Dragon Forge Review – Slowly Building New Lands

Dragon Forge does its best to give you a fantasy experience that puts you in control of building an empire to restore dragonkind. Unfortunately, that experience feels like a mobile game where patience is more important than strategy or skill. With unclear directions, vague explanations, and small spacing, you will be struggling to properly build an empire.

Dragon Forge Review (PC): Slowly Building New Lands

You normally don’t associate dragons with base building, but when you are the only dragon left, you need to create a safe haven for dragons to return. Dragon Forge starts with a lone dragon contacted by its ancient ancestor, with the goal of restoring a cursed land into a place where dragons can roam once again. Aided by goblins, the dragon characters sets out on their quest.

Creating your foundation is simple and it isn’t hard to learn how to get started. Unfortunately, the fun quickly dries up as you are forced to wait as you gather mana in order to lift curses and pursue more objectives. Controls can be clunky and the tutorials don’t go much further in explaining more than the basics. Patience becomes the key skill of the game as you trudge through the combat and try to harvest resources to build better equipment and develop your base.

Dragon Forge is currently available on PC for USD 19.99.

Story – Creating a Land for Dragons

Dragon Forge has a simple premise: restore a cursed land to allow dragons to roam the world once more. You will start by creating a dragon of your own, then getting assistance from loyal goblins who teach you how to play and will help you heal the land.

The story premise is simple because the game wasn’t meant to have a complex story. All you are doing is lifting the curses around the world, completing mini quests to get resources, and building structures to continually harvest mana. There aren’t any subplots (other than mini quest chains), nor are there any other characters to focus on.

While the experience would have been more enjoyable with a story, the focus is primarily on the base building. It would have been nice to have more objectives to work towards, or even some stories to investigate. Dragon Forge does make some attempts with a story, adding some fables that can be seen if you hear stories at the Dragon Forge and helping goblins with missions, but it chooses to shy away from that. It’s a shame, since the fantasy setting and the goal of restoring the world for dragons would make a decent, if cliched, storyline.

An example of in-game storytelling, which could have been used more.

An example of in-game storytelling, which could have been used more.

Gameplay – Patience Above All Else

The core of Dragon Forge is generating enough mana to cleanse the land of curses, allowing you to freely explore and develop the areas. You must create altars and supply it with gems to generate mana, which allows you to unlock new areas for exploration.

While you aren’t threatened by anything serious early on, unlocking new areas will also generate enemies who are capable of defeating you, while providing supplies that can help you unlock new buildings and equipment. You must create equipment by searching new areas for resources, then crafting them into items that will give you an edge in the field.

To ensure that you are focusing on making the most of the areas you explore (whether it is collecting resources or building structures), the amount of mana needed to clear the curses will increase the farther you progress. The amounts will increase rapidly based on what the game thinks is the typical amount of mana generation. At first, it will be in the low thousands, but it can soon jump to the billions (and goes even higher than that).

This turns Dragon Forge into a game of patience. You will have to wait for mana to be generated before you can move anywhere, and with the mana amounts being ridiculously high, you have to spend time doing other activities. While you can upgrade gem production to speed up the mana generation rate, you can’t get around the waiting process.

You will need a lot of mana just to open up a small patch of land.

You will need a lot of mana just to open up a small patch of land.

Having to wait drags the game down, because it feels like what a mobile game would use to extend game longevity. It doesn’t help that with increasingly large amounts of mana needed to unlock new areas, waiting will be part of the process.

This isn’t the same as waiting for processes to happen in other simulation games. Mana continues to generate even as you aren’t playing to help you reach the amounts necessary. While other simulation games such as Civilization VI or Animal Crossing: New Horizons have waiting times, they are short enough to allow you to progress to new activities quickly. Dragon Forge anticipates that you will wait, and continue waiting because the next benchmark is even higher.

Construction – Difficult & Limited

Buildings are a key part of obtaining resources necessary to generate mana and craft equipment. Constructing buildings isn’t difficult, but you often don’t have a lot of space to place buildings. You also have to control your building placement by moving your character, which can lead to some clunky placements if you move even a single step too far.

There isn’t much land for construction either, because there are a lot of terrain/environmental factors preventing you from getting a good spot. While this will change as you open up more areas for construction, this often involves completely uprooting your existing infrastructure and hoping your new location can fit everything.

Combat – Thrown Into The Deep End

As you are a lone dragon gathering resources on cursed lands, you will encounter enemies as you explore. Enemies will also drop resources that can’t be obtained elsewhere, providing an incentive to fight to get better materials.

Fighting enemies can be harder than it seems without a tutorial.

Fighting enemies can be harder than it seems without a tutorial.

But other than a quick session on how to aim and supply your default breath attack, you don’t get any preparation when it comes to combat. It’s possible to go through the game and not realise that you can switch weapons, or how to aim at moving targets (which isn’t just about clicking on enemies).

While combat isn’t difficult to grasp, you are going to have multiple failed attempts as you try to wrap your head around it. Even when you do grasp it, you are going to have to graduate from fighting small enemies to larger threats that can take you out in a few hits. It’s not a complex battle system, but the learning curve is steep enough that you will easily get discouraged unless you’re a glutton for punishment.

Audio & Visuals – Soothing Music & Simple 3D Graphics

In contrast to the gameplay, Dragon Forge has simple graphics that fit the fantasy setting. The only detailed 3D graphic would be the dragon creation scene where you build your character. But the building design, goblin models, and enemy appearances all fit the fantasy aesthetic, even if they are somewhat cutesy designs.

This is somewhat undercut by the in-game messaging, which looks like there wasn’t a lot of effort put into making it fit the theme. Whenever you level up, the difference between the effective visuals and the simple text make you feel like the messages were just thrown together quickly.

The font could have been made to look more fantasy-like.

The font could have been made to look more fantasy-like.

The music also fits the fantasy theme, changing based on time and location as well. It’s a soothing tune that plays throughout the game (unless you are in combat), and it does help to reinforce how peaceful and easy the game can be. You have no defining enemy that is trying to take you down, just new lands to uncover at a pace that’s suitable for you (or determined by how much mana you have).

This review for Dragon Forge was played on Steam with a key provided by Legend Studio.

Dragon Forge has the makings of a solid base management game, providing a solid foundation for getting you started. However, having to wait for mana generation and awkward construction elements make base building harder than it needs to be. You are also thrown into the deep end when it comes to learning other parts of the game, such as combat or flight. The game has potential, but it seems to stop itself from being fun without realizing it.
  • Setting up your foundations is easy to learn
  • Exploring new lands is a rewarding feeling
  • Visual design fits the fantasy theme
  • Not everything is properly explained in tutorials
  • Having to be patient with mana generation is frustrating
  • Construction can be awkward due to limitations
  • Resources eventually lose their purpose as mana is more important

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