maladies and monstrosities. Certainly, with demand comes supply. The mobile gaming industry cranked things up to eleven with an influx of titles such as LifeAfter and Last Day on Earth, not to mention the misleading ads rolling out of the content mill such as State of Survival that haunt our YouTube feed.

As I flipped through the pages of my mental notes, I realised my adoration stems from sinking hours into the indie hit Don't Starve - a unique game in the same vein featuring paper cutout graphics shrouded with a sense of poignancy, gloom and doom, as well as a menagerie of mythical creatures whose behaviour plays into friend or foe.

But what if we do away with that hackneyed 21st-century concrete jungle setting but retain the nasty ghouls? Plunge the entire map with a piquant medieval setting and the result? Ba-da-dum - Dusk of Dragons: Survivors.

Dungeons, Dragons, Dread

Dragons are such fictitious entities shrouded with an antique mystique, and their representation permeates every stratum of life. From being a part of the Chinese zodiac to classic literature like Fafnir, they have always been an allure for gamers. Drawing upon the prestige of a dragon as its selling point, the game spawns you in a frigid world with precarious dread lurking in every corner: enjoy exploring the derelict villages in shambles as well as the spine-chilling forests infested with fiends. A sprawling dungeon usually awaits invitingly with its treasure trove of resources and equal share of dangers.

You run the gamut of all classic gameplay mechanics quintessential to a survival sandbox, with the addition of a base-building mechanic to rebuild your stronghold. Scavenge for materials in the wilderness, or traverse the corridors of dungeons. The game wastes no time getting you acquainted with a versatile ally - a Fire Dragon hatchling as your pet and later on an Ice Dragon. Of course, MMORPG elements are mixed into the batter. You can theory-craft and bolster your character's power level as well.

As with most MMORPGs, there is an array of customisation options laid out to project your ideal self with the standard affair of editing hairstyle and colour with a bonus tattoo. It would be nice to have the choice to go more in-depth. There’s just something quirky about it as your protagonist radiates a cartoony charm without falling straight into the uncanny valley, so props to the art team!

I used to rule the world, and I will rule it again

Alexa, play "Fallen Kingdom" by Coldplay. After deciding on your appearance, you are thrown into a chaotic fight scene where you and your underlings are against an all-out invasion by an aggressive undead species. The screen fades to black as you’re whooped and find yourself dazed in a ramshackle settlement.

During your downtime, you get to indulge yourself in idyllic things such as farming and living out that hunter-gatherer life, or perhaps you can dabble in some interior decorating as you fortify your base. Though, what’s lost can be restored, and you're poised to undertake the grand task of restoring your fallen kingdom to glory, all from your humble abode.

The Life of Pi: Dragon edition

There is never a dull moment in this game thanks to a stream of content tied with a vertical progression system. It's designed to mould you into hard-boiled dragonkin, asserting dominance in the world rendered with life-like details and reflected vividly in its huge map from frosty tundras to abandoned villages devoid of life. Given that I'm a ruin maniac, the abundance of ravaged ruins and shrapnels certainly struck my fancy and earned my solid grade A+ seal of approval. There's an elaborate questing system built for you to undertake, and like the 1995 Microsoft paper clip, it helps any budding conqueror take baby steps.

Games have always been a bridge to form friendships between players from all trades. Dusk of Dragons emphasises this social aspect, aiming to establish jolly good camaraderie between players with the concurrent events containing all sorts of goodies that boost your progress. Just like a craic in a social gathering spot, I certainly found pleasure in setting up teams with fellow adventurers to pillage the dungeon areas and the wilderness.

The nth survival sandbox user interface experience

Beneath the glossy veneer of its sandbox world, my pet peeve is the mess that is its user interface which is decorated with tiny Arial fonts as well as the menu icons huddling close. Navigating through buttons to get from one interface to the other is a janky experience that, personally, really verges on vertigo.

There is a built-in auto-task function along with a squire system, adding to the list of ways you can accrue resources fast. While the addition of any good quality-of-life feature is always welcome, one downfall of the auto-task system is the connection between the game and players. However, Dusk of Dragons tried to avoid that pitfall as the auto-tasking system is nerfed in that the game doesn't look like it's playing itself. During my playthrough, the auto-task played the role of a handyman picking up twigs and berries without full reins on the game.

Additionally, any seasoned veteran hailing from games like Clash of Clans will be familiar with the “Upgrade time” mechanic, be it crafting for materials, removing shrapnel impeding your territory, or upgrading your workbench. It takes time, and the alternative solution would be to splurge gold to hasten the process. Personally, it’s a boon for me as it trains my patience.

Dusk of Dragons: Survivors review - “A dawn of a new era for the survival sandbox genre?”

To clinch this review, Dusk of Dragons: Survivor started off with a grand promise that it would be a butt-clenching survival experience, only to quickly devolve into a classic MMORPG. Battles gradually turn into a stat check. Still, it's worth diving into a fantasy-themed sandbox world to ease your mind. If you can set aside its stream of real-time events, you certainly will find a sense of enjoyment in your own tempo.
Anderson Han
Anderson Han
A wanderlust by nature who regards video games as an artful medium for creative storytelling. I implore thee to join me on my jubilant voyage through the sea of video games. PS: I find great pleasure jamming to Touhou songs while riding on public transports.