We embark on an adventure that evokes the mystery and legends of the sea when man still did not know its confines
As the poet José Espronceda cited: “With ten cannons per side, wind in full sail, it does not cut the sea, but flies, a brig sailboat” today in Meristation we embarked on a cruise through the seven seas. In this case we will not do it on board a brig sailboat, but rather on board a fearful pirate ship. We analyze Here be dragons, a naval title in which we will have to face a whole pack of sea creatures until we reach the most feared enemies with the black flag: pirates. We review the first title from the Polish studio Red Zero Games, which comes in PC and Switch format, and it does so through a satirical title based on a turn-based combat system.
Conquer the “Americas” with turn-based naval combat
Although its name actually prompts us to think otherwise, in Here be dragons, we will see few dragons. Its name, rather, refers to the ancient medieval practice of representing dragons, sea monsters and other similar mythical creatures on maps where they were believed to exist. Precisely, the game places us in a maritime scenario full of creatures and enemies to discover from which we will have to defend ourselves using only our own ingenuity. The title sets out a scenario in which an adventurous Christopher Columbus dreams of becoming a pirate and discovering the so-called “New World” while defeating his enemies on the high seas. The story behind the game, set in the age of exploration, is that Columbus’s voyage to America in 1492 was the end product of a much more ambitious, and hitherto unknown, mission to eradicate its various monsters and enemies from the Atlantic.
Pirate survival in the “New World”
In Here be dragons we will not find a developed plot or characters defined as such. Rather, the game offers turn-based naval combat, in which as a role-playing game we must advance and defeat enemies with different characters. With a style of play that we could find in games like Hearthstone and derivatives, we will have to use our best cards to win. With our fleet of ships on the left, and with the enemies to be shot down on the right, we will have to play our strategy well to be able to fight them, and thus advance their history. As we win over our enemies, we will unlock new areas of the New World map, where new characters will demand that we visit new areas that need to be defeated. In that sense, each action we take will always and exclusively be on the battlefield, considerably limiting its range of options on it.
Our enemies are reduced to two types: sea creatures (typical of the lovecraft universe) and pirates. In this case, the work of the Red Zero Games studio has made sure to include a wide repertoire of original sea creatures (giant octopuses, Krakens, newts, Moby Dick, mermaids …) with which we will have to fight, including with it a eye-catching hand-drawn aesthetic. An original aesthetic that fits into the story you want to tell us and does so with a good use of humor through the dialogues with our NPCs.
His humorous and friendly tone will be present throughout the game. Every time we embark on a new mission to unlock new areas, we are always presented with a humorous tone that will be full of subliminal messages and references that will make us smile on occasion. Here be dragons does not stand out for its story that consists of “advancing to the next level”, but stands out for its original turn-based combat bet. A proposal that will gradually increase the difficulty in game, and with it, the duration of these considerably.
It all starts with a roll of the dice
As in any role-playing game, we start the fight with a roll of the dice. Its gameplay is inspired by board games, where the dice are thrown at the beginning of a turn, and later the machine will assign random values (from 1 to 6) to execute attacks and abilities, all with the hope of sinking ships and creatures. In this roll, we will have to use our cards as appropriate in our game, either assigning actions, heal ourselves, or improve our ship. Basically the game focuses on two basic skills: Attack and Defense. With a range of numbers from 1 to 6, we can heal our allies, double or triple our attack or strengthen our defense. Its peculiarity within the combat system (and as in any role-playing game) is that all the numbers will be assigned to us randomly.
From here, everything seems very simple, until as we progress, the game increases its difficulty. Progressively, in the game they introduce us a new concept: the initiative. The ship with the lowest total dice value will gain initiative, which means that it will attack first and will also get the first allotment of dice at the start of the next turn; this being a very advantageous aspect in combat. In the game we can in fact not assign a die to one or more of our ships, so it will be more likely for us to maintain the initiative, but for each die that we do not assign, our fleet will suffer a point of damage.
In addition to the initiative, we will also find more obstacles and advantages in our naval battle. In this case, as we mentioned above, we will be largely dependent on chance, and in fact, it can be quite frustrating at times, as a few unfortunate rolls can easily leave us defeated in battle. Therefore, as the game progresses, they add new improvements to combat this disadvantage with their system called errata, with which we can spend bottles of ink (which are obtained at the end of each turn or when an enemy is defeated) to return to roll the dice and take action.
In addition to advantages, we will also find challenges. Every action we want to take will require us to shoot within a specific range of numbers; a healing action may require a 1 or a 2, while we can use a 5 or a 6 to improve our ship’s attack stat. For example, if we wanted to heal our ships and we roll a 3 we will not be able to do so, since for this reason we will need to roll a 1 or 2. With this, each roll is limited to obtaining specific numbers to be able to carry out different actions, directly affecting in our strategy in the game.
Strategy, our sword and great ally
In Here be Dragons we are introduced to an original strategy system that is introduced gradually and is perceived quite natural in the game once we have passed the first missions. However, it is more complex than it seems. When the concept of initiative is first introduced, we can opt for a new strategy, and in fact, we do it constantly as new improvements or actions are proposed to us. In the same way, it also has its drawbacks. It forces us as a player to use new combat strategies in each game, so it’s easy to find yourself completely bogged down by the slightest changes.
In the game we are in constant “trial and error” to discover which strategy is most effective in our combat. This does not depend only on the actions that we can perform, but also with it, what values we will not use and therefore, they will be assigned by default to our enemies. This fact makes a big difference in the game and will be our main puzzle in each turn. Not only our actions in combat will be important, but also long before we start our first play. Each start of the game will require a thorough evaluation of the statistics and attacks of each group, to find an effective plan of action. We can say that one of the qualities of the title is that there are no rules, we must learn along the way alone (based on defeats and victories) about which strategy is best to use at any time.
In Here be dragons you have to know what you are facing. With a slow start with tutorials, as we go through the New World we will be presented with new challenges and difficulties. So not everything will be easy. Sometimes its gameplay can be highly frustrating and repetitive (assuming that an important factor for success in our game is random), however, for fans of turn-based combat, it can be a more than addictive and entertaining proposition. A fun bet and clearly oriented to action and combat, but after a few hours of play it is not enough to keep us interested in the same way as in the beginning.
The game has important elements that could be improved, from its excessive narrative simplicity (which despite its use of humor manages to remain on the surface) and its absence of a multiplayer mode. With a successful formula in its combat system, on this occasion it could have been used more by offering a multiplayer mode, and in passing, making things even more complicated in combat. Another aspect that we miss is its translation. The game comes entirely into English, so if the language is not mastered there are many important technical concepts of combat that we can escape at first.
- The use of humor and its pirate references
- Its combat system is interesting
- The arrival in laptops (Switch)
- A more than affordable price
- Sound section does not stand out
- Lack of a multiplayer mode
- Extremely simple narrative
- It is not translated into Spanish
- It can be highly repetitive
Here be dragons is a proposal that manages to enchant us with its successful naval combat system and particular aesthetics, but which after several hours of play falls short. More innovation, complexity and a multiplayer option are missed to get into its competitive mode more than ever. In short, we find ourselves with a simple and challenging bet, which makes solid use of its basic premise in the use of the turn-based combat system, but which also has factors that could be improved and polished.
It is not the latest or the most original, it does not have the best execution either, but it can be fun if you like the genre. Good, but room for improvement.