Since the early 2000s, Inti Creates has been creating incredible 2D action games and their latest is a challenging RPG experience.
Before starting Dragon Marked for Death, you get to choose your character. Inti Creates decided to only make 2 of the 4 characters available right off the bat. If you purchase the Frontline Fighters version, you can play as the Empress and Warrior while the Advanced Attackers version grants you access to the Shinobi and Witch character classes. Whichever version you purchase, you can buy the other two characters as DLC and it's surprisingly expensive so this implementation is pretty greedy on Inti Creates' behalf.
Anyway, the story of Dragon Marked for Death is simple. You basically play as a member of the Dragonblood Clan whose oracle (Amica) is kidnapped by the Kingdom of Medius. So, they enter an alliance with an Astral Dragon named Atruum in order to hopefully put an end to the evil kingdom once and for all. Dragon Marked for Death is one of those action RPGs with a central hub where you play through missions in a non-linear structure. Because of that, you don't go on any sort of grand adventure although each quest is quite large on its own. As you play missions, you level up and get more powerful equipment and it's a very grind-heavy campaign.
Dragon Marked for Death's core gameplay is superbly action-packed and a ton of fun. Each of the 4 characters plays completely differently with their own attributes and sets of abilities yet I primarily played as the Empress. She has a quick sword combo, a powerful yet slow Dragon Sword attack, and a long-range Dragon Cannon that can be charged. As you work your way through stages, you can also dash, jump, and swing by latching onto certain nodes. Both the combat and platforming is incredibly tight and fast-paced. I found myself tapping the dash button constantly while whipping through stages like a ninja and it feels fantastic.
All of that being said, I wish there was a dodge button that would cancel whatever attack animation you're currently in and make your character roll backwards. I say this because your character can be in a mid-attack animation then you try to get out of the way of a projectile but you can't nor is there any means to do so. This simple mechanic would have improved the combat a great deal.
One thing that Dragon Marked for Death does exceptionally well is offer a non-linear mission structure where you can tackle any quest you want next. If you'd like to grind, you can replay older missions as well as challenge them on higher difficulty settings. New quests are unlocked upon completing certain ones and via talking to NPCs in the central hub. The quests themselves are set in memorable stages and are impressively lengthy; some of which may take close to half an hour to beat. Between quests, it's rewarding to level up and equip better stuff although being able to do so happens less frequently than you'd think which means you'll have to grind a lot.
Although this structure sounds appealing, the quests can be downright brutal. The stronger enemies are massive damage sponges and there is a time limit so missions that task you with defeating enemies in an arena can be exceptionally irritating as the time will easily run out. Replaying the same missions over and over again gets tedious very fast but you'll gradually memorise the stages and eventually grind enough to be able to progress. Thankfully, there is co-op multiplayer. However, you can only play it either online or with a friend who happens to have their own Switch and copy of the game. That's right; there is no split screen multiplayer which is a huge oversight. Obviously, playing with others may alleviate some of the frustration but your ability to do so is definitely limited.
Dragon Marked for Death's action-packed gameplay is phenomenal and its missions are huge and rewarding to master. However, the lack of a dodge button and the fact that many missions are rage-inducing make it a tough game to thoroughly enjoy.
- + Super-tight action-packed gameplay that's challenging and satisfying
- + Distinct characters with cool abilities
- + Non-linear mission and difficulty structure
- - Many missions are far too frustrating
- - Could use a dodge button
- - No split screen local multiplayer