This will be a pretty light game review, but amidst all of these Dragon Age reviews over the last few days, I decided I would review Dragon Age Legends as well. What is Dragon Age Legends? Well, it's a Facebook game of all things - something I've never played before now. EA did an interesting marketing campaign with the release of Dragon Age 2, allowing for unlockable content based on owning and registering some of their other games - Dead Space 2 and Mass Effect 2. They also offered in-game items for Dragon Age 2 based on things like registering with the Bioware community or signing up for the Dragon Age newsletter. If you're interested, you can find it here.
Perhaps their biggest and most daring tie-in though, was the Dragon Age Legends app for Facebook, which has a very loose story based on the Dragon Age world, and uses some of the sames themes, but is a very different kind of experience. For starters, it's not meant to be played right through in a single Mt. Dew consuming grind - you have something called stamina that gets used up by visiting new spaces on the overhead map. Stamina replenishes over time and allows you to move on.
Now, I'm not going to break this down by graphics and music or anything like that. I haven't played any other Facebook games, I don't have much to compare it to. Gameplay's spotty to judge - you simply click here and there so things like responsiveness aren't an issue. So, I'll give some info about it and share my impressions to date. And I say 'to date' because it's listed as Beta, but then most live-games like this are ever-changing (at least, they are if they want to be and remain successful)
The game itself is more of a turn-based strategy game than an RPG. You create a character from one of three classes (fighter, rogue and mage) and can take people into battle with you (up to 2), so you want to find a blend of abilities that work well. These people can only be used once and then need a break as well before they can be called on again. There are several factors that contribute to how long it takes for them to be usable again. This is one of the reasons it's good to have friends on Facebook who play it. There are a handful of generic characters that you can use, but if you have friends on Facebook playing, their characters are added to your roster of available combatants. Every time you use one of your Facebook friends' characters (or if they use yours) - they can get 20 gold from it (or you can gain 20 gold).
there are two columns of combat for you and your enemies. Back line people are better protected if they have someone in front of them. These are usually ranged damage dealers like mages and archers. Front liners tend to have more hps and better defense, but fewer direct attack options. You can use items for combat or for healing/boosting your own characters. Each class has access to different skills and you earn skill and attribute points as you level up. The current cap is level 40, I'm tied for the highest on my friends list as of writing this at level 21. 1 or 2 visits a day can keep you going pretty well, and use up your stamina reserves.
As for items, you can make bombs that do various things like a low level of damage to all enemies, or do damage plus drain their mana, or poison them, and so on. Speaking of mana, your special abilities will require mana - whether you're a warrior who hits multiple targets or an archer who gets a super-powerful single shot or a mage who summons a drake. You can find items or gold after every fight, as well as gain experience. Some items are the one-time use variety like I've described above, others are equipment that are often restricted by class type and level.
Gold is used on your castle. That's right, while you will spend a lot of time wandering the map and getting into preset encounters, you will spend some time in a castle where you can create first aid kits, potions, bombs and more. You can buy things like furnaces to increase productivity, and you need to have workers to manage all of these various shops. The pieces come in different sizes and there are benefits to having some types adjacent to other types, giving the castle section of the game a sort of Tetris-like feel.
If it sounds like there is a lot going on - that's because there is. For what seemed like a mindless sort of point and click game, there's actually quite a bit to manage. You can't play it for four straight hours, but you can have a pretty full 20 minutes as you check in on things. I don't know how this compares to other Facebook games because I haven't played any, but there is definitely an addictive formula to checking in to see if your shops have finished producing your next batch of shock bombs or seeing if you have enough stamina to move onto the next map space as you try to get to that next level.
The game, as I mentioned before, is still being worked on. Graphics have steadily improved and they keep adding new things to it. I've already beaten all of the available maps, but EA assures us that there are more coming. The game itself is free to play - you just need a Facebook account to access it. While the game is a tie-in to the Dragon Age 2 release, and the freebies I got as a result of playing it during the closed beta were cool, EA is not just doing this for fun. You can buy crowns (another form of currency that you can use in a specific shop, or to unlock upgrades for your castle) and gold from EA. You certainly don't have to - I haven't yet and I'm under the impression that most of the people I play with haven't either. However, some of the gear is pretty cool, as a few of my friends have some very potent weapons and I love it when their characters become available to use again.
It's just a Flash game, with point and click mechanics, but if you have any interest in this sort of thing, the tutorial does a good if not great job of laying out the basics and the game itself is completely free so even if you don't like it, you're not out anything but a bit of time. All in all, I plan to keep poking at it and see where it goes from here.