Fresh from their success on the original ‘Dragon Age: Origins’, BioWare pushed immediately into production on ‘Dragon Age II’, turning the game around on an impossibly fast schedule and releasing to mixed reviews. It was a pleasant surprise then that they also found time to repeat the success of ‘Dragon Age Journeys’ with a companion flash game released through Facebook.
The quality of Dragon Age II aside (we happen to quite like it here at MBU), Legends shows a massive amount of attention and love for a simple companion game for social players to enjoy on the countdown to launch. It’s crafted in such a way that it appeals to veteran RPG players and casual gamers alike and is something of an easy access point for newcomers to the genre. That Facebook was at its height as a gaming platform at the time, advancing past simple text driven titles but not dulled in player base by users switching to phone versions of the platform, helped immensely.
Graphically the style of this game is visually similar to both the simplistic art seen in Journeys and that seen on the loading screens in-game in Dragon Age II itself. The style is visually recognisable and puts across a marginally more cartoony version of a dark western fantasy world. Character sprites are individually designed from pieces that fit together across a multitude of different looks and enable weapons or armour to be shown on-screen when equipped, and monsters are true to their console counterparts. The social features do clutter up the bottom half of the screen somewhat, but this is very much a game tied into the ‘Social RPG’ formula and such things are to be expected. Impressive is the keep-building (which later played a bigger part in ‘Inquisition’) and sheer amount of content included, with rooms slotting together in an almost ‘Tetris’-like natural fashion.
Audio is taken directly from the original Origins title, and as such is of a very high standard, aided by being played through computer speakers designed to handle high-end audio. Nothing is lost in translation and ultimately the game benefits greatly from this as it firmly places the game as part of the Dragon Age setting despite a differing platform and visual style.
The narrative in Legends sees the player take on the role of a self-created character in the service of a Viscount named Ravi who once served as a Templar and helped to prevent a major demon incursion into the Free Marches, focused on a city called Kaiten. Aiding him once before, he calls upon your aid again when his son is taken by demons in a fashion that may or may not be connected to his past, and as the only man/woman he trusts with his life, he tasks you with raising a force to repel the incursion and get him back. It’s not as direct a story as the one presented in Dragon Age Journies, but it does include some well written party members and give a sense of scale to the Free Marches that was perhaps missing from Dragon Age II with its strong focus on the city of Kirkwall to the exclusion of everything else. It’s not as strong as it could be however, and frequently you’ll be playing for the experience of combat rather than because you’re clear on a goal set by the story.
Gameplay is centred around progressing through story chapters by moving along a semi-linear path representing an area. Each point on the map represents a loot spot, conversation between characters or (more frequently) a battle. Combat comes in waves, one after another and can consist of your party of characters tackling up to six monsters on the opposing side of the screen using a turn-based combat system. Character position is important because it decides who is attacked and which characters shield each other (making tanking a viable strategy), and each character has a series of attacks based on what weapon they have equipped and what items you have in stock. Potions play a big role, with them in place to cover regeneration and special attacks for non-spell casting characters and are earned through various systems in-game including being mixed at your castle. In a rock/paper/scissors style there are certain monster types weaker to different character roles. You can’t play all your characters all of the time however, with those that are wounded requiring a break in real-time, and this is where the social aspects roll in because you can engage the services of characters created by friends to pick up the slack whilst story-based characters rest up and continue playing. Battles can be a walk-over or extremely tough based on how you approach them and the system holds together in a pleasing and solid fashion. When not in the field adventuring you can return to your castle, and here you build extra rooms, engage the services of NPCs and take on various tasks for rewards in a mini-game within a game that can be an extremely rewarding experience. At first your building is limited by the space you have to work in, but this expands quickly both out, up and downward as the game progresses in an almost ‘UFO: Enemy Unknown’ style manner. The title does use energy to keep your progress capped into smaller sessions and encourage social interaction between players, with doesn’t hold up very well as a system given its current non-social format, and can be quite annoying at times, but taken casually the title feels paced quite well. As in Journeys, the player can earn rewards by playing that are carried over using a BioWare account into Dragon Age II. This time however, owning a copy of Dragon Age II also has the benefit of unlocking ‘Hawk’ as a playable character in the social game, making the formula work both ways. N7 armour from Mass Effect 2 and some Darkspore items were also placed into the game as a bonus for those with them on their accounts. These items were made publically available some time ago by BioWare however, and as such are not a reason alone to play the game.
Overall, Dragon Age Legends is a solid addition to the series canon, and includes a number of features that we would later see fleshed out in bigger and more dramatic ways (base building for example). No longer hosted on Facebook, cutting off the social elements entirely, the game was re-formatted as a single player adventure that can be downloaded and run for free from a host-site on BioWare’s page. It’s well worth checking out if you’re a fan of the series, or are looking for something to keep you amused over a lunch-break at work.