Heroes of Dragon Age earns its use of the Dragon Age name by diving headfirst into the lore of this relatively young fantasy franchise. (Rating: 3 out of 5 stars)
With so many references and nods to the prior games and novels, Heroes of Dragon Age would make for an adequate Dragon Age gateway app to newcomers. Much credit goes to the game's emphasis on detailed, well-produced 3D models of the warriors and creatures you collect and fight. Yet because the game deprives the player of control in combat, Heroes is really barely more than a fun companion app, as opposed to a game that longtime fans must check out.
Heroes is fundamentally an enhanced card-based RPG, though it does have much better production values than many other titles in this competitive mobile game genre. The 3D models of each combatant are impressively detailed and many of these familiar beasts and warriors from the Dragon Age universe are well-animated. This makes the earning and unlocking new characters through single-player and player-versus-player battles all the more worthwhile. PvP is the more gratifying experience, given that you'll be taking cards directly away from other players.
As its title implies, Heroes of Dragon Age delves into the Dragon Age franchise by reacquainting fans to both familiar and unfamiliar names, depending on how much lore you've consumed. Heroes not only features characters from the game series, but also warriors and creatures from the previous games' encyclopedia-like codex entries, and the novels. That includes everyone from fan favorite Morrigan to warden commander Duncan. You even get to fight against (and potentially collect) the Queen of the Blackmarsh and the Inferno Golem, bosses from the lone Dragon Age: Origins expansion, "Awakening." It's impressive that the game's studio Capital Games went all out, though that also sets high expectations for this mobile freemium game.
It's not enough for any Dragon Age game to rely solely on recognizable characters, since most players also want a tale to give these adventurers some context. Heroes offers a light narrative structure in the form of quests and the ultimate goal of driving away the evil "Darkspawn" from the continent. Along with the bosses placed at various points of the campaign, the story, while hardly original, provides just enough motivation to progress down the game's linear path. That said, there's opportunity to replay prior battles and grind if you don't mind the surprisingly non-interactive battles.
For a series known for its involving combat, Heroes actually doesn't demand much dexterity. In fact, there's no control once a battle starts. The basic strategy is to choose the right fighters for the upcoming battle and to place each warrior either on the front lines for better health or the back rows to deal better damage.
There is an element of chance in not knowing the full strengths and stats of your opponents ahead of time, but Heroes offers a variety of options to potentially give you an upper hand. You can stick to conventional RPG wisdom that a party diverse in skills and classes is the best kind of party; yet in some of Heroes' battles, it's better to focus on factions. A party that is composed of members in the same color faction will gain a damage boost, but is also subject to the color-based weakness of that faction. To get an additional edge, there are runes, consumables that offer bonuses on damage, speed, and other stats. When so much of the game is left to chance, these added options beyond the characters' main stats are appreciated, but they don't necessarily translate into deep combat.
And it wouldn't be a proper collectable card game without the opportunity to buy card through blind packs. This is part of Heroes' in-app purchase structure. You can also buy stamina so you can jump back into battle sooner rather than wait for dozens of minutes for your stamina to naturally replenish. The contents of the card packs have traditional degrees of rarity, which enhances the game's replay value. You'll find the poison-breathing Wyvern among the couple dozen Rare characters, while Dragon Age II's Sebastian Vael and his Arrow of Judgment is part of the Epic category. It was a bit of a surprise to find the Grey Warden, Oghren among the Legendary characters, but then again, his Unrelenting Barrage packs a punch against a single enemy.
Given its lack of an original story, not to mention lack of battle interactivity, Heroes of Dragon Age is not exactly a suitable predecessor to next year's Dragon Age: Inquisition. That said, the strong adherence to the established lore adds value to what would have been an otherwise generic collectable card game. Knowing that the next card you unlock might be a familiar warrior from the prior games builds a sense of anticipation. If you have prior emotional attachments to some of these heroes, the game's quests and PvP matches provide more than enough opportunities to level up and grow your adventurers.
- Heroes of Dragon Age
- Developer: Capital Games
- Publisher: EA
- Platforms: iOS, Android
- Price: Free
- In-app purchases? Yes