Dragoness: Command of the Flame is a new turn-based strategy game from Crazy Goat Games. In it you play as the Elvish commander of an army of beasts who must defend the Draithir Peninsula from a rising tide of evil. Mixing overworld exploration with city-building and turn-based tactical combat, The Dragoness aims to tick all your strategy boxes in one fell swoop. While it doesn’t quite land all its shots, it does have a few fresh ideas.
As the Commander, you find yourself caught in the midst of a conflict between two warring dragon houses, the noble Regals and the corrupted Shai-Va. The backstory is all told with stylish but static art panels, which meant I had already forgotten most of the important elements when I started playing. While the story isn’t essential to enjoying the game, I found it difficult to latch on to the unfolding events.
While exploring the overworld, you’re guided by Natiq, a “battle pangolin” which is as weird as it sounds. He has an incredibly irritating voice, too, which didn’t help me focus on what he was saying half the time. Essentially he’s there to steer you through choices and encounters, offering tips and guidance when you need it. The overworld is the place to gather resources, find treasure, engage with side quests and NPCs, and begin combat encounters.
In between, you’ll visit your hub base, which can be built up and expanded. The city-building element is simple, as you move between districts installing essential structures such as the Magic Amplifier which feeds directly into the narrative. A forge, an Oracle, training grounds, all these are available as you progress, but you’ll need a vast amount of resources to build them.
Most resources can be found by hitting nodes on the overworld map, but you also gain them by engaging in combat. While there are some good ideas on display here, the combat itself is quite a dull affair. You’re position on one side of a pretty basic square grid with your enemy opposite. Each turn you can either move, attack, defend or use a skill. Your units contain a variety of fantasy beasts such as Ents and Centaurs, and each has unique abilities to bring to bear. For example, Centaurs can use ranged attacks to hit enemies across the battlefield.
Unfortunately, the flow of the combat in The Dragoness: Command of the Flame is decidedly clunky. Most units have such small movement range that it takes forever to advance, and the combat animation is lacklustre at best. Compared to the beautifully drawn capital in build mode, the battle screen is drab and uninspiring. I found myself becoming more and more bored with each battle, despite unlocking new units and attacks. You’ll have access to a growing repertoire of spells and buffs you can use in battle to aid your army and hamper the enemy, with categories like Stealth, Necromancy, and Strength.
That said, the progression system is interesting. You can modify loadouts, known as Revival Spells, using various structures such as the Oracle, which you choose every time you return to the capital after a quest. Whether you win or lose, you’ll always need to pick a new Revival Spell and you’ll always get randomised skills with it. These include skills like Reinforce that improves the defence of your units, but you can also set your own end-of-turn bonuses that trigger after each turn, whether in combat or exploration. These grant small buffs each turn such as extended movement range or boosts to resource gathering. It adds a rogue-lite element to proceedings, as you’ll never be sure exactly which skills and bonuses you’ll take into the next quest.
Periodically you’ll meet NPCs that will want you to complete side quests for them. Natiq does all the talking for you, but dialogue is almost all voiced. You don’t have to complete these sidequests, but doing so is usually worth your time.
The Dragoness is an enjoyable enough adventure, but it does feel a little underwhelming compared to other turn-based strategy titles. It’s not bad-looking and there are some neat ideas in the combat and character progression, but on the whole it’s just too plain to really attract attention. Everything about it is inoffensive and, well, fine – it just doesn’t do much to dazzle you.
Interesting skill system
Decent overworld exploration
Combat is a bit dull
Doesn't really stand out