Dragon Marked for Death
Reviewed by: Shaun Hughes & Josh Brant
Developed By: INTI CREATES CO.
Published By: INTI CREATES CO.
Category: Action, Role-Playing
Release Date: 31.01.2019
Stand up and take notice…
When the creators of Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX say they have been slowly working on a video game for almost ten years, one should stand up and take notice. ‘Dragon Marked for Death’ lays claim to Inti Creates most ‘content-packed’ release in their 22+ year history, and is one that myself and members of the ‘Switch Effect’ team were keen to get stuck into. Find out what we thought of our time with the 2D side-scrolling RPG, and let us know your thoughts @TheSwitchEffect.
In a rather unusual take on digital releases, the developers of Dragon Marked for Death, Inti Creates, have chosen to release the game in two separate packages. Regardless of the package chosen, the same base game is on offer. What differs here are the character classes you can play as, with each package having two of the four options. Making the game much more financially accessible, it now caters to an audience who may otherwise have not have purchased the game which is a great move. It also allowed for two of our team to experience and review the same game, something we were keen to take advantage of.
The premise of the game is built on a story of retribution. Playing as one of four of the Dragonblood Clan, a group of individuals who were offered the blood of a supreme being upon his death some time before, you must complete quests to defeat the beasts who have come to disrupt the peace. Throw in a rescue mission and you have the makings of many an RPG. Although nothing ground-breaking, the manner with which this game is presented and how it plays, especially when played as it seems it was intended to be, you have an excellent game to add to your Switch collection.
Brimming with creative passion
Josh: This dark fantasy setting and story setup is brought to life with a fully realized 2D pixel art animation that suits it wholeheartedly. Dragon Marked for Death felt like the spiritual successor to the Mega Man Zero games and Toru Nakayama’s art design is top-notch, brimming with creative passion. It’s easy to look past the single-player deficiencies when everything else offers a blend of excellent music, visuals, and gameplay. The end result is a cooperative experience that ends up being one of the most difficult, yet rewarding action games to come to the Nintendo Switch.
Shaun: I was immediately struck by the creative elements of Dragon Marked for Death, and it represented an eclectic mix of art-styles that I have seen employed by many different games over the years. From the character animations to the backdrops of the village, I found a lot to like. The game is filled to burst with personality, all stemming from the visual effects and careful design considerations. Whether played in handheld, docked or on a 100inch projector, the game looked fantastic.
A flawless sheen
Shaun: Although huge fan of the RPG genre, I have found the Nintendo eShop to be saturated with Role-Playing Games in recent months. My early excitement for Dragon Marked for Death was never going to wane, however now it seems a game will have to offer more than the obligatory turn-based combat moving forward for me to make a purchase. Fortunately, Dragon Marked for Death has done just that, providing a gameplay experience I personally do not commonly associate with RPGs: side-scrolling.
Much like its Final Fantasy, Octopath Traveller, Cosmic Star Heroine counterparts, the game is reliant on the purchase of weapons and items to aid you on your quests. All the items we have come to expect make an appearance, and equipping weapons and other combat items are also here. You have a range of stats that you can manipulate through your purchases, and the battle system has been well-designed to allow you to feel the effects of the changes you have made. I purchased a new sword for my character which had an immediate impact on my successes on the quest, and devouring a herb restored my HP immediately.
Josh: Where the gameplay is distinct is with how Inti Creates takes the formula laid by other 2D action titles and ramps it up to a flawless sheen. This is a game meant to be played with friends and can also be enjoyed playing with random people online due to the ease of accessibility when joining an online team. It utilizes the teams impeccable skills of mastering every area that makes the side-scrolling action genre so appealing.
A helping hand…
Josh: If you’re finding fights too difficult, you may find Dragon Marked for Death much easier with a helping hand, and this is where my main critique comes in. Not only will this help you finish levels without any deaths, but the co-op experience really enhances the gameplay and makes it more enjoyable overall. If you intend on playing only single-player, while still fun, it is much less engaging and the grind of leveling up and progressing is slowed to a crawl.
Shaun: Whilst Josh predominantly took advantage of the online multiplayer element to the game, I challenged myself to play only in single player. This only served to deepen my frustrations with the game, as I personally found it to be too challenging an affair. As someone who is currently making their way through Zelda BOTW on Master Mode, I am not adverse to a bit of challenge, yet this was too much. With a limited number of slots in your backpack for each quest, it is not as though you can choose to equip yourself with twenty quality herbs and use these as and when you see fit. You can also only die a few times before the quest is over. Couple this with a time limit to each quest and the odds are firmly stacked against you. As soon as I logged in and played an online quest, even with only one other gamer, I found the game to be a much more accessible and enjoyable one.
Packing a punch…
Josh: I was able to play the Advanced Attackers Pack which includes the Shinobi and Witch. Shinobi has excellent traversal mechanics and combos which are incredibly powerful, however he can be defeated more easily. The large amount of combos made for a great fighter to experiment with, but I also could be defeated in only a couple of hits. The Witch I found to be much more difficult to use as she requires you to memorize long strings of button presses in order to cast spells to either attack or heal. With just my experience using the Advanced Attackers Pack, I felt this was more intended for multiplayer sessions as I never could get a good progression flow going. I’d be interested to see how the Frontline Fighter Pack differs from the harder-to-use Advanced Attackers.
Shaun: The Frontline Fighter Pack provided a much more traditional, weapon-oriented affair, with the Empress and Warrior classes. Having revealed character backstories via Twitter, Inti Creates have shared that “Empress” was the daughter of the village chief. She has a dragon scar on her arm which she can utilise to attack foes and swing from obstacles, and she combines this with a sword for swift, sharp attacks. Just purchasing the one fighter pack gives the clearest indication of how different each class is, as playing as the Warrior was a much different beast. Slow in movement and execution, the warriors default weapon is a long axe which was difficult to get to grips with. Personally, based on the descriptions from Josh and the two classes I had available, the Empress would be best suited to my gameplay preferences.
“…whether you have two characters or four, everyone has the same general “Dragon Marked for Death” icon on their home screen. Gotta keep those home screens tidy, ya know!”inti creates – 15th January, 2019
Josh and I chose not to discuss details of Dragon Marked for Death for the sole reason of ensuring we did not influence each other’s thoughts. Having pieced together our review, it is clear that we have come to the same conclusions:
Dragon Marked for Death is set in a extremely well-designed and crafted game world, where subtle influences from other games have played a pivotal role in shaping what we see. The passion of the developers to provide a unique gameplay experience can never be questioned, and the games they have previously worked on should allow you to rest assured of its quality. We recommend this game for those looking for a different take on an RPG, but only if you plan on playing this with friends locally or using the online functionality of the Nintendo Switch, as the single-player experience falls just short.
3.5 out of 5