Heroes of Dragon Age Preview
If the demonstration of Heroes of Dragon Age at this year's Gamescom is anything to go by, it's safe to say that this is a title taking more than a few cues from the established mobile TCG genre. There are a huge number of characters to collect, for example, either through gameplay or booster packs found in the in-app purchase store. Duplicate "cards" can be combined to create more powerful variants, and the truly useless can be fed into your favorite characters to provide enhancements. On the surface, it's simply everything you'd expect from the genre.
There are a couple of important things about this particular title that separate it from the rest of the pack, however. Most significantly, this is a game that has some serious weight behind it, thanks to the hugely popular Dragon Age RPG games the battles are based around. It might be a very different offering, but fans of the existing games can certainly look forward to plenty of familiar mission settings, characters, heroes and homages to the traditional Dragon Age experience.
Secondly, there's a little more depth to be found in the core strategy of the game. You'll choose up to five heroes and minions for your squad, and where you place them on the battlefield is critical to overall team performance. Those up front get a bonus to health, so you'll want your meaty melee warriors front and center in the fight. Those to the rear might get a bonus to their attacking power though, so your glass cannon damage-dealers are best suited to this position. It depends entirely on the synergy of the squad you've built, and how you choose to blend abilities.
Once combat actually commences, it's an automated affair, although one that's very prettily animated as your character statues lunge at one another and inflict their turn-based damage. To keep things varied, each creature and hero in the game has a chance to apply a special power, such as the ability to drain life from the enemy, or apply their assault across a wide area and dent many enemies at once.
As always with this sort of free to play game, the devil will be in the balancing of the game's in-app purchase Gem currency. We know that there'll be an energy system, limiting how many games you can play in any one session without recharging it with Gems. Gems will also allow you to unlock new booster packs of characters, as well as stat-enhancing runes which can drastically affect your chances of success in battle.
EA is at pains to stress that this free-to-play system will be fair and balanced, though. For a start, there's a chance you'll find the most powerful characters in even the most basic booster decks, albeit with a much lower probability. We're assured that the energy system will refill generously too. Until launch, we'll just have to wait and see how this all pans out, and we'll certainly be keeping a keen eye on how these boosts affect the game's multiplayer components.
At this stage though, things are looking pretty good for this fresh addition to the Dragon Age universe. Fans of the existing games who fear this to be a lightweight mobile cash-in have been sympathetically catered for, with a lavish assortment of environments, creatures and heroes drawn from the novels and games. For everyone else, Heroes of Dragon Age is simply shaping up to be one of the better additions to the genre we've seen in 2013.