Train ‘Em Up with Dragons: Rise of Berk [review]

Dragons: Rise of Berk featured

Dragons: Rise of Berk is a well-executed mobile game that uses characters from “How to Train Your Dragon.” Puching Zhang reviews.

aNewDomain — Yes, yes I know, most games made from movies are terrible. Just awful. Usually they fall flat because they break with canon, don’t get characters right or the game’s mechanics in general utterly fail when compared to the movie. Think about “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1” — the game. It was a disgrace that made Harry a third-person shooter, spamming Expectro Patroni like it was “Call of Harry Potter.”

The good news is that Dragons: Rise of Berk doesn’t sink into that all-too-traditional hole (the bad is I’m still waiting for a decent HP game). Dragons: Rise of Berk, available on Android or iOS, sticks with the characters from the “How to Train Your Dragon” series, and is a great edition to the mobile franchise.

The Village of Berk

Dragons: Rise of Berk coverThe game’s premise is something you might expect: you train a bunch of dragons. By balancing wood and fish you catch, train and launch your dragons while expanding the village of Berk. The best part is that some quests are given by actual characters from the movie. That’s right, the characters actually interact with you — they aren’t just some cheap cameos put there just for fun.

Those characters are even incorporated into gameplay. For example, Toothless, the dragon of the protagonist Hiccup, is your starting dragon in the game and is used to find other dragons, which you subsequently train. The types of dragons that you can find are pulled directly from the film series itself, too. Dragons: Rise of Berk even sticks with the original script, incorporating the film’s references into the game.

Dragons: Rise of Berk promoIf you’re thinking, I’ve spent all this time and effort training up my dragons, what am I doing to do with them — you’re going to unleash them on your poor enemies, that’s what! But this only comes in later levels, when you unlock Erik’s boat. Likewise, Berk is by no means a peaceful island, and there will be fleets that attack it. When they do, you take the dragons you have trained and launch them against the enemy fleet.

The gameplay is similar to that of a classic RTS, except the dragons (for the most part) are controlled by the game itself, not the player. This could be improved, since it relies less on skill and strategy, and more on the level at which your dragons are trained, which can be very crude and cheap.

In terms of graphics, the game is top notch. The trees and water feel extremely realistic and the map is fairly extensive, with locations that reference the film series, such as Valka’s lair and the volcano. There are even NPC vikings in the background of Berk that are there to simply interact with. They greet the player and interact if you touch them on the smartphone screen. This does a great job of making Berk come alive, and immerses the player within the franchise it’s trying to imitate.

Dragon Flaws

However, the game isn’t perfect. One of my major peeves is the fact that the variety of dragons you can unlock on your own is mediocre at best. You need to pay runes for most of the decent and legendary dragons. Runes are a form of currency that you can earn through completing missions, but mostly they’re in-app paid collectibles, the equivalent of gems in most mobile games.

Dragons: Rise of Berk gameplayThis is a complete outrage, Ludia. The game designer is basically offering the mobile equivalent to paid-DLCs, a model that has already caused a lot of outrage among console gamers. If one or two premium dragons costed extra that might be fine, but when a third of the dragons are paid DLCs, it really is an outrage. Yes, the app is free, but to really get into the game it seems like you must pay. Why not charge $2 up front, and give everyone the dragons?

Bottom Line

Despite its payment flaws, Dragons: Rise of Berk gets an eight out of 10 in my book. It’s a good game that does an incredible job adhering to the awesome film series (thanks Dreamworks), it has tremendous graphics and characters that you can interact with. Not too shabby for a mobile game.

Dragons: Rise of Berk is available for Android and iOS  and it’s free to play. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who’s a fan of the How to Train Your Dragon series, since it does pay respect to Dreamworks’ creation.

For aNewDomain, I’m Puching Zhang.

All images courtesy of Ludia

About the author

Puching Zhang

Based in Chicago, Puching is gaming editor at aNewDomain and our sister pub, BreakingModern.com