During a demo of the game last week, we had a chance to learn more about ngmoco's upcoming mobile (and eventually) social game DragonCraft. From Brooklyn's FreeVerse studio, DragonCraft presents an alternate reality to our own, where technology advanced as in our world up until the 1500's. Sometime during the century, the people of DragonCraft discovered magic, and therefore simply combined that magic with the current technology of the time for all future advancements.
The world of Terra Vale is full of magic, distilled from dragon crystals. This magic is a dark resource that's coveted by all orders of the world, just as oil or other natural resources are in our world. The world is comprised of 12 Baronies, or colonies of sorts, each run by magic and ruled by a different Dragon Baron warrior. There's a necessary, but uneasy peace among the Council of Twelve in Terra Vale, which is only made all the more unstable by a cataclysmic event. Your city has been destroyed and your Dragon Baron is dead. Enemies of every size and shape roam freely outside your city's boundaries and you're put in charge of rebuilding your city and forging a dragon army in your new struggle for supremacy and domination of all that stand in your way.
Combining city-building and combat, you'll spend substantial amounts of time both rebuilding your city with functional buildings like Dragon Hatcheries, Farms and of course your Castle, while you'll also head out into the world, removing a dark fog as you travel through more of the 25 differently themed areas on the map, defeating enemies and interacting with the other Barons that remain, bringing them under your influence.
DragonCraft producer Kevin O'Neill told us more about the city-building portion of the game:
Every kingdom starts with a few key structures. You'll have a Castle, Advisor's Tower, Dragon Hatchery, Training Grounds and a Farm. As you build and unlock new buildings, you'll be able to actually fill the entire map out. One of the first buildings you'll build in the tutorial is the farm, which actually produces a steady stream of food, and food is basically the fuel to power your troops. The farm is where you'll go to harvest food to build more troops, but to compete on a global scale, you'll need a few more structures than that.
Early on, you'll be introduced to the game's quest system, which asks you to build specific buildings in your city, or to venture out into the world at large to complete tasks in other lands. You'll be able to keep track of your quests via the Advisor's Tower (also called a Quest Tower), where the three main sectors of life in Terra Vale are represented: Magic, Technology and Brute Force. As you build structures, you'll be able to earn resources like lumber and gold, which can then be used elsewhere. Each city starts with a set of Pikemen, but from there, you can build your own troops in the game's three disciplines.
At launch, there will be 16 different buildings to create and upgrade (you can use premium Dragon Crystals to speed up the building process), allowing you to place your focus in one discipline or another, and troops are separated in the same way (and unlocked as you become more capable in each of the three areas). Magic troops use Dragon Crystals for power, and come in the form of adepts or acolytes, while Brute Force troops are archers or swordsmen. As for Tech troops, O'Neill described these as "a combination of technology and magic like a Steam Tank or a Sky Gallion or a Bombadier which kind of fuse together Dragon Crystal magic with technology. So, you have a Sky Gallion that didn't bother learning aeronautics because they just put a Dragon Crystal in it and it shoots them up. That's the theme of our world. In the 1500's, technology just stopped developing because you could augment it with this magical Dragon Crystal power. So it's just variations on off of things that would exist back then."
While exploring the world, you'll be able to experience combat that O'Neill says is "deep, but tailored to a mobile play experience." The game offers Portrait mode, allowing you to hold your device upright for one-handed play (while on a bus or otherwise occupied). You'll come across two types of battles, one of which is incredibly quick and sees you patrolling your lands for any enemy units. These enemies are seen on the map, and you'll simply tap on them to send your forces in automatically to receive instant rewards. If you're in the mood for more in-depth combat, or just want more of a challenge, you can enter into "story missions," which are triggered by discussions with your advisors or other NPCs. These move the game's overall story arc along and can even allow you to uncover new, unexplored areas in the game. O'Neill compared this form of combat to Advance Wars, with one on one combat, with some units being in the air while others on are the ground.
When getting into the specifics of combat, we asked O'Neill whether the combat contained a "Rock, Paper, Scissors" element, causing different troops to be stronger (or weaker) than others:
There is a rock, paper, scissors mechanic, not for the specific troops, but for the different schools of warfare. So, the Technical troops have an advantage over Medieval troops, but they have a disadvantage against the Magical troops, so you kind of have to mix and match and make sure that you're appropriately fitted for the encounter you're going into. It's going to be a little bit of a learning experience, as there are some enemies where it's not immediately apparent [what kind of troop it is], like a Bear, but I think after just a couple of play-throughs, you'll pick that up pretty quickly.
As for Dragons, the game makes these creatures incredibly powerful, but also rare. You'll be able to hunt down Dragons and gather their Scales, and then combine those scales back in your Dragon Hatchery to form different Dragons for use in your army down the line. While you might be able to come across the same kinds of dragons multiple times in the game, O'Neill did tell us that the game has the ability to make specific Dragon Scales a one-time-only opportunity, encouraging players to keep coming back for more. When interacting with a Dragon, you'll also be able to use premium items to guarantee you'll receive a Scale, rather than relying on chance.
To finish off our look at the game, we asked O'Neill whether we can expect social features to come to the game at some point in the future.
We do have a lot of social features planned. Right now we want to focus on the core game experience because if that doesn't hold up then no one's going to stick around to talk to their friends, but for launch we are going to have dragon encounters being social. So, instead of you just running into a dragon, it's actually going to be a Mobage friend that's being attacked by a dragon, and then you're coming into help them. You can add them as a friend, and if you're already friends you can exchange gifts at that time. We also have a fully built-out PvP system for battling between people ready to go. We're focusing on the single player now and then expanding later on.
Just like SkyFall (check out our full hands-on preview), DragonCraft is without a release date as of this writing, but it will debut on Android (including Mobage connectivity) before eventually making its way over to iOS in the coming weeks and months. We'll make sure to give you more info about both games as we learn more.
Are you excited to try out DragonCraft on your smartphone? What do you think of this combination of city-building and combat gameplay? Sound off in the comments.