- Overall Rating: 7.0
- Inti Creates, the developer
- Role-Playing, Action Role-Playing Game Genre
- Player Count: 0 Online Games
- Methods of gaining an advantage: GameFAQs
- Rating: T
Popular Switch games by Inti Creates with nostalgic run-and-gun gameplay include Mighty Gunvolt Burst, Blaster Master Zero, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, and Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack. However, the company first gained widespread recognition with the excellent Mega Man Zero series on GBA, which combined challenging puzzles with a more close-quarters style of combat. Although Inti Creates’ latest game, Dragon: Marked for Death, can be seen as a spiritual successor to the Mega Man Zero games (with a healthy dose of RPG action thrown in), it falls short of the high standards set by the developer’s earlier work.
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The story follows the Dragonblood Clan as they battle the righteous ideals of the Medius Empire. The Clan is aligned with the Atruum, a dead dragon. Your character’s village is destroyed by the Empire, prompting them to make a pact with the dragon Atruum in exchange for his powers, which will manifest differently depending on the class you choose. They then set out on a quest to avenge their people by destroying the Divine Family who rule the Empire. The plot is rather unimportant in a mission-based game like this one, and while we would have liked more memorable characters (Ciel, anyone?) and interactions along the way, it does its job.
There are four playable characters, and the game’s progression is entirely determined by your selection. The Empress is the “basic” unit; she uses melee attacks and flamethrowers; the Warrior is the “basic” tank; he uses an axe and occasionally unleashes a small healing shield. There are, as might be expected, variations in playstyle, but they all amount to the same thing: punching everything that moves and watching the sparks fly. Although each character’s playthrough is technically unique due to their unique traversal techniques, each character’s playthrough leads to the same final boss fight regardless of whether you have to push a cart as the Warrior or wall-jump as the Shinobi. It’s also worth noting that you have to pay extra to get access to the other playable duos; the Empress and Warrior or the Shinobi and Witch, respectively.
You begin the game in a castle town that serves as a hub for your characters, allowing you to do things like stock up on supplies for the battlefield or initiate side quests by chatting with random NPCs in the town’s tavern. The main loop consists of leaving the bar on a mission, returning with gold and a slightly leveled character, picking up better equipment, and starting over on a harder mission. There is no “open world” in the traditional sense. You run, jump, and slash your way through waves of enemies and collect chests of loot as you make your way to a boss fight in a typical stage.
Basic attacks on enemies fill up a meter below your health bar, which can then be spent on your character’s special ability to turn the tide of battle. Dragon: Marked for Death is simple and easy to pick up and play, but it quickly tires of its formula because of this. Due to the absence of a dodge button and a variety of combo chains, battles tend to become repetitive and static, with the player simply mashing buttons and watching the same attacks over and over again until they reach the end of the level. The combat is, in a word, dull, and the rapidity with which it goes from tolerable to tedious is, to put it mildly, disappointing.
The problem appears to be the game’s heavy emphasis on co-op play, which severely hampers the single-player mode. It’s bad enough that we spent most missions purposefully avoiding combat with as many enemies as possible in order to quickly reach the boss, but even the most basic enemies feel excessively’spongy,’ and their rewards for being defeated are laughably low. The damage sponger bosses are the worst; early on in our Empress run, some fights took a little over ten minutes as we slowly chipped away at an otherwise easy-to-defeat boss. Unfortunately, Dragon: Marked for Death suffers from a problem that is common in games where the combat system isn’t particularly deep or skill-based to begin with: annoyingly drawn-out battles.
The lack of checkpoints in the game’s missions is just one example of how Dragon: Marked for Death feels dated in all the wrong ways. There were a few instances where fifteen minutes went up in smoke because we failed to defeat a boss, forcing us to repeat the entire mission in order to try again. And to rub salt in the wound, we had to make expensive trips to the shop to restock on health items and other consumables that we had used on those failed runs. It would be one thing if other aspects of Dragon: Marked for Death made up for these annoyances and the lackluster gameplay overall, but the game never quite finds a way to motivate you to keep pushing through. It’s antiquated and difficult in the worst possible ways, with even more difficulties awaiting those who succeed.
This is primarily a co-op game, so it’s great that there’s an online mode with both local and global matchmaking so you can always find a partner to complete objectives with. Dragon: Marked for Death’s approach to local co-op is a bit more baffling. This seems like the kind of game that would be perfect for quick bursts of split Joy-Con play with a friend, but unfortunately, it doesn’t support local multiplayer in split-screen, so if you happen to have a friend nearby, they’ll need their own Switch system and a copy of the game in order to join you. Maybe it’s a holdover from the game’s ad-hoc PSP roots, but it makes things more difficult than they need to be.
Thankfully, the trademark pixel art style that Inti Creates is known for is present in full force, aiming for a lovely 32-bit aesthetic that is rich in detail and fluid in its animation. Even though the environmental designs are rather uninspired, they are as well-realized as they can be; things like turning windmills and scattering fireflies help to make places feel more alive as your characters run through them. The pixel art in this game may not blow you away, but it’s better than what you’d find in most indie games.
Wow, what a match! If you can stand the grind, this game can be played over and over again, either alone or with friends, though it really comes into its own when you have a full party.
In my opinion, Inti Creates can do no wrong when it comes to creating video games, and this is easily their finest creation to date.
It’s the perfect combination of grindy looter games like Diablo and hard-core action platforms like INTI’s own Megaman Zero and Gunvolt!
Points of Strength:
Great looking pixel art with anime-inspired animation and cutscenes.
The game’s controls are responsive and smooth, but the higher levels can be brutal (which I personally enjoy but recognize is subjective).
Superb capacity for re-play.
There are four distinct classes, each with its own play style.
Price! You can play the entire game with two character classes for $15, experience all of the content (except for downloadable content), and then decide whether or not to shell out an additional $30 for the remaining two classes.
Grind! There’s no getting around the fact that this is a very grindy game, and while that’s fine by me, I get the impression that the vast majority of players don’t share my enthusiasm for the grind and instead find it tedious. To complete all missions at the highest difficulty, you will need to grind for at least a reasonable amount of time to acquire the necessary equipment.
Very basic plot (my opinion, of course), unless they plan to expand it in the future.
As a result of the game’s lackluster scaling between solo and group play, some later fights can be extremely difficult for solo players.
Very well-polished and entertaining game; I could spend hundreds of hours with it if the developers keep adding new content (as they appear to be planning to do; a new DLC is due out soon).
Very enjoyable game; I started playing it with a friend and have been enjoying it ever since; the controls feel very responsive; and each character has distinct traits and abilities that make you want to try them all. The only downside is that you can choose how many characters are included in your copy of the game when you buy it, and if you don’t buy the physical copy like I did, you won’t get as many.
The visuals are top-notch, the animation is smooth, and the music is solid; it’s not a masterwork, but it’s pleasant to listen to.
Good game with a promising future of continual enhancements! A few minor improvements to quality of life and the single-player experience would make this a perfect title.
The best book I’ve read so far in 2019!
This is, unfortunately, a very specific market. The typical but not for everyone game; grindy, repetitive, and extremely difficult and punishing. However, if you fit the profile of the type of player who enjoys this genre of game, then you will love this game.
Games like Destiny and Borderlands’ looter shooters, Isometric Dungeon Crawlers like Diablo, and even strategic ones with turn-based mechanics have always appealed to me. Before playing Dragon Marked for Death, the only other action platformer looter I had played was Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, which I also enjoyed but which was easily outclassed by Dragon Marked for Death.
This one, however, hits the spot, especially when played for a large group.
The endgame of most looters is a mindless grind because you have so much power over your enemies. However, in this game, even if you have the best gear, the bosses can still wipe you out if you’re not careful.
You can take my word for it that if you enjoy loot and a gameplay style similar to Gunvolt, you will love this game. The visuals are fantastic, and there are four unique playable classes.
My Switch says I’ve played it for 85 hours since I got it in the middle of February.
For me, this game meets every criterion:
This is a Nintendo Switch exclusive, which is my preferred platform.
Made by Inti using a wheel!
Amazing pixel art and moody sound design.
Class-based loot and items, but with a challenging action platformer twist!
Great potential for re-play.
I really wanted to give it a 10, but I can’t in good conscience because the story is very “just there” and lacks depth; it’s your standard “cursed and outcast heroes saving the world that has no love for them” anime plot. Because, if you ignore that, the game is awesome.
Upon its January 31st digital release, The physical copy was released yesterday, and tomorrow will see the first major content update. By maintaining a steady stream of content, they can serve as an example to AAA studios.
Well played. This is a Nintendo Switch-only release. This is a great game for fans of platformers, grind, and solid gameplay. Nonetheless, there are a few drawbacks: 1) The pace of the game seems glacial at first (without prior experience or pumping). 2) Grind. Poor context (point 3). 4) Price. This is two-thirds of an AAA project, and it will cost you $40 (2 x $30 10 x DLC). In any case, the developers have my gratitude for a purchase I am very pleased with.
Please excuse my poor English.
Before I get too critical, I’ll point out that the game looks good and has passable audio (music, sound effects, voices, etc.), but that, once you get past the opening levels, the game’s foundations begin to crack.
To begin, it doesn’t make sense that getting touched by an enemy automatically causes damage. Is it not the year 2020, when enemies make a move to harm the player? Don’t you think that’s fine? Concerning contact, there are attacks that are almost unavoidable and can also 1hit-KO your character; yes, there are items to avoid this, but you don’t have access to those items at the moment, where enemies are likely to kill you just by passing next to you; the unfairness amount of damage from an enemy that is not even a boss is absurd; they didn’t know how to balance the damage in solo mode; therefore, playing solo is a torture and I can’t even imitate it.
In some of the game’s largest maps, there isn’t even a warp or anything to help the player know if hr/she is doing things correctly; the map is a mess, and you could get lost in seconds because there’s no way to know from where you came or where you need to explore.
Then there are the rewards; I can’t believe that people are saying that the rewards are good; no, the rewards are absolutely trash, and there is no good reward; the tradeable items in the black market ask the player for higher levels, and the quality of the item is not even great. This is the first time I’ve played a game like this and not enjoyed it; after reaching the higher levels, the spike in difficulty was absurd, the levels were quite repetitive and boring, the music didn’t do them justice, and I still don’t know how they managed to screw up the game’s balance so badly that playing it solo is literally impossible without getting frustrated dozens of times.
When compared to the high quality of gameplay seen in many other games developed and published by Inti Creates over the past few years, Dragon: Marked for Death falls short. While the visual style is admirable, the game itself is nothing more than a bland and uninspired side-scrolling RPG with cooperative play. In the grand scheme of things, however, the release is admittedly hard to recommend to anyone who isn’t already a die-hard fan of the company, what with its dated design elements and puzzling lack of split-screen play. This is a serviceable attempt to recreate the gameplay style of the Mega Man Zero series, and it may resonate with some players who enjoyed those games.