Dragon Front – Early Preview

Dragon Front is an upcoming CCG developed exclusively for the new Virtual Reality headset device, the Oculus Rift. Produced by Oculus Studios and developed by High Voltage Software, Dragon Front appears to be taking on the Hearthstone style of digital card games but as a fully 3D, virtual experience. There’s no release date yet except for the tentative “later this year” answer as given by the developers.

Set in a hybrid fantasy/steampunk world of monsters, magic, and machines, the game promises a fully-realized strategy card game, with 280 characters, 80 different encampments, and more than 100 spells. Details on gameplay and mechanics are far and few between right now, but I’ve taken a very close look at the trailer and extracted all the hidden clues present to build a fuller picture for you.

So let’s dive in and see what this intriguing new title has for us! Read on…

battle1

Yes, it’s fully 3D, and you can look around in every direction… Or can you?

Gameplay

My first impressions are that we do not have a Hearthstone clone on our hands here, thankfully. There is ample evidence in the video to show that things are very different here, even if a lot of the concepts are similar. The developers would not have done well to simply mirror the Hearthstone format since we’ve had more than enough clones now and are beyond oversaturated in this genre with those types of games. The developers have a chance here to use the VR tech in a unique way, so I hope that their game design is similarly innovative. There are some clues that this is the case.

Firstly, there is a 4×4 grid which is used as the battlefield, with a front and back row for each player. This already sets it apart from Hearthstone by making it much more reliant on positioning and allowing for ranged attacks from the rear rows. One of the cards you can see in the trailer has an effect to do with hitting units with a ranged attack, so I’m guessing it’s possible to attack units even if you’re not directly in contact with them. We also see “Deathrattle”-style effects: in the image below, we see a unit’s ability trigger when other units die. That should make for some interesting combos and plays.

card-view

Viewing a card is fully 3D, and you can peer around inside the card as if a window into a box where the character is moving around. Is it just a gimmick?

Players each have a fortress which functions as their life counter. It’s currently unclear how units are able to damage the fortress directly if there are units in the way on the battlefield, but it’s possible that you have to attack through two clear slots to hit the fortress directly, or perhaps it takes damage somehow when your units die. We’ll have to wait and see.

Each faction has a unique legendary champion unit which can be summoned. Undoubtedly they are going to be extremely powerful, but that’s not all — an interesting piece of info we have is that the champion gets cheaper to summon the closer to death you are. This is a great catch-up mechanic, or at least ensures that the final moments of a battle are momentous indeed.

Decks are built to a 30-card specification exactly, from a range of available units, battlefield-modifying constructions and also instant spells. The battlefield modifications, called fortifications, are shown to have either buffing or hindering abilities, so you can use them to enhance your own battlefield or obstruct your opponent’s. One of the fortification cards has a “trap” effect, showing that the opponent will have no idea what it actually does until they summon a unit onto that square. I love this idea of trap fortifications — let the shenanigans begin!

commander-view

The field of view seems to be quite limited to just panning left and right. This isn’t too remarkable when VR is supposed to take advantage of a 360-degree view. I do hope there’s more to it than just this.

Features

So what do we know so far about what’s going to be included in the game itself? Well, we know that there are going to be different factions, each with their own cards and legendary champion unit that can be summoned. There will be two factions at launch, with a few more already in the works. It’s to be expected that the various factions will focus on different strategies and play styles while also having a unique visual look or theme to them, hopefully.

With over 260 cards at launch, that’s a pretty decent-sized base set to begin building with, especially as they’re claiming they only belong to two factions so far (and likely some neutral-type cards as well). We’ve also been told that they’re working on the next few updates of downloadable content, with new factions, champions and even new landscapes to play on. I’d love the addition of more battlefields, because the same one can start to get a bit boring after a while.

We don’t have much info about play modes other than 1v1 is the only mode planned so far, so no crazy 3+ multiplayer battles just yet. Also, there are likely to be leaderboards and tournaments of some kind, we just don’t know yet. There will definitely be card crafting and deconstruction though, as seen in the trailer. This should help free-to-play players build a broader collection over time, but let’s hope the crafting rates are less oppressive than those that Hearthstone has come to have.

dragon-front-paper-prototype

The developers first prototyped the game on paper, which is a good sign that they’ve made sure to have a working game design before trying to implement it digitally.

First Impressions

It’s exciting to hear that a CCG is going to be one of the first titles available on the Oculus platform, and we’re acutely looking forward to exploring the game in further depth!

The game certainly looks impressive, but I’m not convinced that it’s using the VR tech to the fullest. Being able to look into the card frames or tilt the battlefield a bit is certainly cool, but nothing that couldn’t be done just by tilting a phone or tablet. I’m hoping they’ll truly take this opportunity to do more with it, perhaps by taking you down to the battlefield itself, among your units where you can look all around you, including behind you. That would be awesome.

Similarly, while it may be too early to pass judgement entirely, the game design looks solid but is nothing groundbreaking in terms of new mechanics or ideas. There appear to be a lot of derivative elements with maybe one or two interesting implementations of those elements. It comes across as a very “safe” choice of CCG, which is eager to please and be commercially successful without taking too many risks in game design or mechanics. That’s OK, and it’s likely going to be a huge success — but I doubt it’s going to replace any of the juggernauts of the genre anytime soon or be considered anything particularly groundbreaking outside of its VR gimmick.

I’m still excited to check this out, as I’m hopeful that the next generation of VR tech is going to open up some spectacular possibilities in all genres of gaming. Whatever the outcome, Dragon Front will forever be known as the first Virtual Reality CCG. Let’s hope it’s a good one!

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by
Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.
  • Manya Sharma

    I still can’t belive the most hyped tcg game of 2016 i. e Clash Royale by SuperCell is not even previewed here.

    The game is launched globally today n cruising top charts. Would love to see how many stars that game get here.

    • Jose

      “Most hyped tcg game of 2016 i. e Clash Royale” haha good joke.

      • Manya Sharma

        I dont see what you saw as joke here. The game is getting best reviews everywhere ( Touch arcade 5/5, pocketgamer 9/10) . Its reddit community n YouTube pages are increasing day by day. Got best f2p model n drop rate of epics are good as well. Most important the game ia more skill based than p2w. I just wondered why Zac still not previewed it here.

        So dude, first go n learn something about tcg n then comment. Call anything joke when you can present the facts as well. Looks like you hardly played any tcg yet….

        • Dav-Gro

          Wow Manya you are quite fanatical about Clash Royale. However, not everyone is going to like the game as much as you. On that note, I actually do love the game and I play everyday. However, while I do understand what a tcg is, Clash Royale is not a tcg, it has elements of a tcg but it is more utilized as a way to market the game.

          TCG pay model was set by magic the gathering over 10 years ago, and in sports collectible cards before that. This system is being abused by the industry. If you turn your game into a card game it becomes ok to sell random booster backs as that is what the industry has accepted. Its actually getting old.

          Clash royale does not need the troops to be on cards or have a battle deck, again at its best it’s tcg elements are bare bones. Furthermore, I do not see how this is the most hyped game of 2016, when no one knew about it. There was not much hyped for the game until it soft-launched and then spread like while fire.

          Anyway, the game is very fun and I do think Zack should cover it. He may have not have had access as it was only soft launched in particular countries and it just hit global release this week, and it will still take some time to play and write the review/preview. I would not be surprised if it is out soon.

          • Manya Sharma

            Ofcourse MTG n hearthstone are on another level as they started this trend. The game is more tower defence than TCGor CCG. For me the real tcg at present is Mabinogi duel where you actually trade ( buy n sell) with players via shops. That game got highest rating here even more than HS or MTG.
            As far as Hype is concerned, i just wanna say the game cruising top charts n getting rave reviews everywhere. The f2p model is too good n this is the only game where p2w doesn’t guarentee you a win coz Skills is more reqd than pay. Its reddit community just got bigger with beta release only.
            May be most hyped looks far fetched but its still one of the best of 2016 n by end it could be in top 5 games of the year.

          • Aryk

            The game is getting those reviews because of fanbois and girls like you. Anyone who knows anything about ratings dismisses the first month of reviews of AAA developers because it’s flooded by half wits.

          • Manya Sharma

            The game getting good review coz the concept is new n fresh n its not clone of any existing game. CCG + Tower defence + MOBA in one game n its really intresting. I am expecting many clones in coming months of this game. There are still many games which got gr8 reviews, still don’t get high number of downloads or players.
            I m also playing mabinogi duel which got highest rating here but i feel its coummunity is still not huge, its forum is not such active. While CR already developed so active reddit community n same goes for youtube pages as well.

            May b your game choice genre is diff so you may not like this game. I m also not such a hardcore gamer n critic. I also played puzzles and dragons for 2 years n i rate that game has much higher p2w credentials n so does hearthstone. I personally liked CR f2p as decent enough for free players to succeed until you dont aim for top tier hardcore players coz they spend thousands of $$$$ in games.

            So happy gaming buddy… If you get to know any decent tcg let me know.

        • Aryk

          CR is easily the most P2W game I have ever played, three days in u hit a pay wall. You are wasting resources by battling without getting a chest thus making it only efficient to battle 6 times a day without spending any money. Please stop, just stop.

          • Manya Sharma

            Ofcourse pay is option for not to wait which is decent enough, coz being dev i cant give everything for free. The best thing is there is no energy system means you can play unlimited, i agree you won’t get chest but you will win trophies n can upgrade your level n cruise through arenas. Ultimately you have to higher arenas n for that you dont need money but only skills.
            Rest with your take, every multiplayer game can b p2w coz you hit paywall at some point.

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