Dragalia Lost: Import Impressions 2

A couple of months back, we introduced Dragalia Lost, a free-to-play Action RPG for smart devices, co-developed by Nintendo and Cygames. Now that some time has passed–and a European release is still a big question mark–we thought it’d be a good idea to revisit the game, to see how it’s grown.

At the time of writing, it’s the Winter season in Dragalia Lost.

Obviously, if you have no idea what Dragalia Lost is about, we highly recommend reading our initial Dragalia Lost article first. Or you’ll probably end up just as lost as the “Dragalia” in the title!

Anyway, Dragalia Lost has been out for 3 months now. Which is a fairly significant amount of time for a GaaS (Game as a Service). Crucially, it’s well past the “honeymoon” period, where the game is the most exciting–usually the month before summoning currency starts running dry.

During those 3 months, the game has had three fairly substantial updates, placing it at version 1.3.1. By the time European and other players eventually get their hands on the game, they’ll be playing a version with many, many QoL (Quality of Life) improvements since the very first release.

Compared to earlier, players can now earn a lot more rupies (currency) and crystals (to Level Up Adventurers) from specified event maps, AI Adventurers are a lot more aggressive, you can exchange between low-tier and high-tier materials, lances and bows have been buffed… the list goes on.

What’s really special about these changes is that they’re things that players have been frequently requesting. In response, the developers have been extremely open with their plans to improve the game, and have implemented most of these changes within months of acknowledging them.

The adorable Melsa could be obtained in the “Kindness and Captivity” raid event in late October.

Now, we might’ve been somewhat envious of new players starting the game with these QoL improvements already there. But actually, the envy is balanced because the same players will have missed at least 3 months’ worth of limited-time events. Many of which have been pretty dang awesome.

Each month, there are around 2 special events that last around 10 days. Kind of like Tempest Trials in Fire Emblem Heroes or the Fishing Tourneys in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. In these past 3 months, there have been 6 such events, with a 7th one arriving very soon, to celebrate the New Year.

Right now, events are divided into two categories, and they generally alternate.

The first type is a raid event, where players must work together in Co-op mode to take down screen-filling bosses with multiple, target-able body parts. Up to 4 players can join in, each bringing along 4 Adventurers. So there can be up to 16 Adventurers fighting the same boss.

Each raid features a free 4-star Adventurer that you can keep if you raise their friendship high enough before the event ends. Which is pretty easy to be honest. You can also earn a 5-star dragon (and even multiple copies to unbind it) by playing a lot and pulling from the box gacha.

(A “box gacha” is where you have a fixed set of rewards that are randomly distributed. Since the rewards are predetermined and limited in number, as you keep pulling, you’ll eventually get the reward you want.)

The latest facility event “The Miracle of Dragonyule” let you build a Christmas tree.

The second type is a facility event, where players can challenge bosses and waves of enemies to earn materials to upgrade a limited-time facility for their Halidom. This facility provides a permanent buff to elemental-aligned Adventurers, as well as a damage buff that only applies to the event.

Back to what we were saying earlier… Players who join later will have missed out on three Adventurers, dragons and facilities. Although none of these are essential, they’re all useful in their own ways–and we have a feeling players with the event facilities will have a distinct advantage.

Not to mention some of these events were very cool. In particular, the raid bosses were some of the most well-designed and dynamic boss battles, outside of the Advanced Dragons–which are beyond the scope of the majority of players. Each event also had a lot of story scenes accompanying it.

Objectively speaking, the best event was probably “Resplendent Refrain” back in November. This raid event focused on the Harmonia Choir and the fabled songstress Lucretia. Because of the setting, there were some really amazing songs, which the developers also made a big fuss of.

Below, you can find a sample of the three songs featured during that event.

Anyway, all hope isn’t lost, as we imagine these events will probably be repeated in the future. Eventually. For one, it would make a lot of sense to bring them back next year, during the same time period. Perhaps they’ll even be kind enough to bring them all back during the global release.

The latest summoning event added a Christmas version of Cleo, from the main story.

Alongside the events, twice a month, new Adventurers and dragons are added to the summoning pool, similar to Fire Emblem Heroes. Just like that game, new characters can be permanently added or they may be limited-time seasonal variants that can only be summoned during a certain time-frame.

In terms of 5-star Adventurers, we now have Lily, Naveed, Louise and Lucretia in the permanent pool. Meanwhile, we had Halloween Elisanne back in October, and at the time of writing, Christmas Cleo will be available for a few more days. For 5-star dragons, there’s Leviathan, Cerberus, Garuda, Cupid etc.

Beginning with Lucretia, a new gimmick has been added, based around energy levels. Certain Adventurers have skills that increase their (and maybe their allies’) energy level by one stage. Once an Adventurer’s energy level reaches stage 5, their next skill does increased damage or healing.

Also, very recently, on 27th December, a new story chapter–Chapter 7–was added for the first time. Previously, the story left off at Chapter 6, after an important milestone was met. We’ll avoid saying more. Anyway, Chapter 7 has you travel to an affluent city by the sea, known as Saint Lotier.

Likewise, it’s hard to say anything without spoiling the story-line. But the story of Chapter 7 is pretty decent. More than anything, it finally teases all the major players in the story: the other scions of the Alberian Royal Family. Things are only going to get more heated from here on out…

If I’ve been playing for 3 months, the game must be doing something right at least!

Well, that’s pretty much all the facts. Although it’s probably not all that useful by itself. We think the more important thing to ask is… Is the game itself still fun? The answer is going to differ for person to person, but I can at least share my own personal thoughts.

Before that, I’ll quickly explain my background. I’ve been playing every day since release. Currently, I have a Player Level of 100, which might seem high, but is probably just above average. Meanwhile I have four 5-star Adventurers and my strongest team has a Might of just over 15,000.

I almost forget… I should mention that I’ve been playing the game slightly differently to most. Although the game encourages you to summon at every turn, I’ve actually been holding back for the most part. In other words, I’ve rarely summoned during my time playing the game.

Well, I have used most of the free tenfold summon vouchers that the developers gave us (of which there must have been ten or so–they are really generous). But besides that, I’ve only spent enough free currency to perform 3 tenfold summons. Leaving me with enough to perform 32 more.

So I probably have much less 5-star Adventurers, etc. than most players. However, that also reveals another beauty of this game. Like Fire Emblem Heroes, you don’t need lots of 5-star characters to complete the majority of the game and/or have fun. You can easily do it with none or a few.

(If you’re wondering why I don’t summon much, it’s so I can save up to try and get the character that I really want. The more currency you have, the higher your chance of getting what you want. I kind of developed this habit when trying to +10 a specific Hero in Fire Emblem Heroes…)

Smacking enemies silly with your over-the-top Adventurers never gets old.

Now that I’ve explained my background, I’ll get back to the point. Short answer: yes, I think the game is still fun. Which I reckon is quite the praise, given that I admittedly fell out of Animal Crossing and Fantasy Life Online after the first month or two.

(Although that’s not to say those games are bad, but perhaps they just didn’t grip me as much. Nah, Pocket Camp was flawed from inception.)

As for the long answer… Let me talk about the good and the bad. Starting with the good.

Firstly, the core gameplay is still a lot of fun. Besides the minor control issues that plague most games on smart devices, the gameplay itself is really responsive and addictive. You can tell Nintendo really helped with that aspect, with the way everything flows and looks and sounds.

Co-op play is where the game really shines. We said this last time and I’m happy to say that this hasn’t really changed at all. Now that players have gotten used to the game, it’s a blast to battle bosses or even grind for materials together. The game’s online community is very friendly too.

Also, having played for a while, the game’s characters have started to grow on me. Earlier, I was a bit hesitant since the characters are all brand new, barring Lily, who I didn’t know anyway. But after seeing them during events, reading their stories etc., they’re all cool in their own ways.

(In contrast to Fire Emblem Heroes, where I already know all the characters. But I think the game does a pretty poor job of introducing them to people who don’t.)

Sometimes it can take well over a minute to join a game that lasts a minute.

Now for the bad.

Co-op itself is great, but currently it’s difficult to join a game. Early on, it wasn’t an issue when players literally couldn’t run out of stamina to host games. But now that things have settled, there’s a huge imbalance of hosts versus joiners–as in, there are a lot more joiners than hosts.

The developers have tried to fix this by first handing out tons of recovery items for joiners, then later tons of recovery items for hosts. But that’s just a band-aid solution. Thankfully they’ve got an actual plan to fix this, although I can’t say I’m not worried about it.

Less apparent but perhaps a bigger problem in the long term, is that the gameplay loop is starting to get samey. To be fair, there’s lots to do in the game; there’s a good deal of vertical and horizontal progression, as you build up powerful Adventurers, and put together teams for all 5 elements.

Still, you’ll eventually reach the point where you must replay the same maps over and over again to grind for the materials that you need. Around this time, you’ll also encounter an awkward gulf, where there’s a ginormous difficulty spike between Imperial Onslaughts and Advanced Dragon Trials.

Imperial Onslaughts are fairly tricky maps where you fight waves of enemies accompanied by a strong boss. Whereas Advanced Dragon Trials pit you against one of the story dragons at their full strength. Seems fair, except you can’t survive a single hit unless your Adventurer’s HP is crazy high.

You have to grind the events a lot to get all of the good rewards.

Fortunately, the developers have said they’re planning to add content that bridges the difficulty between these two. So we’ll just have to wait and see if the situation improves.

To break up the tedium, there are also the limited-time events that we mentioned earlier–the raids and facility events. These cycle through the 5 elements, so you’re frequently building new teams. In addition, you get some new toys to play with, and new story scenes to digest.

Trouble is, despite all the flair, even the events are starting to get a bit repetitive. The fact is, simply alternating between two types of events isn’t going to be enough for long. On top of that, the events themselves are grindy by nature. So you’ll be constantly replaying the same maps anyway–just different ones.

Fire Emblem Heroes tried to solve this by adding many types of events–some long, some short. Basically, the developers could try to add more types of events and/or game modes. What’s odd is that there’s a third type of event–labyrinth–that they’re not using, or perhaps they’re still fine-tuning it.

That said, if the gameplay truly is getting stale, it might be a good idea to quit the game or just take a break. Honestly, it’s probably a nigh-impossible task for a single game to be interesting all the time (even big name MMORPGs struggle with this). So maybe it’s not a huge problem after all.

Lily, you’re awesome, but I don’t need you a second time!

Last but not least, it still sucks when you get duplicate 5-star Adventurers, or any 5-star Wyrmprint. When you summon a duplicate Adventurer, you get Eldwater, which can be used to increase an Adventurer’s rarity or fully unlock their abilities. But the small amount you get is a kick in the balls.

Likewise, when you’re trying to summon that awesome 5-star Adventurer or Dragon, most likely you don’t want your chances ruined by a 5-star Wyrmprint (which is basically an accessory–and probably not even a very useful one). As further insult to injury, summoning a Wyrmprint resets your 5-star pity rate.

I can’t imagine they’ll completely fix both of these problems, but hopefully the developers will alleviate them somehow. For duplicate Adventurers, maybe they could greatly increase the Eldwater. Meanwhile, having the option to equip more than one Wyrmprint might make them more desirable.

Sorry if I was rambling for a bit! But like they say… people who complain are people who care. At this point, despite some of my issues with the game, overall, I do still enjoy it a lot. So there’s your answer!

If you found this article interesting, hopefully I’ll be back in a couple of more months with another report on the game. Maybe by then, the game will be out in more countries than just the handful right now! We can only hope.