Dragon Tavern, by Trident Games, takes a straightforward approach to the casual dungeon crawl. The game, like any RPG, is all about killing monsters to level your character. However, the approach is geared toward the total casual gamer and I found the simple, direct combat somewhat refreshing.
Combat in Dungeon Crawl is strictly about percentages. For instance, you’ve got a base 70% chance to kill a monster and, depending on your skills, character, and equipment, this percentile can go up or down. Then the engine makes a simple dice roll and if you roll lower than the ending percentile, you kill the monster. It’s a very simple system, yet makes the game run quickly and efficiently.
Being devoid of storyline, the game is all about killing. The main thing you’ll be focusing on is which skills to invest your skill points into. In Dragon Tavern, each character and monster is governed by the “TOAD” system, meaning Tactics, Organization, Attack, and Defense. It basically works like a rock-paper-scissors aspect in combat. Certain Tactics are strong against other Tactics, and some, of course, are weaker. Each stat (Tactics, Organization, Attack, Defense) is matched up against the monsters’ stats, and then adds or subtracts from the ending chance of success. Therefore, if you’ve got a character who is strong against melee fighting, he would get a bonus to his chance of success if he were facing a melee monster as opposed to if he were facing a monster with magical qualities in their “TOAD”.
Also, there are a number of skills in which you are able to invest. Some skills offer a bonus to victory if you’re facing monsters with certain attributes in their “TOAD”. Other skills offer straight bonuses to your chance of victory versus all TOADs. Like many RPGs, how you distribute your skill points plays a big role in how successful your adventuring career will be.
Equipment is also handled simplistically in Dragon Tavern. You’ll need to upgrade your equipment often so that you can stay competitive against the monsters you’ll be facing. If you’re facing a high level opponent and still using very low level equipment, you’ll take a subtraction in your chance of victory. Inventory and equipment is handled very simply as well. For instance, after you slaughtered a bunch of monsters, you can return to the Tavern and the system automatically sells all the loot you’ve acquired while on your adventure as well as healing you to full life. I found this quite nice since I didn’t have to worry about selling items manually or constantly watching my health points.
Having a simple, straightforward approach to inventory and combat is refreshing for me, but this endless dungeon crawl might turn some gamers off. There’s no storyline in Dragon Tavern and no quest system at all. It’s purely about slaying monsters to get more experience. Being able to automatically sell all the useless loot to the tavern is all well and good, but I feel like having an inventory system and acquiring better arms and armor from monsters would bring more people to play this game. On more than one occasion I found myself completely uncaring of which loot dropped since I was only going to be selling it when I got back to the Tavern anyway.
There are sub-locations you can visit in each zone, which hold different types of boss monsters. These boss monsters usually hold a lower chance of success for you, and often have more than one hit point (meaning that you’ll need to succeed against them more than once). Boss monsters, however, often drop much more valuable loot and give a significant amount of experience upon defeat.
One of the bigger draws to the game is the competition groups. In these, you can see how your character stacks up against everyone else. Trident Games has implemented many different groups you can join, ranging from the country in which you live to the social network site that you’re on (Myspace or Facebook). Also, upon reaching level 20, you will unlock the ability to make a hardcore character which gains twice the amount of available actions per day at the cost of only being allowed to die once. For me, this was where I found the most fun since the competition groups tend to thin out due to characters dying off.
Dragon Tavern is the perfect dungeon crawl for the lunchtime adventurer. The combat and inventory system is simple and direct which is both a good and a bad thing. Trident Games does offer certain bonuses which are purchasable through the site, though the bonuses don’t make the game unbalanced or unfair. Also, they’re fairly cheap, which is refreshing. While not for everyone, Dragon Tavern does call back to the old dungeon crawlers and should rightfully appeal to most casual gamers.