If you enjoy playing games based on licensed properties like movies then Outright Games will appear familiar. They are behind a lot of the recent licensed games that include Hotel Transylvania, Paw Patrol and Adventure Time. Some of their efforts were below mediocre but others are surprisingly decent games like Adventure Time. Dragons: Dawn of New Riders is somewhere in the middle of it.
The gameplay feels modeled around the top-down view of Diablo series but it is not overly complex. The focus is on taking the blueprints of this gameplay and making it simple to understand and fun to play. This is where Dragons: Dawn of New Riders successfully manages to find its footing. It never feels like a clone but a refreshing new game set in the same world as the How To Train Your Dragon franchise.
Most licensed tie-ins will attempt to take the story from their properties instead of making something original of their own. Dragons: Dawn of New Riders tries to avoid retracing old story elements instead acting more like a stop-gap between the second and third movie. It thus feels like a spin-off game with an original story and brand new characters while cameos to the main characters from the franchise are prevalent throughout the game’s story mode.
The two leads in Dragons: Dawn of New Riders are new and created specifically for the game. Scribbler is a scholar who ends up getting a pet dragon called Patch. They end up forming an alliance that leads them on a journey to search for the true origins of Patch, who is a unique breed of dragon. As you make your way through the story, the dragon will grow older which is honestly cool to see in action. It also leads to unlocking new powers which helps you explore more locations that were before inaccessible.
The game offers two playable characters that are switched at any point by pressing a button. Each character has its own unique use not just in combat but also during exploration. Patch will grow up to gain the ability to use various elemental powers like snow, fire, and thunder. You can then use them to solve environment-based puzzles. They also come useful in combat when you are controlling Scribbler since Patch can attack enemies using them. As an example of such puzzles, you can use ice for freezing water, fire to destroy ice, and thunder to power up switches. The same applies to Scribbler who can use his weapons to trigger and solve puzzles.
Dragons: Dawn of New Riders doesn’t look that bad from the outset. The art style is quite simple and looks nice on the screen. It resembles the TV show so the art style feels consistent. The visuals are nothing to write home about but at least I didn’t find them as terrible as some of the studio’s earlier work like Hotel Transylvania. The environments and backgrounds are all nicely animated while the presentation never feels like low quality. The menu layout appears slick and easy to use even for kids.
Any mechanic that could have made the gameplay system complex gets stripped down in favor of a most simple loot based system. As you destroy objects or explore and discover chests, you will get new weapons or items to use in combat. The gathered loot helps to trade for items or upgrade your weapons and armor. There is no way to gain experience points or mess around with a stats for the character, so this is not exactly a Diablo-clone action RPG but something manageable for kids.
Even if the game works fine, the combat feels like it could work better if it was more fun but it just isn’t right now. Attacking enemies or avoiding their attacks feel sluggish. The lock-on system is confusing when you are fighting with multiple enemies. Patch is a terrible character in battle because of the lack of a proper targeting system for his power, which means you will have to deal with some trial and error. So while the game does look nice and feels polished, the combat seems largely ignored and lackluster.
Overall, Dragons: Dawn of New Riders is a nice licensed tie-in video game that is fun and recommended for those who love the franchise. It might not offer a blockbuster experience but the effort to make it an original storyline helps to make the product more appealing in the eyes of most consumers.
Dragons: Dawn of New Riders Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Join the new heroic duo, Scribbler and Patch, in an epic battle to save dragons and defeat the villain, Eir, who is controlling dragons to carry out her evil plans.
Final Score - 7/107/10
Dragons: Dawn of New Riders mostly keeps it simple and fun with an easy to follow story and gameplay. It is not the most complex action game but makes uses its licensed property creatively. So instead of looking like forced tie-in, it feels more like a proper spin-off to the movie.