Mobile Gaming
DragonVale Review

Social games have seen a monumental rise in popularity and development after their integration to social site Facebook, now those players who actually manage to pry themselves away from the constant caring of a virtual entity and brave the outdoors for a chance at a real-world social life can take that life sucking game with them on their phone with DragonVale.

Developed by Backflip studios of Paper Toss fame, DragonVale takes all of the addictive attributes of Zynga’s popular Facebook games and bring them to iOS devices to give the existence of Apple’s Game Center a little more meaning. DragonVale’s premise comes as a simulation game, similar to entries in the Tycoon series, players are given a patch of land to develop a place of interest for spectators to wander around. More precisely your land comes as a small floating island. On this island you place habitats to raise your expanding brood of dragons and build an environment your visitors will enjoy.

Be careful. A screen full of timers may be there as a warning. Don't let them run your life!

Setting up enclosures and occupying them with your dragons creates an ever generating pile of DragonCash – the game’s currency. You spend the money on clearing the island of its garbage, buying dragon eggs, habitats, decorations or growing more food to increase the level of your lizards and increase the amount of money they generate. As your level increases, more options become available to you giving you more reasons to spend your money and more reasons to come back to the game throughout the day.

As any social game, it’s all about the commitment. Every action you take in DragonVale starts a timer. Clearing the island of its rocks, trees and shrubs takes both DragonCash and a varying length of time. Typically the smaller the object, the less time and money it takes to remove. The same rules apply for anything between building habitats, growing food and incubating eggs. The game timers tick whether you play or not meaning all of your progressing work on your island is still counting down when you’re away from the game. Coming back to harvest your accumulating piles of DragonCash leaves you something to look forward to throughout the day. As opposed to the social games that require your constant attention to avoid wasted work, DragonVale doesn’t penalize it’s busy players will wasted produce, though dragon pens do have their cash caps.

The market sells everything you'll need to raise the dragons on your own, though those looking for a boost can opt to use real money on gems, food and in-game cash.

The smart element about DragonVale is the different play styles open to the players. Those with less time on their hands can opt to run an island more suited to their schedule, one with slower income rates but higher income caps while those heavier players can run an island of high-rate plant habitats with that cap every 10 minutes or so.

Integration with the Apple Game Center opens the social networking portion of the game. By registering other players or recruiting current friends, players can visit each others islands to observe their handy work or trade supplies. By gathering a ring of friends it is possible to set up an artificial gem farming system.

Dozens of different dragon breeds exist and can only strive in certain habitats, their eggs and enclosures are unlocked as you level up with more exotic types becoming available.

The goal of DragonVale‘s gameplay it to explore the breeding capabilities of each species to create rare exotic hybrids. The 12+ hour breeding period is defiantly a process that should be started a few hours before you hit the sack as the busy dragons will be taken out of their pens and thus, reduce your income periodically. As you wake up to you’re wad of cash and a new mysterious dragon egg, you’ll more than likely find the egg’s own timer acting as a motivator to get you through the day. With a multitude of breeds only available through gem purchases, you’ll find the need to experiment with the breeding system necessary to unlock the more elusive creatures.

DragonVale‘s open gameplay options can suite the schedule of any mobile gamer while still leaving the thought of what to do next fresh in your mind as you put it down. The park decoration system in place is mentioned to increase the rate of AI visitors to a park, though this didn’t lead to a noticeable step-up in cash generation so both seem like merely money wasters rather than a game-progressing act. We hope future updates will lead to a heightened level cap and a bigger incentive to decorate. The fact of DragonVale only being available on iOS means playing is likely to see you enjoying your commute more, yet seeing your device gain an ever more permanent place in your hand as you come home. Its a fun little game with its charms and slight humor that will easily help you whittle away a day that just keeps dragging.

Final Score 3/5

DragonVale is available to download for free via the Apple AppStore for any iOS device running 4.1 or higher.

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