Totally digging Cynder’s green fire breath!
Over a year later, slcantwell and I finally saw the end credits to Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon. Give us a break. Whenever we hang out we’ve got two toddlers almost exactly a year apart to entertain, feed, and keep out of mischief. Playing co-op games makes this pretty darn difficult. Try not getting your on-screen partner pushed off-screen while negotiating diaper changes and meltdowns over sharing toys.
So, yes, we often went a month or two at a time before picking up this game again. I want you to keep that in mind, as I’m going to admit a lot of our frustrations stemmed from forgetting what button does what. (Something that could have easily been remedied with an input overview screen every other game takes the time to throw somewhere into their menus).
The rest of my frustrations mainly sprouted from a lot of outdated and/or lazy mechanics. As far as PS3 games go, this one is old. Back when they simultaneously released PS2 and PS3 versions of the same game old. Before trophy integration old. Laughable “wow looks like I AM playing the PS2 version” bad graphics old. Dawn of the Dragon was released before publishers decided to mainly start pissing on the idea of including local co-op in their games, so that’s a bonus in my book. Too bad the co-op camera is frustrating enough a lot of the time you’ll purposely swap to one player mode to get past certain landmarks or puzzles. Being able to switch one or two player mode on the fly is one of the few intuitive aspects of this game, actually.
As with many other video games, the camera is your worst enemy half of the time. The main shtick in Dawn of the Dragon involves Spyro and Cynder being attached by a magical leash (which must invoke some awkward “turn around I have to pee” moments). Anyway, this means when you’re playing co-op the camera arbitrarily bounces between which player it feels like following when you and your pal get distracted beating up enemies. Or one of you has a sudden “I gotta get outta here before I die” moment without verbally telling the other player. Depending on the backgrounds or puzzles going on, this got annoying really fast.
Surprisingly, most of the commands are similar to God of War. Light attack, heavy attack, grab, jump, and magic are the same. This was a helpful way for me to remember what button does what. It was NOT helpful when it came to using Fury mode. Like Rage of the Gods in God of War, Dragon Fury is the souped up “deal extra damage” mode you can access after filling a bar. I kept trying to click in the two analog sticks to trigger it and nothing happened. There’s also a way to transfer life or mana to the other player. Neither of which are anywhere to be found in the game unless they pop up as a tutorial message during load screens.
Compared to other Spyro games, the final installment is very open and offers more exploration. There’s magic, health and experience gems to be found, as well as armor pieces for Spyro and Cynder. There’s “elite” monsters to fight, too. Good luck with that. I don’t think we managed to kill one of them. It’s a “find the right element” coin toss we didn’t really have the patience for. Exploring these larger environments is easier with the new ability to fly around on command. This feature is fun until you want to land. Ugh. Then you realize you could’ve saved yourself a bunch of time because it takes longer to get the damn dragon to put its feet on the ground than it would’ve taken to just get there on foot.
As I briefly mentioned earlier, this game has magic. Spyro and Cynder have four elements at their disposal each. The experience points received from killing enemies and busting gems goes towards leveling up the elements of your choice. I didn’t quite get to max out everything but I didn’t really care– I always played as Spyro and I never used his earth element spells in battle. Electricity and Fire are where its at. Cynder’s Fear spell is pretty awesome too. Two characters to control with 8 elements between them made for very interesting puzzles to solve.
I can’t speak too much for the overall plot in terms of whether it does the Spyro trilogy justice or ties everything up neatly. My only prior experience with these games is the first Spyro installment on the Playstation, and that was so long ago I don’t remember much about it. All I can say is it is SUPER cheesy; from Sparx’s annoying Mushu-from-Mulan-wannabe-act to Cynder’s contrived “I love you” bomb during the ending cinematic, it was eye-rollingly bad. Sparx was the only non-forgettable character. And it’s for all the wrong reasons.
This game did boss fights right for the most part. When you fight a big baddie, it is a big baddie. Bosses can fill all of your vision, have multiple phases, do some major hurt, and have quicktime death animations to boot!
One of my main complaints falls under my pet peeves. This is one of those games with a huge difficulty curve. Yes, we went months at a time without playing. But every time we picked the controller up we got back into the groove easily enough. When we reached the second-to-last zone it was like hitting a brick wall. All of a sudden we were unable to kill enemies unless we used Fury mode which never happened to us before that point. I prefer games that build up to that level; games that train the players to incorporate more skill until it becomes second nature. Don’t let me think this is a button-masher up until the last half hour of the game and make me want to give up because the fodder suddenly stop wanting to die. We were able to overcome the sudden spike in difficulty, but not without conferring with the internet to see if there was anything we were doing wrong. Nope. No special element or tricks. Just try not to get hit. Even when the camera refuses to show you the enemy pounding you from off-screen.
Following today’s standards, Dawn of the Dragon has quite a few blemishes. Bad graphics, poor sound quality, detrimental camera angles and forgettable characters/story rank at the top of my grudge list. Even still, this game has endearing qualities I can’t quite place. I don’t regret playing this game, but I doubt I will ever pick it up again. Dawn of the Dragon wasn’t incredible, but it wasn’t completely terrible either. I’d say it walks a dangerous mediocre line, quite capable of teetering on the brink of bad depending on the player’s tolerance for outdated mechanics and silly dialogue.