Every now and then, I like to get a new perspective of old ideas. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when I got the chance to see the dragon’s side of the classic “knight slays the dragon” trope.
Developer: Brainbox Studios
Publisher: Brainbox Studios
Release: December 11, 2015
Dragon’s Wake is a bite-sized indie platformer in which you play as a dragon. You start as an egg and grow from a baby dragon to angsty adolescent dragon status as you progress. Throughout the game, you get access to three basic abilities: flying, eating, and breathing fire.
Along your journey to run away from and eventually fight the evil knight, you come across power ups in the form of wild animals. There are big red tarantula things that boost your maximum health when you kill and eat them, as well as winged dragons that let you fly farther and some caribou-looking animals that give you the ability to breathe fire. It is a fresh take on the classic idea of the power-up that proved to be a pleasant surprise.
Controlling your dragon is quite different from most games. Your walking speed is extremely slow compared to you flying speed, so you’ll find yourself choosing to soar through the map most often. The flying controls can seem a little clunky at first, especially when using the keyboard. In fact, pretty much all of the controls are a hassle on the keyboard, so I heavily recommend using a controller of some sort. That said, the controls are actually very fluid, easy to manage, and overall satisfying with a controller.
The storytelling is probably one of this game’s greatest strengths. The story overall is fun if not simple. You are a dragon who has to save herself and her village of worshippers from the evil black knight. It flips the usual story on its head, which is fun.
Back to the storytelling itself, the narrative is done entirely without any actual words, which is a difficult thing to pull off well. Dragon’s Wake makes you feel emotionally invested in your own character as well as the villagers and the other baby dragon that joins you later. There are absolutely heart-wrenching moments, even though not a single comprehensible word is spoken either verbally or textually.
Also, there is a good ending and a bad ending, which adds an element of choice as well as extends Dragon’s Wake’s admittedly short game time.
Graphics take a bit of a back seat in this game. Most of the background and buildings look like they’ve been taken straight out of Terraria, and the character models for just about everything other than the black knight and the dragons are a little lackluster. Some of the animals like the health tarantula look like big monochrome blobs, and the humanoid characters are too small for any great amount of detail.
There are also little loading screens here and there, each accompanied with a cartoon picture, usually summarizing whatever scene transpired recently. They are fun pictures that look like they would fit into an old My Little Pony or Dragon Tales coloring book. They look sort of silly, but it actually does a good job of preserving the emotional state of the previous scene.
Music is another strong point in Dragon’s Wake. The background music adds a strong sense of adventure to the platforming, and transitions from innocent to serious smoothly in all the right places.
Sound effects are fitting and funny in certain actions. I found the little gobbling sound your character makes when she bites enemies and animals hilarious for some reason.
Dragon’s Wake is a very short game. I cannot stress that enough. I’ve played through it twice in roughly 3 ½ hours, getting both endings. While it is rather fun with a controller, somewhat engaging, and has a well told story, I really wish there was more to it. That said, it is only $3.99 with a current sale bringing it down to $3.59. For a game as short and basic as it is, that base price is a little on the high side, but not so much as to be outrageous or anything. If you’re really concerned about a few bucks, maybe consider waiting for a 60% sale, but I really find it hard to complain about $4.
Dragon’s Wake brings a few fun surprises to the table for how small it is. The storytelling is very well done, the music is nice, and the controls are tight as long as you’re using a controller. The graphics could do with a little update, especially in regards to certain sprites, the controls are bad on the keyboard, and the overall brevity of the game combined with its fun story leave me wishing that there were more. Overall, I think it is a decent addition to the indie game scene. There were a lot of neat ideas thrown into this game, and I’d like to see what more the developers can do in the future.
+Engaging, silent storytelling
+Unique main character
+Music of a true adventure
+You can set houses on fire
-Terrible keyboard controls
Score: 3 / 5