Insert Thanos Quote
Normally on this blog I like to speak about games in broader terms. I try not to delve into mechanics all that often, usually because getting into the nitty-gritty isn’t that interesting for people who aren’t already fans of the game I’m talking about themselves. It’s easy to talk about my enthusiasm for a game and how it plays without getting into hard numbers or moment-to-moment gameplay.
Today is not one of those days! Today I’m going to do something really weird, which is talk about the endgame of a mobile gacha game. There will be an assumption that you at least know the general idea of how Dragalia Lost plays, but I’ll try and fill in the gaps where I can. This is because this post is really a way for me to organize my thoughts now that I’m pretty deep into the late-game stuff in DL. Feel free to turn back now.
If you’re somehow still onboard with me, then here’s my rant.
Dragalia Lost is a cute little action-rpg that you can play for free on your phone. You run around with little chibi characters that you roll for in a gacha, slashing and bashing tiny enemies all in the name of reuniting your kingdom to beat a villain.
It is also one of the most demanding games I’ve ever played, putting even Final Fantasy XIV to shame.
There are two sides of Dragalia Lost: the story missions, and the end-game. And they may as well be two entirely different games. DL raids are some of the most challenging things I’ve seen in a phone game, and even some console games! And the comparisons to FFXIV aren’t unfounded: this game literally has bosses with stack and spread markers, and DPS/Health checks, just like the MMO.
I’ve played Dragalia Lost since the day it came out. It’s one of my favorite games in a long time, and even made it in my GOTY list the year it was released, despite being, yes, a free-to-play gacha game. But I’ve stayed away from the end-game because of how ridiculous it’s been to get into. Recently, however, I finally broke through the glass power-gap ceiling. I’m currently sitting at 28,824 Might, with Ieyasu, Cleo, Gala Alex and Mym making up my strongest units. I’ve beaten Standard and Expert Kai Yan stages, as well as Standard High Jupiter, and even Expert High Midgardsormr. And I have some thoughts. The Dragalia team has done a lot to make the harder content more accessible for players who are trying to get into it, but it could still use some work.
There are so many weapons you can craft in Dragalia Lost that it can be hard to know where to start to increase your characters’ Might to get to those ever elusive High Dragon Trials. The Chimeratech Weapons do a lot to alleviate this process. They only exist for two elements right now, with more being released as time goes on, but they do a lot to boost your characters’ power in a linear way, while not being too difficult to actually get via the Chimera fights. I’ve actually hit a point where I can auto some of these fights with my teams.
Beating a Chimera once immediately gets you enough materials to craft one weapon. You have to grind to get more, but that might not be entirely necessary, because of…
Once you’ve crafted a Chimera Weapon, you unlock the chance for a 6 Star Agito Weapon. All you have to do is beat the standard Agito trial connected to that weapon. Agito trials are a lot easier than High Dragon Trials, while still being challenging enough to be fun for people who want something new to do. The Agito Weapons you get from the Agito Trials can then be used to take on the High Dragon Trials, completing the throughline from Chimeratech Weapons to Tier 2 High Dragon Weapons. This new system has cut down a lot on the confusion that comes with figuring out how to do the harder DL content.
There’s also a system that lets people gain extra wyrmite, the free currency that allows for summons, if they clear content with players who are new to said content. This incentive helps to have people stick around after a group wipes, which cuts down on the time needed to learn new content. A small change, but a useful one.
New Mana Circles
The new Mana Circles have done a great job of making all kinds of characters that you might have more viable for end-game content. Getting Ieyasu to level 100 and maxing out his skills was pretty easy, all things considered, and it did a lot to help me take on the High Jupiter trial. The MCs help to prevent power-creep and keep characters relevant. It’s a great change overall. Just, please, Cygames, start upgrading the other elements. Shadow Units are fine now, I promise. Stop praying for them, they are getting too powerful.
Probably one of the best new editions to the game. For most new content, instead of instantly needing to give up after getting knocked out, you can revive with some HP to continue to fight. You might not beat the content even with Revives, but this allows you to at least see more of a fight over time, so that you can slowly figure out how to play through it.
And here we have the worst part of the game. The Castle in Dragalia Lost sucks. It just does. There is literally nothing entertaining about building up the base over real-time days and hours. In fact, it’s a big part of why I made so little progress in the end-game in the first place. The facilities simply have too much sway over how much Might you can gain and how much damage your characters can do. It’s the most boring, carrot-on-a-stick part of the game, and to be honest, I’m not sure how it could even be fixed. Sure, Hustle Hammers that let you instantly build facilities help, but the very concept itself, in my opinion, is flawed. I still have tons of my facilities left to build before I can even consider getting into the Master High Dragon Trials, and it will probably take me weeks, if not months, to get to that point. In summation: it sucks, dude.
This is a Mobile Game, Folks
This con is a bit harder to explain, but I’ll do my best. Dragalia Lost is an action game, where you basically click and drag to move your character around, and tap to attack. This works well enough in most content, but in my opinion, shows its issues as harder and harder content shows up. These battles require more nuanced movement, which is honestly both difficult and annoying to do with one hand on an iPhone Whatever.
One place this particularly stands out is in Expert Kai Yan. A segment of the battle causes two circles to appear around two of the party members. These members must stack together before the circle creates an electricity field that can slowly kill you over time if you touch it, with Kai Yan performing a Stack Attack right after the circles dissipate. The circles are pretty small, and it is a nightmare trying to precisely line them up to overlap in front of Kai Yan so that the DPS can DPS. If you don’t do it properly, and you don’t have a healer on your team, there’s an 80% chance you’ll wipe. I think this kind of stuff needs to be taken into consideration when designing raids for such a limited control scheme.
Put Me In Coach
Lastly, I think harder content would be a lot easier to get into if there were more ways to practice them. Revives and Mentor Bonuses help, as do the Interlude versions of the High Dragon Trials, but why not add a mode that allows players to test their DPS checks? If you’re going to copy MMOs, you may as well steal the idea of Stone, Sky, Sea from FFXIV, right?
And there you have it! I think Dragalia Lost’s endgame has improved a lot since I first started playing the game, and it’s clear the devs are paying attention to helping new players break into the harder content without having to be hard-core raiders. But there’s still quite a bit more that could be done. All that said, the fact that a mobile game has been so enthralling to me that it was able to get me to write 1,400 words on it is impressive in and of itself. So, you know, if you haven’t, check Dragalia Lost out! It’s pretty damn good, in my opinion.