DreamWorks Dragons Dawn of New Riders Review (PS4)
I wish I had my own dragon.
Publisher: Outright Games Ltd.
I LOVE How to Train Your Dragon, specifically the movies as I haven’t read the books (…yet). Though, I tend to try and forget the last movie exists. I really loved the message the movies (and by extension the shorts and the tv series) had, loved the characters (especially Hiccup), and well the movies are very enjoyable. Plus the dragons. Despite always wanting to play a HTTYD game, I held back on picking up Dawn of New Riders for a long time as I had no idea if it was a good game. True, I could play the free to play games like School of Dragons, but I’m a bit too late to get in and the golden years are gone. As you can guess, I finally picked Dawn of New Riders up and played it.
Dreamworks Dragons Dawn of New Riders takes place sometime after the second movie (and maybe during the tv show) and it starts with one of Hiccup’s dragon refuges, Havenholme, being attacked and set on fire. Hiccup and Astrid go to investigate on why and to put out the fires so the dragons and anyone that lived there can return. Hiccup ends up finding a boy that was knocked out and just now came to, with a dragon egg right beside him. While Hiccup is suspicious at first, it quickly becomes apparent that he isn’t with the dragon trapped that attacked as he has lost his memory. This boy is who you get to play as. After hearing a roar and worrying about Astrid, Hiccup puts this new boy, who he nicknames as Scribbler, in charge of watching the dragon egg and tells him where to find a weapon to defend himself before leaving.
Of course, right after Hiccup leaves the dragon trappers manages to steal the dragon egg under the cover of a smoke bomb. You do successfully get to the dragon egg, but at the moment when it seems you won’t be able to win, the dragon egg hatches. The explosive hatching totally doesn’t kill the dragon trappers and Scribbler strangely feels some familarity to this dragon and even recalls a bigger dragon that carried him to Havenholme. This new dragon is a whole new species, one that seems to be a combination of different dragons, and he is classified as a new species, Chimeragon, and is named Patch. You soon also learn that this was kickstarted by a mysterious blue haired villain named Eir who somehow found a way to control dragons and is pretty cryptic on why she’s attacking. So with Patch by your side, you guys go to hopefully recover Scribbler’s memory, find out where Patch came from, and to stop Eir.
Dawn of New Riders’ story is serviceable. It’s not particularly a great or memorable story, but it at least does well enough to drive you to continue playing. I also did like Patch the Chimeragon was handled. I’m still wondering how Patch came to be, but he is cute (especially when he’s a baby) and how fast he grew. Though, the game ends with an open ending with questions still unanswered, And I’m not just talking about how Patch was made (which I can overlook) or who the mysterious “G” behind the scenes is (though I’m pretty sure it’s referencing the third movie’s villain Grimmel), but Scribbler’s memory. Due to this, I do wonder if this was planned around having a sequel where we got closure for Scribble and Patch, but there isn’t really much about the game out there and as far as I know, there has been no word on another HTTYD game being in the works, let alone one meant to be a sequel to this one. Or maybe Scribble and Patch was supposed to show up in another media, but again it doesn’t seem like they did.
I also did wish we got to see or talk to the characters of How to Train Your Dragon more. You do talk to Hiccup some, but the only ones that appear is Astrid and Gobber (which you don’t really talk to them much). The others are merely mentioned in Terror Mail (aka Air Mail sent by Terrible Terrors) which is pretty disappointing as I was looking forward to seeing them.
In terms of gameplay, I ended up enjoying it. Dawn of New Riders is mainly displayed in a top-down perspective while playing, with the camera being fixed unless it’s needed to expand to get the full view of an area. You start out with the basic shield and axe to defend yourself at the beginning, with you getting a basic sword and hammer as you progress through the game. Despite the flaws of the combat, I did end up finding it enjoyable enough to keep playing. You can block attacks with your shield and attack enemies close to you with whatever weapon you have equipped. And each weapon does have their own attack stats and how fast it handles. You can also do a charged attack to get through your enemy’s shield, though your enemy can do the same thing which you need to dodge if you want to not get hit. However, the lock on (which is tied to blocking) is bad here as it’s more of a lock to the direction on where the closest enemy is when you pressed the button as you can’t turn around to reface the enemy without letting down your shield. Though, the game does do a good job at having you dodge around the enemy when guarding/locked on. You also can’t reposition when you’re doing a charge attack so hope that the enemy doesn’t move. Another annoying aspect is that your charged attack can get canceled if the enemy lands a hit even if the animation already started and you can get continuously stunned.
Sometimes the enemies you need to defeat will already be present and sometimes they’ll be in waves, you’ll just know when it happens. There are a couple dragon trapper types that will show up and sometimes you’ll have a dragon that you need to free from Eir’s control. Luckily, you do have buffs and health items you can use and you get a horn that you can call a dragon that you rescued to help. Just make sure the enemy is on screen.
You can also switch to control Patch during battle or when exploring. The AI for the character you’re not controlling is good enough, it tried to stay close to you, takes a path to get back to you if it’s possible, stays on buttons, and helps attack even if it can get wonky and try to attack when there’s objects in the way. As a baby, Patch starts with being able to spew out an icey breath and as he grows he gets the ability to shoot out lighting and fire. During battle, while it’s hard to aim for enemies, Patch’s attacks have effects if it hits enemies like freezing them and causing their movement to slow down. You’ll mainly use Patch while exploring though, as the puzzles you’ll come across will require Patch to help out. Need to cross over a river? Freeze the water. Need the strange metal blocks to move the way you need to? Use lightning on these purple glowing statues.
Talking about exploration and puzzles, I actually really liked the exploration and puzzles. There is really only three different looks for the islands, they did a really good job in having it be fun to go through and it helps that the puzzles help with the variety even within the same island. The main islands you’ll explore during the main campaign are done so well and it leads you to the dungeon that you explore as well and figure out a way to get to the boss (mainly by way of puzzles). The puzzles themselves are great. At first it’s easy, you just hit the block with the hammer to push it to the button, stand on a button to open the path, use lightning to get metal blocks out of the way and you’re done. But as you progress the puzzles gets more complicated and you’ll need to take longer to think it through. For example, a simple shot lighting at this statue turns you into finding hidden statues or knowing how the area is set up to get to where you need to go or getting your timing right so you can hit the statue.
The map is also done well, unexplored areas are faded until you go to that area and you can trace where you need to go and you can fast travel to the big torches that light up in certain screens when you enter. The dungeon maps are confusing at first, as they’re more interconnected than outside, but looking closer you can trace the doors. Granted, it’s a bit more complicated than that as stairs and bridges can be destroyed, making you find a different path there.
As you’re (totally not) killing enemies and undoubtedly destroying fragile objects, you’ll notice that you’ll be getting resources. Specifically flowers and ore. The flowers go towards buying health items and buffs from Astrid, as while you can get them from chests they barely pop up. The ore goes to Gobber who uses it to upgrade your weapons and craft armor so you can have more attack power or defense. There are also six other optional islands you can land on, which I actually do recommend doing. These will either require you to complete puzzles, which they’re unique between each other and the main islands, or to defeat all the enemies. You’ll get resources for your trouble and half of them have a specific item that is needed to fully upgrade your weapons.
Once Patch is old enough to fly and carry you, you do get to fly on him to travel between the islands. Flight here isn’t that bad, though not explained as well in the tutorial as it could have been. I actually had the impression you had to tap to fly, as the button that propels you forward is “flap wings” and it worked the first time, but you actually have to hold it. Patch is pretty easy to control and I like how the map is here as it acts like you’re holding it while riding so you can reposition Patch to the island you’re going to without having to constantly bring it up to know. The only aspects that are annoying is the camera angle (thankfully you do have control of it here), it is annoying trying to get the angle to fly when you get stuck on part of an island, and I hate how you just get a screen of white when flying through clouds.
I did also like the art style and visuals here, but it does seem it suited the dragons more than the human characters. The dragons look so much cuter here, while the human characters could have been better. Also the performance is good on PS4, but I did notice some stuttering which seemed to happen more when I had Patch freezing water.
Despite the flaws that Dreamworks Dragons Dawn of New Riders has, it was still enjoyable and I found myself completing the game in one session. There are certainly disappointing and annoying combat aspects, like how the game ends, how few characters show up, and how little you talk to them, I found the combat mostly enjoyable, the story is good enough, and the puzzles were fun and became challenging. I even almost cried at what happens after you complete the last island. However, I don’t recommend Dawn of New Riders unless you’re already a How to Train Your Dragon fan and can get the game at around half the original price. I did find the game enjoyable, but it doesn’t reach the expectation of a $30-40 game and the ending is pretty disappointing.