DragonFangZ teeth get even sharper. Are you up to the task? Join me as I recount my escapades in three new labyrinths.
Genre: RPG, Strategy
Developer: Toydea Inc.
Publisher: Toydea Inc., Gamera Game
Release Date: 28 Feb, 2018
Rose is a half-human, half-dragon who, along with her fairy godmother, stumbles into another dimension, known as “The Tree of Time”.
It is said that a great treasure of formidable power sleeps in the deepest depths of this dimension, a treasure with enough power to return a lost dragon-half and her fairy to their own world. Thus begins our heroine’s journey through the labyrinth known as “The Tree of Time”.
If Rose is defeated during the adventure, she will lose all items and her level will be reset. Furthermore, the dungeon of The Tree of Time changes its form every time you enter, meaning no two quests are ever the same. Your courage and growth as an adventurer will be the keys to this quest!
I reviewed the main DragonFangZ game over a year ago, a lot has happened in the meantime. Numerous updates have been uploaded to the Steam store. Being a massive fan of the classic Mystery Dungeon style roguelikes it was great to see this type of dungeon crawler finally come to the PC. Toydea took the base template used by so many Japanese developers and added a few new systems to make a truly remarkable title. Any fans of the Pokémon, Chocobo‘s or Shiren games will be very familiar with the genre.
Cave of Fangs
The Cave of Fangs was the first DLC to be released back in September of last year. Obviously, from its very title, it focused on the “Fang” system. This new dungeon has 30 floors to explore along with three bosses to vanquish. This content is aimed for a seasoned veteran of the series and tuned to provide a mighty challenge for anybody brave enough to step up to the plate.
In order to unlock this new adventure, you must reach the 10th floor of the “Dragon’s Cradle” in the main campaign. Along with this requirement, you enter this dungeon without any of your hard fought items and weapons gained from any previous escapades.
On entering the cave you are greeted with a new desert tileset. Sandstone walls, muddy rivers and massive green cactus fill the environment. The procedural map algorithm has been modified to produce 3-5 larger areas connected with long winding corridors. Various other tweaks to the basic systems have been introduced. Leveling up doesn’t top up your health bar and new pitfall traps drop you down to the next harder floor. Item and weapon drops are very scarce. During numerous runs, I only managed to find a sword and shield combo on two occasions. Given that you enter the dungeon without any armament whatsoever this makes the first few floors very tricky to navigate, especially if you run into mobs or if you are extremely unfortunate to find a monster room!
The flipside to the lack of weapons is the increased Fang drop rate which might be as high as 75%. Managing and selecting these is vital in order to progress even to the first boss on floor 10. Tipping the combat towards this system makes positioning in skirmishes more important than ever. In order to power up your Fang “souls” to have to fight in the open to gain points. Higher strength fangs need 20+ points to activate their awesome abilities. The playstyle has to be chevalier and aggressive. Defensive tactics will not cut it without proper weapons.
There are lots of new monsters to be slain in this new arena. I managed to bump into and dispatch a weird assortment of foes including, mini blue imps, crowned mushroom men, dancing dryads and “fluffiers”. The latter are a right royal pain in the rear end. Their paralysis spell can spell curtains if invoked in a tight skirmish with multiple foes nearby. All these new additions give this DLC a fresh appeal. There is certainly a lot of creative thought gone into these original and unique monsters designs. Not only from their appearance, which is playful, but the new challenges offered from their magical debuffs and offensive spell capabilities.
Cave of Fangs is a hardcore challenge. I’ve sunk numerous hours into this test of mental strength and tactic awareness. So far I have only managed to beat the first boss Merlinus twice. He and cohorts inhabit floor 10. There are two more bosses to be bested in order to complete this trial. I’d wager it will take me some time and a good amount of luck to achieve this demanding feat. This DLC offers lots of new content but it only suitable for die-hard roguelike vets. To see all the new sights and battle with the zoo of new enemies will take skill and dedication. Newbies will be slaughtered in a couple of floors, probably ill-equipped and lacking in the found knowledge gained from the many runs needed to procure good strategies.
Inferno Hollow is the second DLC released for DragonFangz. It totals 60 floors and 3 new bosses. Each floor is made up of one open space. There are no branching corridors or separate “rooms”. This impacts the game flow significantly. On entering a new dungeon it is wise to study the layout and positions of enemies, foes and items. This is almost akin to a chess puzzle found in broadsheet newspapers of old. Taking time out to study your opening moves is vital if you want to progress deeper into this underground adventure.
The difficulty curve is more lenient towards the newer player, compared to the brutal assault of the previous Cave of Fangs. The opening few floors allow you to equip your character with some basic weapons and armour. Fangs drop are in keeping with the main game formula. So by floor 10, most players will have a fighting chance when surrounded by mobs. By this stage its best to develop some kind of long term strategy, what Fangs to equip and power up. Defensive capabilities like blunt attacks and the area of effect spells will help greatly with the first boss encounter. Without going into spoiler territory, you will need to keep this foe at arm’s length during the early exchanges. This is due to his/her massive health reserves.
Slimes from the main game are some of the foes you have to contend with. Along with the regular aloe variety, two new variations have been added. Hot slimes drop a powerful fang that allows a strong frontal attack once powered up. Cold slime soul, once equipped, add a defensive bonus and a tough buff once charged.
There’s plenty of variety in the new tilesets which are featured in this episode. These include Ancient temples with crumbling columns and aquamarine water courses, along with violet-hued caves strewn with crystalline formations. The chilly arctic areas with daft snowmen and mysterious blue obelisks are some of my favourite environments. Toydea artists are top draw and all of their work is of very high quality. All the visuals obviously come from someone with a vivid imagination. They have a playful and whimsical nature that is hard not to like.
This all hits the sweet spot in terms of content and difficulty. It’s easy to jump into and make headway into the adventure. The massive 60 floors mean that unless you are a roguelike genius, it’s going to take some time to reach the end level and beat the final boss. If I was to pick one DLC from the three I’ve had the privilege to test and review, then this would be my choice. It’s basically a whole new campaign set in the DragonFangz universe.
The latest DLC Friendship’s Labyrinth adds yet another twist on the classic gameplay mode. This dungeon is made up of 30 floors. As with the previous new dungeons, you are not allowed to bring your own gear into this fresh adventure. The clue to the style of the experience is in the title itself. By befriending monsters you can double up your chances of defeating the many new foes in this challenging test of strategy.
There are two ways of teaming up with the many creatures which inhabit this labyrinth. You can collect friendship potions and throw these at foes. This brings them under your spell, but only for the floor, you are on presently. They do not follow you down the stairs to the next level. The other way is to destroy the heart-shaped stones scattered around the world. Once broken they unleash an area of an effect spell which will calm one of the monsters within this zone. Having a companion to fight alongside your main character fundamentally changes the way the game can be played. Befriending a tough resilient foe that soaks up damage from mobs allows you to pick off enemies with ranged attacks. By throwing health potions at your new friend, you can use them as a buffer and shield from debilitating blows and strikes.
Choosing which monsters to buddy up with is key to progressing further in the adventure. You will die many times by making the wrong decisions. Roguelike experience is built from many fails runs. Knowing which monsters are right for certain situations is born from hard-fought knowledge accrued from countless campaigns.
Your new pals are virtually autonomous units, you have no direct command of their actions. Once under your spell, they make a beeline for any enemies in the vicinity. All the buffs and offensive spells you can muster on your character can be cast by throw potions and swinging wands. It’s great to see what effect a double power attack has on your combat partner, as they seamlessly slaughter a motley collection of foes.
Friendship’s Labyrinth is an interesting spin on the defacto gameplay. It takes some getting used to the fact that you now have two lines of attack. That being said, by limiting the relationship to one floor reduces the possibilities within this new mechanic. If you could develop your engagement over a full run, it would be far more rewarding. Evolving your friendly creature with power-ups and new skills would be really beneficial and add a great depth to the whole escapade
Quality Of Life Features
On release, DragonFangz came with scant documentation and limited control options. This has been rectified by some of the recent updates. Initially, there was no mouse support. This has now been added along with new Big Picture Mode style icons. Support for keyboard, gamepad and the aforementioned mouse system has been added. Unfortunately, none of these can be customised.
DragonFangz is a mystery dungeon game in all but name. If you are a fan of the classic home and portable console series then this title is perfect if PC is your platform of choice. All the bells and whistles that accompany this powerful system are supported. High-resolution visuals, numerous control methods and cloud saves are present. The game is extremely scalable and accessible. You can play on a tablet, laptop and your beefy home setup with no problems. It’s great to see this style of roguelike finally on the Steam store. Toydea’s continual support of the title shows commitment for the long term development of the franchise. The DLC released so far have expanded the scope of the game immensely. So if you are unfamiliar with Japanese roguelikes and fancy a change from the usual dry staid fare then I highly recommend these adventures in the Tree of Time.