Forging through the age of patience
EA’s Dragon Age series supplies an in-depth fantasy world that goes way beyond stories about noble heroes and evil dragons. The Dragon Age wiki contains thousands of pages with reams of information about Grey Wardens, archdemons, and Darkspawn. It stands to reason, then, that Dragon Age fans would love the supplementary story material in Heroes of Dragon Age. That may be the case, but the hands-off combat and rapidly-depleting energy system might actually send them packing for a more exciting region of Thedas.
Heroes of Dragon Age plays a good deal like many of the digital collectable card games available on the App Store and Google Play, which is an interesting thing to say because there isn’t a card to be seen in-game. Instead of the usual static illustrations of warriors and sorcerers, you command small, animated figurine-like heroes and creatures from the Dragon Age universe. That means you can expect to have standard archers and mages at your command, but you may also command a Darkspawn or a demon or three.
Heroes of Dragon Age’s campaign stretches across several scenarios that link together to tell previously-unexplored stories from the overarching Dragon Age mythos. Each scenario pits you against the bad guys, but since this is Dragon Age, “bad guys” is a very nebulous term. Either way, you’re on the left, the enemy is on the right, and if you don’t knock down your target before they clobber you, you’ll be sent limping home.
Fighters attack according to their speed, and they hit according to their stats and levels. Each warrior at your command in Heroes of Dragon Age has differing levels of rarity. The rarer a fighter, the more powerful it tends to be.
You summon fighters by way of packs that can be purchased at the in-game store. Low-cost packs cost in-game coinage, and there’s a slim chance you may score a rare fighter with one. It is, however, far more likely that you’ll grab a common warrior who’s more useful as fodder for levelling up your champions. If you want a guaranteed rare score, you need to buy premium packs with gems, the game’s hard currency.
At this point, you kind of expect a collectable card game to charge you for the good stuff. Heroes of Dragon Age even encourages you to grind for gems and coins by going back and “mastering” previously-played scenarios. The problem with this setup is the game’s rapidly-depleting stamina bar (the PvP feature has a separate, also rapidly-depleting, stamina bar). Once your bar empties, you need to wait around for it to refill, or use gems to get back into the game right away.
Sure, games like Puzzle & Dragons utilize a similar stamina system – but a battle in Puzzle & Dragons can last for quite a while, and you usually feel satisfied at the end of it. Fights in Heroes of Dragon Age are done very quickly, so you might progress five minutes into the campaign before you’re forced to call things off for a recharge.
The battle system in Heroes of Dragon Age presents another problem: It’s hands-off. You’re responsible for picking your warriors, placing them strategically on the battlefield, and picking runes that may lend an edge in battle. Beyond that, once you hit “Fight,” your warriors charge ahead without your input. Taking a passive role gives you an opportunity to admire the characters’ awesome fighting animations, but before long you’ll want to be in the fray with them.
Heroes of Dragon Age is a decent collectable card game, though its poor stamina system and passive battles make it difficult to recommend to hardcore Dragon Age fans who enjoy the series for its action and exploration. That said, if you’re intrigued by the idea of “playing” through Dragon Age‘s history, and if you’ve been looking to get into a collectable card game anyway, Heroes of Dragon Age is a solid dragon to hitch your cart to.