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Review (?): Heroes of Dragon Age

October 17, 2013

HoDA1

Today, I was angry. I am in fact still angry – and the reason for this is a game that has been soft launched in Australia; EA’s iOS/Android title, “Heroes of Dragon Age.” This game is an abomination beyond measure, and while I realize that to many people I probably sound pretty ranty, let me just preface this with a warning: buckle up, because you haven’t seen anything yet.

How to Ruin Gaming

An "epic" hero. Much like a regular one, only named after a DA2 character you probably hate.

An “epic” hero. Much like a regular one, only named after a DA2 character you probably hate.

Predictably – especially for a phone game – Heroes of Dragon Age, or “HoDA” for idiocy, uses a freemium payment model. In freemium games, the upfront cost of the title is zero, which means a large number of people will download the game to try it – out of boredom, curiosity or sheer randomness. However, unlike demos, a freemium game will use cunning tactics to bleed the player dry of all their hard earned cash. It’s a classic bait and switch – the game will have been carefully designed to compromise the experience at every juncture, offering to handwave away irritations at the low price of a few dollars. “This is great,” the player is meant to think, “I can pay as much or as little as I want!” The issue is that it’s not like that – if you pick up a freemium game, it’s not gating content (like the shareware games from my youth), it’s deliberately funnelling you into paying by being as addictive, and generally irritating, as it can get away with. The weak minded player chooses to spend two dollars rather than being forced to wait 20 minutes for another fix of the game, quickly racking up much more than they expect.

I despise this model of games – but in many ways it was inevitable. The iOS app market was a race to the bottom, games that took years to make were sold at sub-$5 prices, and the entitled gamers who lived on the platform would still whinge about spending money. Freemium solves this issue, and additionally appeals to “casual players” (imbeciles) who would not want to spend money on the purchase of a game. So what I’m saying is, you brought it on yourself. But this is just the tip of the iceberg-shaped travesty that is this game.

Dragon Rage, More Like

The "combat" screen

The “combat” screen. Here some guy I don’t care about is doing something random to some other dudes. The goal is for their bar to decrease faster than yours.

HoDA is essentially like one of those collectible monster card game things that Asians and arch-nerds play; except unlike games of that mould, it adventurously removes all strategy, charm and decisions from the mix. You have a collection of heroes (represented as low poly models of ‘miniatures’) who “do ‘battle'” with enemy miniatures, in the sense that you get to watch them undergo a series of random and erratic “attacks” until one side is left without any dudes. It’s an appalling re-imagining of something that could work (squad based pokemon style combat) – dumbed down to the point where it may as well be a dice roll, something that would be more aesthetically and morally pleasing.

Why have they fucked it up so royally? Good question. I suspect it’s to cater to what they believe is their target audience – people who find tying their shoes to be an exercise in deep, tactical decision-making – and also to ensure that you spend your hard earned premium currency on “runes” which let you, for a fixed amount of time, give your heroes slightly better AIs or buffs to make the random outcomes tilt in your favour. The game also suffers from a weird faux-complexity – something the tutorial (which is about a million pages long) tries to inform you about. I won’t go in to any of the features at length – you can recycle outclassed creatures by getting a hero to “consume” them, and you can put people on the front or the back line, making them last slightly longer. Sometimes. None of this has any real impact on the gameplay. For starters, there would probably have to be some gameplay for that to happen.

This happens a lot too. Actually it's probably a good thing, because it means you can't play any more.

This happens a lot too. Actually it’s probably a good thing, because it means you don’t have to play any more.

What may surprise people is that the core part of the game – spending “money” to get new random characters – is actually fine with me. I buy Magic cards, after all – so the idea of paying something to get a random chance at a super rare item (hero) is not a problem. It all falls apart because the heroes are all functionally identical – they have a bunch of meaningless stats and do some kind of damage to one or more bad guys, making an “epic” creature just a “common” creature with more HP.

As would be expected with such a sloppy production, the UI is terrible – badly thought out, unpolished and glitchy (fucked up scrolling? Check. Hiding the health behind the character models? Great idea. How about totally random button placement? Check. Tiny hitboxes? Sure, why not). The writing, which exists in an alarming quantity (at font size negative one million) is ponderous drivel that has nothing to do with anything – during (ostensibly) a re-enactment (the game is “set” around replaying famous battles from Thedas’ history) of the corruption in the Golden City (an important event in DA lore), I inexplicably had to fight some zebra hyena slash fiction creatures. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the codex, so I am left with the probability that the “level” “design” may not be very sensitive to the “story”. To really rub it in, I tried to purchase a “guaranteed epic character” for $2, but instead it just stole my money and said I would receive it “soon” (I never did). The game also manages to run like arse, a feat which is particularly impressive given that it looks worse than Dragon Age 2 and I have the very latest iPhone available.

They also put in the usual freemium contrivances – you run out of “stamina” after six battles, and you can either wait 20 minutes for your next fight or spend some “gems” (purchasable from the IAP store) to continue playing. As in all other freemium games, it’s a reprehensible method to force (hopefully hooked) players to spend money, of course, in HoDA’s case, the chance of wanting to actually continue is slim to none, so it’s perhaps less offensive – instead it affords you a natural opportunity to put the phone down in disgust and scrub yourself with steel wool.

Barely Worth a Score

So many completely meaningless words. They have nothing to do with the battles ahead.

Many completely meaningless words. They have nothing to do with the battles ahead.

HoDA is a pathetic pounding at the bloated, decaying corpse that is the Dragon Age franchise. While Bioware rightly recognized that DA2 not only damaged their franchise but also their perceived ability at not producing shit games (DA3 may actually be good – although I’m not pre-ordering it), it seems that someone in EA didn’t get the memo, and tried to out do DA2’s sterling attempt at ruining an IP. I can’t find anything redeemable about this game at all, and I didn’t feel this angry about Simcity, which I actually paid real money to preorder. It’s as if the title was thrown together by a bunch of professional charlatans, chasing the freemium gravy train and not having a speck of pride or talent coming through in their product.

To me, it is especially egregious as I not only spend scary amounts of money on Magic cards but I also love Dragon Age – and, done right, this game could have been like crack cocaine to my tendencies. But it falls so far short of the mark that it causes me physical pain. I actually went in search of other opinions about this title, just because I could barely believe how such a half-baked, ill-conceived fucktastrophe was actually released, however all I found was this rambling puff piece from Eurogamer – the author was apparently too busy fellating the producer to ask critical questions like “why does this game look so terrible” and “where, when you get right down to it, is the game part?” So in conclusion, I wouldn’t exactly recommend it.

I think I need to go and have a lie down.

Gameplay
Consists of pressing ‘fight’ and waiting. 0/10
Art Direction
The original work appears to be terrible, most of it is a low-res, shoddy copy of DA:O/DA2 0/10
Story and Writing
Despite having approximately as many words as The Odyssey, none of them are worth reading. 0/10
Sound and Music
Both present. 1/10
Longevity
I spent half an hour playing this, wondering when I would find that spark of redemption. It never came. 0/10
Technical
Full of bugs, glitches, terrible performance and visuals. 0/10
VERDICT:
2%

An almost impossibly terrible game that I hope joins the long list of failed freemium titles.

 

From → Game Reviews, Reviews

One Comment
  1. nash permalink

    You might try insulting the people who are most likely to look up your review a little less in the future. I know you’re angry about the game, but It kinda makes it sound like you are attacking the viewers rather than the game.
    That said, this game IS bad. It’s kinda like watching a dog fighting match; you can’t really do anything during the fights and afterwards you just feel dirty, regardless of who wins.

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