By: Jasmine Henry | Jul 17th 2012
Let it be said that dragons are awesome. They can burn down entire castles, let alone singe your eyebrows off, they are more than capable of taking on a Boeing 747 when it comes to flight, oh, and they tower hundreds of feet above the ground. Small fries then.
Dragons aren't born badass and giant though, they have to be raised, in communities, apparently, which is where the Facebook game "Dragon City" comes in, with you, the player, channeling your own Daenerys Targaryen as you work with the "Dragon Master" to raise your own troop of mythical hellraisers from their eggs.
Developed by SocialPoint and currently going through a heavy duty beta phase (it has over 4 million monthly users), the aim of the game in Dragon City is to raise the dragons, have them build up their strength for battle before ultimately joining the Dragon League and mastering all dragon cities.
As you soon learn from Dragon Master Deus (similarities in appearance and name to Greek god Zeus are intentional, I presume), raising a team of dragons in Dragon City is no easy feat, with several different tasks factoring into the beasts' development.
The first, and perhaps most important of all factors, is the construction of new buildings. To actually home your dragons once you've got them from the hatchery (and after you've purchased an egg - more on that later) and to sustain their wellbeing, you'll need to build a habitat to house them, a farm for more food resources and an optional (but incredibly useful) dragon market which allows you to pick up a good deal or two on items, or you can sell some of your own goods or do an item -for-item trade with your Facebook friends (if they too play Dragon City, that is). You are also able to purchase decorations - and while I doubt that the dragons will care much for your interior design skills, the game lets you do so anyway if you wish!
The second of these factors is the aforementioned wellbeing of your dragon. When they first hatch, all innocent and scaly, newborn dragons sit at a measly level one - in order to have your dragon reach its utmost beastly potential, you have to feed it with a naval fleets worth of food. The dragons aren't particularly bothered about what you feed them but you can cater to their total lack of eating fussiness by cultivating your own farm-grown food (you buy it and wait to collect), such as - Hot Dragon Chilli and Caterpillar Lily - (they have different growth times and result in differing rewards - more time/more food).
Thirdly, dragons take on something that's vital to every species' survival. Yup, that's right, you play a part in making the dragons breed. You'll need a breeding center ('Breeding Mountain' - which will again cost gold to build) before taking two dragons that you've previously hatched and provided that they are level four or above, you can put them on the mountain and wait for a lovely new dragon egg to show up! You can choose dragons from different species on their together and this creates combo dragons - I placed an earth dragon called 'Spiky', whom I'd grown from a purchased egg, with a fire dragon called Xili to get a wonderful bundle of earth/fire joy, Sassi (the egg from breeding goes onto a hatching rock and you have to wait for it to hatch). Now while earth dragons and fire dragons (a long with the other specific dragon species) will need their own habitats, a hybrid dragon, such as Sassi, the earth/fire dragon, can go in either or.
As luck would('nt) have it, Dragon City embodies the real world once again as just like reality, everything in the game costs money, and boy, are things in your newly founded dragon-filled utopia expensive. As we've already established, food, eggs and habitats all cost you a pretty penny, and the money that you begin the game with will run out quickly. There are two ways of raising funds in Dragon City - one being to find yourself channeling every ounce of patience you have as you wait for the money meter to provide you with funds. Each dragon has its own money/per minute rating which changes depending on the species of the dragon (so far, the earth type seems to be the most lucrative) and what level the dragon is (higher the level/more money you'll gain). Quests are also a brilliant way to earn some gold. Ranging from the tedious - 'clear that shrubbery' to the tutorial-like - 'visit Deus' City', there's always something to do. As for that second example of visiting Dragon City's dragon master, Deus, visiting your friends will become a frequent habit as you are provided with loot for helping your Dragon City playing buddies out - the game rewards you with plentiful incentives and bonuses for not being a loner (or for having dragon enthusiasts as friends, at least).
You won't want to spend that money too fast though as while there are clearly plenty of ways to afford the upkeep of your new animated friends, the saying 'mo' money, mo' problems' is still prevailent - keep that money saved because you could need it in the future when a quest has you paying for the construction of something or the other.
Of course building up a team of fearless (yet adorable) dragons isn't just for fun (though it can be if you want), the glory of owning a tremendous band of mythical behemoths is that you get to take on other brave competitors, for rewards that'll keep your dragons eating Caterpillar Lilies for eons to come. Taking on one user owned island at a time (these are real people whose dragons yours will be fighting against), Dragon Island lets you take part in three glorious battles every six hours, with the risk of losing your new dragon babies completely eliminated - the game itself says that you won't lose any dragons in combat. The rewards for you and your creature feature charges are gems, aka the premium currency in Dragon Island, right above gold. These are far harder to gain and can only be regained by levelling up and by completing sponsored offers, so the Dragon Island combat side activity is important, to say the least. It will take you a while to get there, however, as the fighting is only available once you, yourself have reached level 10 (which you can get to by completing quests and levelling up your dragons).
Even if you haven't yet reached the level required for Dragon City combat, it honestly isn't needed as there's more than enough dragon caretaking and quest following to keep you occupied. None of it is mindnumbingly boring, even if the tasks at hand seem to repeat themselves. And what provides the icing on the cake is that you get to play through all of this whilst being serenaded by a background of a soothing classical arrangement that wouldn't sound out of place on a child's lullaby tape or in the most peaceful of elevators. The bright and vibrant graphics aren't a downside either, with the vast array of colours just bordering 'visual E-number' territory.
What issues I have with the game are very minor. For example, the tutorial is incredbily flimsy, even for a social game (where the tutorials are generally somewhat integrated into the gameplay) , Deus is really slipping on his deity duties. And there's also the fact that the pacing of Dragon Island is just terrible. Obviously in games like these, you are allowed to go off and do your own thing in your own time but as the game begins with quests for you to take on fairly easily and quickly, after a few hours of questing, it becomes laborous, not boring, just difficult - not helped by Deus' slacking. I'd like that later quests to eating a 10 foot sandwich - still delicious after the four thousandth bite, but it's so much effort to keep going that you eventually just succumb to the indigestion and take a nap.
These are simple niggles, which, with a bit of change (all SocialPoint would have to do is add more originality to the quests and feature Deus more prominently, with more helpful tips) the game would increase tenfold, but as this is a beta, there's no doubt in my mind that the full release version of Dragon City will be able to reach its full potential.
As a result, I award the Dragon City beta a solid 8 and I look forward to seeing what it has in store in the future!