I pride myself on being able to complete the games I review. As of this publication, there is only one game I haven’t finished, but I stopped due to my own choice. As of today, I admit my first defeat, as Dragon Fang Z: The Rose and Dungeon of Time has put up a wall I can’t break through. But I damn sure did try.
Dragon Fang Z is a roguelike game made by eastern devs Toydea Inc. When I say roguelike I mean it’s an anime adaptation that is built by definition to be a roguelike. It features progressing levels, turn-based combat, and all the content is randomly generated. And of course, when you inevitably die you lose everything you were carrying and sent back to the first level.
The item loss is always the hardest part, as they are vital to keeping you going floor to floor. From weapons and shields to consumable books and potions, everything is designed to add risk and reward and build you up to take on the ever-growing threat. The location, as well as what items are available, are all part of the procedural generation, meaning you have to rely on the unreliable. Some runs will throw powerful and rare loot at you within the first few floors while other runs will have you punching meekly for way too long.
What helps is the most important loot that you can acquire in Dragon Fang Z: fangs. These are actual loot drops from monsters that can be either equipped or used up, both with strong effects. They raise stats, provide special attack bonuses, heal,and more. These effects are coupled with a skill attack the fang provides. Occasionally when you attack enemies, you raise a brave meter that will activate special abilities of the fangs and charge up their super move.
On the subject of combat is where I feel Dragon Fang Z shines brightest. The turn-based system helps accent a simplistic yet challenging battle schematic that can and will challenge you every time you start a run. While melee is your simplest and most often used attack, it’s just a taste. All the items, with the additions of arrows you can pick up for ranged damage, play a role in turning the tide. If you aren’t careful, lucky, well-stocked, a bad situation can get worse. The apex of this is the monster lairs that contain multiple monsters all gunning for you. With the procedural generation, starting in these rooms can kill a run, but overcoming them feels rewarding.
The layout and designs of the rooms work well. The monster lairs contain plenty of obstacles and bonus items to help you conquer them. The map is made of small rooms connected by single lane tunnels that can help stem an onslaught of enemies, but could also trap you. As you delve downwards to lower floors, the color palette also changes. It’s a small yet welcome addition that, coupled with the changing soundtrack, helps keep the visuals fresh and the atmosphere on point. It prevents stagnation where so many games reuse and abuse similar assets.
Unfortunately, I can’t speak too much about the story. Due to the difficulty of the game, I was unable to reach any significant plot points. You play as Rose, a Dragon hybrid girl who travels with her friend, a fairy named Fairy. After an encounter with some enemies, the duo is transported to a mysterious place and finds themselves stuck in a loop of traveling down floors, but sent back when they pass out from exhaustion. At certain levels, you meet new characters who will travel to your hub world and explain information about mechanics. All in all, the plot is mainly a setup, and while I wish I could have gotten more story out of the game, the lack of it didn’t damper my enjoyment.
I’m very torn on what to say about Dragon Fang Z: A Rose and Dungeon of Time. The flaws of the game are quite significant. Between mechanics that feel unexplained and a story that was set-up but then left untouched, there are reasons to condemn the game. These issues are coupled with the unreliability of the procedural generation. Often I’d start back to back floors in dire situations, low on items or in heavily monster-infested areas. It’s frustrating to get a nice rhythm going just to get KO’d by an unwinnable challenge you couldn’t have seen coming .
On the other hand, I found myself sinking a lot of time into the game. The mobility of the title on the Switch was a Godsend, as being able to go in and out let me set a nice pace. The combat was fun, the turn-based system was clearly the foundation of the game’s build, and the challenge never got in the way. Despite bad runs and dangerous situations,I kept finding myself going back into dungeon after dungeon trying to get deeper and deeper. The aesthetic of the world is charming,and the game is fun, though doesn’t hold your hand and can be quite cold at times. If you are a fan of the genre,I recommend you give this game a go, even if you’re on the fence, my suggestion is to take the leap and give it a shot.
Disclaimer: The publisher provided a download code for this review.