Christmas morning must have been green with jealous rage for these past few months as anticipation for the release of Dragon Front continued to mount. Today, the potential energy of a select few is finally able to become kinetic as High Voltage Studios opens the door just a crack and allows these bright eyed early adopters entrance into their brand new Oculus Rift experience.
Dragon Front is an online, virtual reality trading card game that borrows heavily from Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone while also putting its own unique spin on the genre as well. We’ve already covered the basic rules of the game and shared some early impressions, but now a fully playable form of the game is officially in the wild via the launch of today’s closed beta.
Since this is only a beta, heavy balance patches and perhaps even larger updates are almost guaranteed as Dragon Front’s official launch date (TBD) approaches. However, the core of the game is finally here and as such we wanted to break the experience down for those thinking of joining the beta or those unable to do so.
This is what we found.
The Gameplay: Fight for Your Faction
The cards of Dragon Front are split into four unique factions. When you first boot up the game you’re taken through a tutorial where you play as each of them, but once that’s complete you will need to chose one to align yourself with. Each faction has particular strengths, and a unique champion card that lend themselves to different playstyles. Here’s a summary of what we have to pick from so far:
Scales: This faction features human-esque characters outfitted with World of Warcraft-style, fantasy-punk armor and weaponry. Scales decks emphasize unit cohesion and devastating spells to establish early-game dominance on the board. Scales will likely be an appealing faction for anyone who enjoys crafting complex, multi-card strategies to obliterate their opponents.
Eclipse: The Eclipse are an army of zombies. Its units are all a bit on the unsettling side but they more than make up for it with their powerful mana-draining abilities. Eclipse decks are best for players that like to watch an opponent slowly defeat itself as they continue to fall into your late-game traps.
Thorns: Thorns are the hippies of the Dragon Front world. Tied closely to nature, these units prioritize health and mana gaining abilities over all else. Playing a Thorns deck means you’ll typically be sitting on a comfortable 8 mana at the start of each turn while your opponent sweats it out with 3. Play thorns if you like having a lot of breathing room to try out bold strategies.
Strife: Strife doesn’t care about you. Strife barely cares about itself. All Strife cares about is blowing up as much of the world as it possibly can. Strife decks are for aggressive players through and through. Its cards are all about hitting hard, hitting fast, and making the other guy think twice about hitting back. If you’ve ever shot a bottle rocket at friend just “to see what would happen” then Strife is the faction for you.
Each of these factions feels fun and interesting in its own right. Experimenting with each is a delight, at least until someone figures out the “optimal” deck builds for each and stomps us all in multiplayer.
The Cards: Activate Your Armory
Dragon Front is going to have over 200 cards according to our earlier chats with High Voltage and you only get a small taste of that vastness in the first few hours of the beta.
There are unit cards, spell cards, hero cards, and fortification cards; each uniquely tailored to the faction it belongs to and each sporting beautiful 3D artwork, interesting abilities, and chuckle-inducing text.
Once you’ve conquered the tutorial and selected your faction you can begin to acquire booster packs (either through earning gold, beating enemies, or paying cash) and create your perfect load out. Microtransactions are present in Dragon Front, but you’re able to collect a good amount of booster packs and gold just by playing the game itself which keeps the dreaded “pay-to-win” monicker off of this one — at least for now.
Currently, the special beta pricing period is as follows:
- Additional Factions are $7.99 (as opposed to $11.99)
- First Strike Pack sale for $24.99 (as opposed to $34.99)
- Unlocks the other 3 unowned factions
- Includes 10 booster packs
- Special Founder’s Pack for $49.99 – only available only during the Beta period.
- Unlocks the other 3 unowned factions
- Includes 30 Booster Packs and a special Gold spell card
Each deck can hold 30 cards and each faction allows for four decks. There is also a scrap/forge mechanic for gaining specific cards that is quite similar to the dust system from Hearthstone. This much variety means even veteran TCG players won’t be exhausting Dragon Front‘s options any time soon.
The Verdict: Too Soon To Tell, Too Fun To Put Down
It’s much too soon to tell whether Dragon Front will be an instant classic in our books like High Voltages other Rift title Damaged Core. For one thing, this is first and foremost a multiplayer game. Besides online matchmaking the only other thing to do is a “practice” mode against the AI that won’t be able to captivate players for too long outside of just trying out new decks.
This means that without a healthy ecosystem of consistently online players, Dragon Front will quickly become next to useless. As of right now it’s somewhat difficult to find a match but it is only the first day of the beta and this problem will likely shrink as more and more players are granted access.
But besides those concerns, and the ongoing question of balance, Dragon Front does have one thing going for it: it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
It so far is able to capture the “just one more game” sensation that every great multiplayer game is searching for. This coupled with the endless hours one could spend collecting cards and building decks means that this game goes a long way towards motivating Rift users to pick up their headsets again and again.
Time, and ultimately a final release date, will tell just how good Dragon Front really is, but for now all I want to do is keep playing it. Speaking of which, I’d better get back to annihilating some Eclipse scum. Scales never fails.
If not, you can sign up for entry into the Dragon Front closed beta on the official website, but access is not guaranteed. Once the game fully releases, it will be free-to-play. Dragon Front will also eventually feature cross-platform multiplayer between the Rift and Gear VR versions.