There are certain games where usually the goal and joy comes from replaying them over and over with other people, using that time to build up a character, conquer quests, gather loot, and hopefully accomplish great things. These are the Monster Hunter, God Eater, and Dragon’s Crown sorts of titles we see appear from time to time. Yes, you can manage on you own, but it is ideally a shared experience. Dragon Marked for Death is one of these games. This Nintendo Switch title is calls to mind especially a game like Dragon’s Crown, due to the way it is executed, the roles your party members can play, and the attention to detail when it comes to artistic direction.
Dragon Marked for Death is sold in an interesting way, which people should be aware of before jumping in. You choose either the Frontline Fighters Pack or Advanced Attackers Pack, with each giving you two characters and requiring you to purchase the other two as DLC. The two Frontline Fighters characters are the Empress and Warrior, ones who primarily focus on melee attacks. I would say the Empress is most similar to Dragon’s Crown’s Dwarf, in that she is more about quick, fast attacks and putting herself out there. The Warrior can feel like a cross between the Amazon and Fighter. He is the tank of the group, especially since he has a barrier that can protect him and people around him, but can boost his damage output with a Berserk skill. The Advanced Attackers has the Shinobi and the Witch. The former is a ranger along the lines of the Elf, since he is very agile, has some kick, and is a very basic ninja. The Witch is like the Sorceress, right down to her elemental attacks and healing spells. This means when you buy, you have to think about the sort of role you want to play in the party and pick a character accordingly. Especially since, like Dragon’s Crown, Dragon Marked for Death has you using, leveling, and gathering equipment for one character at a time. (Though, also like the other game, you can get items for the fighter you aren’t currently using.)
The gameplay is similar with the two games, offering a familiar flow even when the actual in-mission battle style and area traversal can be different. When you are in the hub, you have access to a weapon shop, a general store, an Inn where you can manage characters and items, and a Bar where you can take quests alone or with other people either locally or online. Quests have levels tied to them, though you can eventually up them to increase the difficulty. Each one can be played alone or with others. More unlock as you go through them. In order to get the experience, gold, and earned items from a mission, you must complete it. The best way to prepare yourself for future missions is to keep repeating ones you know until you reach an appropriate level. After you take a mission, you immediately head out on it. If successful, you find yourself back in the bar. If it was an online mission, you are still with the same up to three other people and could jump into the same mission again. If you were playing offline, you appear outside the Bar, where you can enter to start the loop again.
The actual missions in Dragon Marked for Death is a bit different than Dragon’s Crown, but it can still feel similar. I’ve been playing Frontline Fighters, so my experiences has been with two physical attackers. The Empress is the one I have been mainly using, and she is a very combo-heavy character. Playing as her can sometimes provide the illusion of going through a beat’em up, where it it comes down to using the Dragon Sword heavy attack to push back an enemy, knock an airborne enemy to the ground, or extend a standard attack combo by another hit in such a way that someone has some space, perhaps to dodge or use a Dragon Shot ranged attack from a distance. The Warrior is similar, but with more relying on buffs when necessary. There is a platforming element. All characters can follow different paths, with a map showing the entire mission’s area, and you don’t have to stay together. (But please, stay together.) Some characters can even explore a bit more, as the Empress able to take advantage of higher paths by using her arm as a grappling hook in appropriate spots and the Shinobi can double-jump, glide, and wall kick to reach new areas. There’s a great range of movement as you head through areas, fight foes, and usually defeat some kind of boss to complete the task at hand.
The care put into Dragon Marked for Death‘s world is the other thing about it that reminds me of Dragon’s Crown. Except while that involves exquisite hand drawn characters and environments, this is an example of spritework at its finest. Everything in this game’s world is intricate and detailed. The Dragonblood Clan characters have all these accents, especially with their Dragon body parts. Their attacks and abilities have such care put into them. The same goes for the NPCs and opponents. The ordinary ones intended to appear multiple times are distinctive enough. Each one’s clothing has unique elements, the character portraits have good expressions, and enemies’ animations are smooth. Major NPCs and bosses are even better, with additional flourishes in their movements to show emotion and personality. It is quite a pretty 2D game.
Dragon Marked for Death is the sort of game Nintendo Switch owners who want to play with others may want to look into, especially if they like the idea behind cooperative multiplayer games like Dragon’s Crown. It is a 2D game where you get to pick roles that fit the position you would like to fulfill on a team, let you gradually grow and improve, enjoy some great pixel art, and eventually become a mighty warrior who could help others complete their quests. Just make sure you try to play with other people, especially when first starting out, as early on getting one or two levels can make a big difference when it comes to surviving and thriving.
Dragon Marked for Death is available for the Nintendo Switch.