The Dragoness: Command of the Flame is a turn based strategy RPG game from developers Crazy Goat Games. The game starts with a tale of the two dragon houses, the Regal dragons who ruled the Kingdom of Drairthir Peninsula with humility and justice and the brave Va who protected the Kingdom’s borders, over time the Va’s souls were slowly corrupted through constant battle and bloodshed, becoming cruel and jealous of their Regal cousins. Then, mysteriously the Va received an ancient scroll enchanted with powerful dark magic, which transformed them into the evil Shai-Va, and from then on the two houses were at war. The Queen Dragoness managed to defeat the Shai-va and their forces but the Kingdom was left in ruins. Now rumours of rebellion are whispered as the Shai-Va’s power grows again, and that is where you come in.
You take the role of an unnamed elven commander, sent by your people to help the Queen Dragoness rebuild the capital and defeat the Shai-Va once more. To help guide you the Queen sends Natiq, a battle Pangolin, to accompany you. Unfortunately you will only see him during dialogue sequences, as you are the only one who will physically run around the maps, though he will pop up often to talk to other characters you come across on your travels.
The first area you explore will be a tutorial map where you are introduced to the movement system, resources, how to hire beasts for your army and so on. Most of your instructions will be given as you start on how to access your character menu, the units of your army and your artefact’s, and also three bonus abilities of which you can pick one at the end of each movement turn to affect the following turn. These abilities will vary as the game continues and you unlock more skills but a few of the more common ones are an extra two points of movement and extra resources (such as iron) when harvesting that particular resource. These extra abilities all come in handy, so you will have to choose wisely how and when you use them. You can have three artefact’s in use at any one time, but can easily change them around as you find new ones.
Movement on the map is accomplished by moving the green circular cursor with the left thumb stick to a point or object you wish to move to or interact with and pressing the A button, a line of movement will indicate whether or not you can make it in one turn, if some or all of the line is red then you cannot and will need to use another turn (and maybe the extra movement points ability) to finish the move. You can move the camera freely around the map with the right thumb stick to see what you want to aim towards, I did find it slightly irritating that you cannot move the cursor however you want, instead you have to follow the paths that your character can take, which I forgot sometimes when I had moved the camera away from my character.
Resources will litter the ground, often protected by an enemy army which will be indicated by an avatar of a creature with a yellow circular cursor under it. You can see what other creatures comprise the force, as well as what the various buildings and structures are for by pressing the ZL button. One of those resources is food, each time you complete a turn of movement it will use one piece of food for your army, if you run out of food your army will begin to starve and weaken. Basins of water in some of the areas can help you with this as they refresh your movement points without using a turn and so no food is used. You build your army by finding campsites and buildings that allow you to hire various creatures such as Centaur’s, Ents, Lich’s, Harpies and so on. You hire them with the resources that you have gathered from around the map, but they cost enough that you will only be able to hire one or two creatures at a time which can make your battles challenging, especially as if they die in battle they are dead for good, unless you have learned a particular necromancy spell. You can make your creatures stronger by combining them on the army screen, their level is shown by how many stars they have, this naturally makes them tougher but reduces how many creatures you have to fight with.
Combat is your standard turn based experience in that both sides attack in sequence, which is shown at the bottom of the screen. It actually reminds me more of chess though, you are put on a field with a grid and you move your creatures and attack like chess pieces (if chess pieces had magic and ranged attacks). The squares your selected creature is able to move to will be highlighted in green, you can take a single action with each creature per turn, except for charging where you can fight after you have moved. Each creature has a black and a red box attached to it, the numbers in black are the creatures shield points, and the red its health points, creatures will only take damage once its shield is reduced to zero, and the more powerful the creature the higher these values will be. Your character will be standing at the side of the grid and can use her own magic to buff your fighters, you can gain more spells and skills as you level up. After the first area is completed you will have a choice when starting each new area of two different skill sets to start with, as well as the three bonus abilities that I mentioned earlier. Your attributes will also be different, for instance one choice will have more mana but less movement points and certain spells, while the other will be the opposite and have at least one different spell.
If, for whatever reason, you do not wish to fight the battles yourself there is an auto battle option and two faster speeds. Doing this can be quite convenient if you are short on time or just not in the mood for tactical fisticuffs, but you should be careful as the computer may not make the same choices you would with your warriors, and as I have said, death in most cases is final.
When you are not exploring the maps and battling evil, you will be at the new capital with the Queen Dragoness. This is the base building aspect of the game, the resources you gather on your travels will also be used to build new sections and give you access to new abilities and a number of creatures to start each area with, You use the ZL and ZR buttons to rotate the screen around the hill the city is being built on and select the areas you want to visit, you can only build new areas as the story progresses.
The Dragoness: Command of the Flame is a deceptively enjoyable game, it can be challenging and your decisions are strategically important in determining your success far more as the game advances. While it is not a pretty game and the pacing can at times seem a little flat, each level is different and the scenario’s add some much needed flavour to the general gameplay. I was disappointed at how basic the base building part of the game is, most mobile base builders do it better I felt, but fortunately it is not a huge part of the game. I enjoyed the combat and variety of different creatures available, I also enjoyed the story and its characters, especially Natiq, having a battle pangolin is just cool. If you like games that make you think about every move you make, or just always wanted to work for a dragon, then this is the game for you.