How To Train Video Game Tropes
Used as a marketing tool to promote How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World movie, Dragons Dawn of the New Riders is a licensed action RPG that plays like a simplified Diablo. Keeping its target audience in mind, New Riders is a serviceable single player six-hour adventure.
Following typical video game tropes, the player assumes the role of a hero suffering from amnesia and gets partnered with a baby dragon that grows over time. Combat is like a weak God of War in which the player can swing a few different weapons, each with some slightly different stats and functions, can block, lock on to a single target, and dodge. In most cases, the player can button mash their way through a battle but some later encounters stack the player against numerous foes at one time so hit-and-run tactics can be employed.
Even though the player has access to combat, the meat of the game is activating switches to reach the other side of the stage. These environmental puzzles are always easy to solve but some are tedious time wasters, forcing the player to backtrack. Some puzzles also require the use of both the hero character and the dragon, one to hold a switch for the other player or the dragon needs to use an ice attack to freeze water, for example. If the player isn’t flicking a switch, then you can bet a block pushing puzzle is involved, you know, because those are always fun in video games.
The friendly AI, for the most part, accurately follows the player but never helps with combat. In fact, they mostly just get in the way of attacks and need to be revived in major battles. Weird how the dragon always follows the player but New Riders is strictly a single player experience. And even though it lacks detail, the map screen indicates placement and navigation paths generally guide the player.
The RPG element comes into play in the form of collecting materials to upgrade existing weaponry, crafting new armor, and finding treasure chests with heart containers in them. However, like the rest of the gameplay, crafting and upgrading is very simplified as the player can only craft a few different armor pieces. Collecting these materials, like colored rocks and plants, is a bit of a grind as the game encourages the player to chop down every bush, tree, and pot at every turn. After a couple hours, grinding for these materials becomes a slog but is required if the player wants to craft everything in the game and earn all the Achievements. The Achievements, by the way, are easy to obtain and I was able to earn all 1000/1000 gamerscore in a single playthrough without too much extra work. Achievement hunters are definitely welcomed.
In between the action sections, the player hops on the back of the dragon to fly to different islands. These flying segments feel a bit shoehorned as you cannot really have a How To Train Your Dragon game without dragon flight. Unfortunately, the player just holds down the trigger button to fly to the next destination. There are no other dragons to fight, no tricks to perform, no secret collectable to find, no fire to breathe. Nope, just fly from here to there with nothing else happening. It seems like a big wasted opportunity not to incorporate more flight into a dragon game. Perhaps fans will be most disappointed by this. Also, the optional side missions are very short whereas each of the main dungeons seem like they go on for longer than they should, striking an awkward balance of timing and pace.
Dragons Dawn of the New Riders is definitely playable and carries some entertainment value; I didn’t mind seeing it to the end. This licensed game does not try to reinvent the wheel but instead narrows down the entire experience for a young audience. Combat, exploration, leveling-up, puzzle solving – everything here is uncomplicated, simplified, and basic to its core.
Also available on PS4, Switch, and PC.