Hands-on with Dragon Raja: First impressions of Tecent’s new mobile MMORPG

    
18

I enjoy mobile MMOs. It’s a hit-or-miss kind of genre: Some are great, others are terrible. I personally love the adventure of finding those good ones. So when opportunity came knocking to try Archosaur Games’ Dragon Raja, I was down. The game’s been in the back of my head for months, and I was excited to give it a try. Going in, I didn’t know what to expect, but after sinking in about 30 hours into the gameplay, I could comfortably say it’s a pretty decent MMO – but only if players are willing to make it their only mobile MMO.

Let’s have an open mind here: I know it’s easy to criticize mobile games, and it’s not like it isn’t deserved. Think of any anti-consumer practice the gaming industry’s done recently, and the mobile market did it five years before. But we can’t deny that MMOs do have a future in the mobile gaming sphere, even in the West, and it’s a good time to reframe how we perceive the mobile MMO.

With games like Black Desert MobileAdventureQuest 3D, and RuneScape Mobile all occupying the same space, there are quality mobile MMOs available today – yes, even on this side of the Pacific Ocean. Looking forward, we’ve got Blade and Soul 2, Path of Exile Mobile, and Final Fantasy XI R2 gracing our mobile devices in the near future. Backed by the likes of China’s Tencent, Dragon Raja will join this group.

As soon as I fired up the game, the aesthetic stuck out: It’s a futuristic, neon-laced, cyberpunk Earth with lots of purple and technology that makes swords relevant again. I honestly didn’t know I wanted to play an MMO with this style! I’ve gotten so used to whatever the heck Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2’s aesthetic is that I didn’t even know this was cool!

The Unreal 4 engine ensures the game runs buttery smooth on an iPhone XR. There’s also options to set the game to run at 60 frames per second, which is pretty impressive. It’s clear Archosaur and Tencent really wanted to leave an impression for prospective players, and it certainly strummed the right chord with me. Coming from a time when phone games was just snake, I’m awed at what a phone can do these days.

The fact that this game runs at 60 frames per second is wild. Meet my character, Nazareth.

The futuristic cyberpunk allows for a unique aesthetic take on traditional tank, DPS, and healer roles. Each get its slew of futuristic weaponry and skills, but all stay faithful to the class types we’ve come to know. The blademaster fulfills the tank archetype, while the gunslinger and assassin check off the ranged and melee DPS roles respectively. The healer made for the most unique design with the soul dancer.

Soul dancers have a ghost-like copy of themselves following them around; they do the usual anime things with the ghost copy elegantly dancing with the physical character. The soul dancers have a pretty cool attack where the player sends out their ghosts to do the damage dealing – a pretty cool take on the traditional robe-and-staff healer type. It fits in pretty well with the overall aesthetic.

I gave it a cursory try, but since I prefer a straightforward style, I went ahead and ran with the blademaster. The game has a powerful character creation tool. You can pick hairstyles, facial features and edit individual limbs. None of the classes is gender locked, a welcome feature for many. In fact, the studio went the extra mile and went with three genders: male, female, and lolita. So there’s definitely something for eve-

Wait. What?

Yup. The developers went there. They certainly knew their demographic.

The soul dancer is the healer class in the game, it’s a pretty cool take on the game.

I’m not really into the lolita types, and I wasn’t in the mood for the edgy male character types for this test, so I rolled a female blademaster and named her Nazareth. For those familiar with Nier Automata, her design channels some serious 2B (or 2P for the FFXIV players out there) vibes out there. Two katanas, one large and one small, float behind her back, and her playstyle involves switching between the two katanas. She’s a melee fighter, and from level 1 she’s already got some pretty flashy moves, which is par for the course for these mobile MMO types. Later down the road, they can spec into a DPS or Tank role with the usual damage buffs and threat generation skills.

Flashiness is usually the best way to get players to play these mobile games. Of course, mobile MMOs want to hook the player as early as possible, so the game uses an outfit-based system rather than having models for individual armor pieces to make them look as cool as possible. Freshly rolled characters look pretty flashy already, and throughout the main quest, players receive free outfits. Character outfits are complete packages; each piece of equipment doesn’t actually have individual model pieces. As an old-school MMO player, I’m not a massive fan of it, but at least the outfits are nice.

All new characters dress in a very nice looking greatcoat to fight off the cold of the newbie area, which is a small school in the middle of the Siberian forest. And after a few easy quests you’re introduced to the characters, some basic attacks, the mechanics of how to play the class. The foundations of an MMO are all there, but it’s not always just foundations that matter – it’s how they’re used that makes a game stand out.

And beyond the beautiful visuals and flashy moves, a certain level of cynicism is clear in this design. This game will be a hit for the casual mobile gamer, but more discerning eyes can see that all the game’s parts eventually lead to the consumer spending money on it.

The game promised an epic story, but I found it difficult to keep up with. Even with voice acting, the translations have moments of awkwardness that border on cringe. Important bits of information are buried in tiny, two-line bits of dialogue that’s easy to miss.

The storybits I did get from the game are pretty interesting, though. The antagonists are basically trying to awaken some sleeping dragons, and it’s your job to prevent that from happening. It’s a good premise, but the small details are hard to keep up with from the awkward translations. The side quests are kind of thin, but the main story rewards ensures that your character continues to have the most relevant gear for your level, so at least for the leveling portion of the game, you’re covered with gearing.

But how are players going to get from locale to locale? Players can do it the way it’s meant to be, through manual input, but there is an autoquest and autocombat feature. At this point, it’s kind of expected. The features have grown on me, if only for the practicality of it all. It saves taps, and since carpel tunnel’s become a chronic issue for me, I see it as a way to still interact with the game.

If the autocombat and autoquest is a dealbreaker, I don’t blame you. When what essentially is botting becomes a design feature, it’s because mobile MMO game design’s stagnated to a point that a simple computer can play the darn game for you. Since the game can be autoplayed, that means developers have to create content and areas that wont hamper the autopathing, and while that’s all right for general grinding, I wonder what the later content looks like. Since I had access to only the test build, I didn’t see any other players online, so I couldn’t do any of the social or party-focused content, so I can’t make a judgment on how the autoplay features affect that part of the game.

The action combat is still pretty fun, too bad I couldn’t get into any higher level play!

As for monetization, there’s the standard premium currency for outfits. But what caught me off guard was the addition of a gacha mechanic. The gacha prizes here are allies that add extra stat bonuses when equipped. I’m not a fan. Either go full gacha or use a cash shop, not both. In theory, dedicated players will need to use both the cash shop and the random gacha system to compete in whatever PvP or high-level raids are available. From the vibe I’m getting, Tencent is banking on fanservice, strong aesthetic design, and weighty combat to keep players playing.

It’s still a pretty solid Mmobile MMO, but players who choose to play this game should probably only play this game rather than add it to a roster of dabbling. If this were a full-blown PC MMO, that gacha wouldn’t cut it, but it works in a mobile MMO.

In the end, while I think the game is decent, I really wish it were a PC MMO instead.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Spent a few days with it and I still don’t know what to think.

Positives – It’s freakin gorgeous, like holy shit. Wish my phone could run it on full blast at high framerates, and while it may not have all the bells and whistles of a BD Mobile it easily competes in visual fidelity, if not surpassing it. There also seems like there’s a ton to do! Lots and lots and lots of story quests with cutscenes, different types of content etc. And it has autoplay for the most part, yay!

Negatives – I…granted I skip narrative, but in most games you can still pretty quickly get a feel for the world and what’s going on. This game is so bonkers and all over the places that I literally haven’t the foggiest clue what’s going on, and I hate how many cutscenes that jam in there with no way to autoskip that I’ve discovered.

It really feels like 3-4 MMO’s mashed into one, like they had multiple teams working on the same game but there were each given different creative directions to go with and nobody told them that they would be combining their efforts.

I’m already falling off this one a few days in so I’m not sure I’ll stick with it, but there’s a lot that’s impressive about it. I’ll probably stick with my few non-MMO’s (<3 Crush Crush on my phone) and BD Mobile for now. But I'll give it a few more days to see if I don't find something to get me hooked.

Reader
Zero_1_Zerum

I tried it, was having fun… until I noticed that you can convert the Diamonds, the currency you buy with real money, into Gold, the currency you get from killing mobs and completing quests. Nope. Uninstalled it. No point in playing the game if you can just buy the currency you earn from playing the game.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
mysecretid

Thanks for the overview! I find many of the mobile MMORPGs just complex enough to be somewhat impenetrable. I appreciate you walking readers through the configurations of this game.

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

Why can’t you dabble in this one? Why does it have to be your only MMO? I saw you write that in the first paragraph so read the entire article looking for the reasoning behind why it needs more play time and never saw it. You say again at the end that it should be our only MMO but don’t say why.

Why shouldn’t we dabble in it as one of many mobile games we dabble in?

I’m playing the game now, and dabbling in it, but haven’t got very far because of the dabbling. I’m not even to the part where auto-combat opens up (and didn’t realize that it would open up, now I’m bummed knowing it will).

The start of the game is very cool, but you’re doing everything manually, making various story choices, no cash shop stuff is poking its head in yet, etc. I wish the game mostly continued like that. I know they need some kind of monetization but darn that start is fun before the lockbox and cash shop monetizations poke their intrusive heads in there.

I have concerns over the autoplay and what happens after level 40 when you are able to switch out of peace mode. But I’m really wondering what you meant by saying we can’t dabble in this one and I didn’t really see a reason explained here :D

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

It’s pretty for a mobile title I’ll give it that.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
kgptzac

That UI is quite a shameful display. Many games that are obviously better played on a big screen too have similar kinds of mess of an UI. There aren’t many true “native” MMO games on mobile, but seriously, make this game into a cyberpunk clone of BnS on PC, then I’ll give it the amount my attention it deserves.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Welp, it has autoplay and you sold me. Let’s hope I have enough space on my phone for this. Should be another MMO I play for a few weeks and enjoy before trickling off and playing only a few times a month when I remember it exists, but there’s always room for a pleasant surprise.

Looks great visually though, which is enough for me.

Reader
Malcolm Swoboda

Bad translation = lowered by at least 2 (of 10) points of my consideration. If I have the storage space, I might try, that’s it.

Reader
Vitor Braz

This game is a blast. There, I’ve said it. It has a lot of side activities that many full-blown PC MMORPGs ignore, and the story is cool, very X-Men-like. I do agree the translation is weird and the voices being out of sync with the subtitles is hugely annoying.

Lolitas? Don’t like, don’t care, but I’m not going to boycott a game because other people have different tastes. It happens.

Rialto
Reader
Rialto

Agreed. I’ve been enjoying it a lot too. I also don’t like lolis at all, but only get mad when devs lock classes to them (especially since it’s almost always the priest and/or mage classes I want to play)

This game though is one I’d probably play on PC. My only gripe so far, unless I’ve not found a setting for it, is a lack of mini map, making it almost impossible to not use auto navigation, but that’s a minor one especially since the combat isn’t automated and is actually very fun and fluid.

Reader
Vitor Braz

Combat is automated though. Either you haven’t unlocked the option yet, or missed it :) But it’s fun for sure, better than I was expecting.

But you’re right on the mini-map, there’s no such thing. However, the areas are fairly small and you’ll know them by heart soon, so it’s a minor niggle.

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

I’m not to that point yet, and I’m am sad to hear it exists. The beginning of the game is crazy great. It looks awesome, there are all these interesting things going on, you have full control and have to manually fight stuff. You have different choices you’re making in the story and the game says that affects things. There is no cash shop yet, etc.

I got to the part where the cash options are opening up, but not to the auto-combat yet. I’ll play a bit more but I may quit when I get to the point where auto-combat becomes a thing.

I also see we can turn off “peace mode” after level 40 and usually in these games that means others can turn that off and attack you no matter if you have it on or not. If the game turns into open PvP later on, I have no interest in continuing to level up.

Reader
Vitor Braz

I’m at level 52 and I don’t think there’s any open PvP per se. I see it mentions non-safe zones, but I’m not sure where those are. But there’s enough PvP to keep players out of the normal areas, where I don’t think that kind of stuff can happen unless you give up on your Peace option – and I’m surely not doing that.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Armsbend

Lolita is a real race choice? yeah – I don’t play these types of games. They, and the people who play them, are something I absolutely loathe.

ecchiboy590
Reader
ecchiboy590

0-0 ….Well, this is awkward.

Rialto
Reader
Rialto

There actually aren’t different “races” in the game as everyone is human. So instead they threw it in as a “gender” option (though of course there are only female lolis as usual). Idk which is weirder to be honest.

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

I play the lolita. Because they look like young girls and I relate to the characters more than the other choices.

It’s a bad name choice for the character type for sure but it either doesn’t have the same connotations in Asian countries or they just don’t think of it the same way. I see it in many of these games from parts of Asia. It doesn’t have to be sexual, it’s weirdos that think of it as sexual and make it awkward.

Though I guess if it was a young boy with skimpy outfits, I don’t know how I’d feel playing them. It would probably be a bit weird. When it’s your own gender and you are relating to the character maybe it’s a different thing.

If they had cat people or even an outright cat I’d play them instead, no matter their age. To me the young girls in the game are cute and innocent and are closer in age and shape to me than what the older ones look like.

I think of them as being myself when I was younger and in that way I relate well to the characters and enjoy playing them. I’m not attracted to them, I just enjoy the cuteness of playing them and pretend the character is myself in another life.