With so many games vying for our attention these days, each new release really has to go above and beyond to stand out from the crowd. High-profile game releases in the indie scene have highlighted the creative benefits of being free from corporate shackles. Drago Noka has all the makings of one of these games, with a unique premise and inviting gameplay, however, it unfortunately fails to ever realise its full potential.
Drago Noka’s opening is cryptic, to say the least. After an intriguing “boot up” sequence, your character awakes just in time to help someone push a coffin off a cliff. This is no run-of-the-mill body disposal though; turns out it’s food for the dragon upon whose back you currently reside. Mondays, am I right? It’s an interesting opening, to say the least, and one that sets a rather outlandish tone, which is why it’s rather disappointing that the rest of the game feels so… plain. If you’re a fan of the farming sim genre of games you’ll certainly find enjoyment here, it’s just missing any sort of wow factor.
What’s so frustrating about this game is that the aforementioned wow factor feels tantalisingly within reach a lot of the time. There are ideas and mechanics aplenty that, had they been given more room to develop, would have elevated Drago Noka beyond a simple farming sim. Take the Dragons for example. People living on the backs of gargantuan monsters is nothing new of course (here’s looking at you Xenoblade Chronicles 2) but it’s still a novel enough idea that it can make for an interesting mechanic. Here, you can pit the creature you’re living on against the other titans roaming the world, yet what should be an exciting event is reduced to a rather oversimplified affair. You have a small array of attacks, both ranged and melee, and the ability to move back and forth, and that’s it. It’s surprisingly lacking for a game that goes so in-depth in other areas. That depth works both for and against Drago Noka however, as it exposes its weak spots tenfold.
The crafting system here feels almost overwhelming at times. What at first seems a simple task soon transpires to be something much deeper. As you unlock new characters and complete their requests, you also unlock new crafting implements. The breadth of all this can’t be overstated. In my first few hours with Drago Noka I was disappointed by the seeming lack of content within, however as I started to climb further up the crafting tree, I realised how much there is to do within the game. The way each item interacts with the next is brilliant, and you could quite easily invest dozens of hours into building up your village. The problem lies with whether you’d actually want to.
Drago Noka has many annoying quirks that quickly add up to sour the overall experience. As you restore your village, you’ll spend a lot of time chopping down trees, mining rocks, and planting crops, all standard fare; doing so increases your proficiency in each skill and you’ll find yourself quickly levelling up. You won’t be able to miss doing so either, because each level-up comes with an obnoxious on-screen pop-up and sound effect. A gratifying signal you’ve accomplished something is nice, but it happens so often in this game that it loses any sense of meaning.
Furthermore, the game’s UI is incredibly cluttered and unappealing. The in-game time looms atop the middle of your screen in a chunky white font, the energy meter is similarly bulky, and there is a constant (unnecessary) display of which music track you’re currently playing. The problems only worsen when you open the menu, which is lacking in any sort of creative design. It all feels as though it’s been chucked together in the most basic method possible, with complete disregard for the player experience. It’s a real shame, as this feeling rubs off on the rest of the game, yet you can tell there could be something really special underneath it all.
I wish there was more I could say in Drago Noka’s favour, but it all just feels so half-baked. No part of the game feels fully formed in what it wants to do. One mechanic I thought would be interesting is the effect the other dragons have on the world around you. As you go about your day, the dragon you reside on (Grant) will amble about the world. Occasionally this brings you into the path of other dragons, each of whom brings with them a different effect, such as the Water Dragon causing it to rain. This could have made for some really effective challenges to deal with, however, most of them feel inconsequential. I came across the Rock Dragon for instance and was notified it caused boulders to fall from the sky. I braced myself to take cover and prepare repairs for my village but instead was left underwhelmed by another seemingly ineffective event.
Drago Noka has so much potential, but it’s squandered amid underwhelming gameplay mechanics and uninspired design. It’s a slow burn that only the most dedicated players might find enjoyment from, but I can’t say I recommend the journey.
Drago Noka £17.59
Drago Noka is so close to being an enjoyable game, however, a myriad of bizarre and disappointing design choices hold it back from ever being anything other than sub-par.