I have played Dragalia Lost since it released; I finished downloading and installing on September 27th at three in the morning. I remember showing it off to a coworker who looked it over with lukewarm reception, before reminding me that I was at work to, well, work.
Today is December 3rd. Not even a full three months in, and I am uninstalling this game. It’s not that I dislike the game; I get a lot of enjoyment out of it that I haven’t had since the last mobile game I sank years into (Brave Frontier.) I love the music, and I feel the artwork is solid. But the game has some problems, and the developers have made some choices, that I feel don’t bode well for the way I play games, or for that matter where this game is going in general. It’s time for me to be proactive and bail out, while the bailing out is good.
Dragalia Lost is a mobile game, developed by powerhouse Nintendo and mobile developer Cygames. Cygames is perhaps best known for the mobile franchise Granblue Fantasy; Nintendo’s most well-known foray into traditional mobile gaming would arguably be Fire Emblem Heroes. These two coming together to make a game seems like a recipe for success, and on the surface I’d argue it is. Dragalia Lost is an action RPG with a town management system and something of a dragon romance simulator all thrown into one. A good portion of the early game is focused on solo play; the end game focuses on players working together either with a single character as a group of four, or as a team of four working with three other teams to accomplish a goal. Along the way weapons need to be crafted, character abilities need to be unlocked, and dragons need to be fed and leveled. One of the unique pulls to Dragalia Lost is that the rewards aren’t just drops for better items and growth, but actual story – unlock enough character abilities, for example, and you’ll unlock story segments about why they want to be a part of your team, their personal struggles, and how they advance. It is notably well thought out.
What isn’t thought out is the part where you, as a player, get to play with other people. As a game where Player VS Environment is the sole goal, one would think there would be better tools in place to gather with your friends and complete these goals. Yet surprisingly, Dragalia Lost completely drops the ball in this regard. There is a friend’s list, which allows you to use a character pre-set by other players to complete solo content, but no way for those friends to join up with you if you are queued for a mission. There are no guilds or player houses in Dragalia Lost to meet up with like minded players you might know. Instead, you can que for a room and wait for random players to join in, or you can lock your room and hand the room ID out to players through other means like Facebook groups or Discord. You’ll probably want to go the “locked room” route because if you leave your room open for randoms to join, you have little control over who joins; if a player who is too weak to assist wants in on your run, there is no way to kick or remove him. Likewise, if a player joins but then fails to mark themselves as “Ready” the whole group cannot move forward unless you as the group leader make the decision to either do the event without the player (thus having an empty slot) or throwing the entire team out and starting over fresh. It’s frustrating.
There’s also something to be said about the cost of playing. This game is free to play, in the sense that anyone can download it and play it. However, to have competent units, you’ll need to participate in the gacha system. Getting a higher tiered unit is unlikely; the best chances I’ve seen so far are you’ve got about a 2% chance each pull of getting a 5-star (top-tier) pull, and that pull will be either a unit, a dragon, or a Wyrmprint (this game’s version of an equipped accessory). For a dragon or a Wyrmprint to be at its best, a player needs five of them (one base, four more to “Unbind” it and in the process upgrade its inherent abilities.) The most common way to pull is the “ten-pull”, which for 1500 of the game’s currency allows for ten pulls, at least one pull of which is guaranteed to be a Four-Star pull. 1500 of the game’s currency costs roughly $32 American dollars.
There are players that have spent literally hundreds of dollars on this game and have yet to get a single five star unit. Yes, by comparison there are those who have rerolled (started the game, pulled with the free currency they were given, and then thrown out the results and started again) until they have a 5-Star unit for free, but even this can take dozens upon dozens of tries. The game does hand out free pulls periodically, but this seems to do little more than to make the player feel like what they really want is just another pull away.
There is also something to be said for the number of events that have come out. In about 10 weeks, there have been no fewer than 5 events. Most of these events have a similar focus: get a team to a certain level of skill (“Might”) and use to in solo fights and raid battles, to meet specific goals and acquire certain points. Often, these events hold a “Blazon Pull”; this grants players who are doing events “Blazon tickets” and two tickets allow for a pull for an item out of a pool of around 400 to 700 items depending. These are exhausting. Lower tiered fights may grant less than ten Blazon tickets; the highest tiered fights around 30. Players will need to go through five separate pools to acquire the key items advertised (usually a Wyrmprint and a dragon).
Competing in these events requires good units with good skills, and some of these skills are tied to your player castle. The buildings here affect everything from passive boosts of element types to passive boosts to the users of specific weapons. Keeping up on all this can be exhausting. Of course, if you have the cash, you can always purchase packs that give you the items needed to upgrade these buildings so that you don’t need to spend hours farming them yourself, or you can spend cash to upgrade your buildings now instead of waiting what starts as hours but quickly evolves into literal days.
In short? A little over ten weeks in, and I’m already feeling burnout as I try to keep up with everything expected of me to keep up, and I’m not even one of the top players! The encouragement to spend money to hopefully get the best units, or to definitively make the best weapons better, coupled with the need to spend hours at a time on a game just to unlock wyrmcards that won’t be relevant after the next event and dragons that are barely useful when fully unbound leads to a frustrating and unsatisfying experience. The game is also proving to be exceptionally repetitive; sometimes it feels like an event is just an older event reskinned for a different gacha pool and elemental resistance. I am at a point where I see these problems getting worse, not better, and that’s why I feel the need to stop playing this game now rather than becoming further invested in it only to be further frustrated down the line.