Tell me if you have heard this one before – “a war rages on for centuries between the powers of light and dark.” It’s a story that is as old as time. But when done right, developers can take this familiar theme and create an epic gaming experience. Thanks to the talented folks at Inti Creates, fans are in for an awesome treat with Dragon Marked for Death. After all, with a game catalog featuring Mighty Gun-volt, Azure Striker, Gun-volt, and the Mega Man Zero series, how can you not get excited for any action RPG created by Inti Creates?
Dragon Marked for Death is a side-scrolling 2D action RPG that can be played solo or with up to four players in local or online. You play as a surviving member of the Dragonblood Clan. You set out to take revenge on the Kingdom of Medius, who destroyed your homeland. To obtain the power they need, they forge a pact with the Astral Dragon Atrium.
The story is one of revenge, loss, heartache, and redemption. It is a cliche plot, but it works to set the stage for the world around you. Even if you have seen this type of plot before, players will feel gratified as they slay those that laid waste to the Dragonblood Clan. If a story is a cliche, then it is important that it features engaging missions and gameplay. Luckily, Dragon Marked for Death is very engaging, especially with the character classes.
Players will have the option to play as one of four different characters each with their own abilities and gameplay. You can choose from the warrior, empress, shinobi, or witch. The Empress plays like a balanced DPS character. The Warrior is the tank, the Shinobi features quick movement and tricky attacks, and the witch is your healer. Who you choose will determine your gameplay experience as well. This adds a different element as well. For example, the warrior is strong but slow, whereas the shinobi will be more agile and fast-paced with actions.
In my opinion, the Warrior is the most robust and well-suited to living through absolutely everything that could be thrown at you. The Empress strikes a balance between mobility, damage options, and defensive capability. The Shinobi is blessed with speed and damage in spades. As for the Witch, potentially the most difficult to use has powerful spell combinations entered with button sequences that you have to memorize.
One thing that stood out to me was that you can level up each character to fit your play style. You’ll receive points as you level up that can increase your attack power, defense, agility, and other parameters. At times it may feel just like a run and punch everything in sight, but the difference and selling point for myself was how the characters vary. Combat revolves around building up a meter below your health bar by landing basic attacks on enemies and then spending portions of that bar on your character’s unique ability to even the odds in battle. The lack of a dodge button or varied combo chains inevitably leads to relatively monotonous and static fights. Let’s just say there may or may not have been some “Rage Quit” moments.
Stages, on the other hand, are different between characters due to the varied traversal techniques, but you ultimately end up in the same place at the end. Whether you have to wall-jump as the shinobi or swing like Spider-man as the empress, you’re still going to arrive at the same boss fight. Stages consist of you running, jumping, and slashing your way through hordes of enemies as you fight towards a boss encounter.
Dragon Marked for Death feels like it was built for the co-op experience. Multiplayer is compelling because the classes work better in tandem. Running through solo can be fun, but alas running through missions with your friends is the heart of the game. I wish for me at least that you could do that through a single copy of the game, but alas that’s not the case. Tank characters keep the heat off damage dealers and levels feel less deadly when the Witch can focus on blasting through enemies while a Warrior can protect her from any fatal damage.
A game such as this would seem to be an ideal fit for brief spurts of split Joy-Con play with a buddy. Sadly this game doesn’t allow local multiplayer in split-screen. The unbalanced single-player experience is a big sticking point. But on the plus side, if you have friends who are willing to take up the Dragonblood mantle with you, you’ll be just fine.
Inti Creates did a lot of things right with this title. They gave us a visually appealing world with fun gameplay. The characters feel different whilst staying fresh. Combat would be a little less frustrating if there was a block option. Nothing ignites a rage quit like not being able to block in a game like this. I would recommend this title for just an overall fun experience in an age where video games put too much in some areas and not enough in the right ones.
If you are going to buy Dragon Marked for Death, I highly recommend you buy the physical copy (retail price $49.99). The initial games only give the option to choose between 2 characters. You will need the full retail version that gives access to them all as well as the DLC, and the physical copy contains all of it. It’s worth the price! You can purchase the physical copy at retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop and Target.
Note: Editor Ryan Welch received a physical copy of the game for review purposes.
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Fun gameplay that changes depending on character choice.
Great old school 2D feel.
Unique class identities lead to distinctly different experiences.
Multiple player can only be done through online or having multiple copies of the game.
Harsh difficulty curve makes grinding feel unrewarding.
Single-player is unbalanced.