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Dragon Marked for Death review for Nintendo Switch


Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Nighthawk Interactive
Developer: Inti Creates
Medium: Cartridge
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes
ESRB: T

When it comes to modern, 2D action games, few developers are as prolific in that space as Inti Creates. The team responsible for such hits as Mighty Gunvolt, Blaster Master Zero, and the Mega Man Zero series, has been pretty busy as of late on the Nintendo Switch. One title, Dragon Marked for Death, was released on the eShop at the end of January, and just recently had a physical edition put out that collected all the DLC and available characters into one package. Overall, it’s a fun action-RPG with some unique ideas behind it, and a fun co-op experience provided you can find enough people to join up with you.

In Dragon Marked for Death, you can choose between 4 different characters with unique characteristics, taking on various missions, fighting bosses, exploring stages, and gathering loot. The character classes consist of Empress, Warrior, Witch, and Shinobi. The structure of the release for this game makes gaining access to all four characters a little confusing, and if you’d like to eliminate that confusion a bit, you’re better off picking up the physical edition. The digital releases from earlier in the year split the character selection down the middle, and unfortunately purchasing either character pack prevents you from using the second character pack unless you make that purchase on a different account. It’s a weird way to handle it, but again the physical release gives access to everything.

Starting out, I took on the Empress character as my main. She has a unique flamethrower type ability that allows her to either shoot out fireballs, or hold down the button to spit out a continuous stream of hard hitting flames. In addition, the Empress has a basic sword attack that can be combo’d with a much larger blade that induces a knockback effect against enemies. Each character has their own unique ability, and can be further customized into builds by devoting earned skill points into multiple categories. For instance, with the Empress, I would pour points into her Dragon skill, powering up the damage of the flame attack, while also trying to keep up her Vitality for health and Attack for overall attack power. Skill points are earned with every level up, and you’ll earn experience both by killing enemies and completing missions.

Missions are accessed via the hub world. This hub world is a city comprised of standard RPG locations like an Inn, Bar, and various merchants. You can explore the city a bit, interact with NPC’s for a bit of story or the occasional side quest, and can opt to fast travel between the main points to cut down on time. There’s a hefty number of missions available, each one with a handy level designation that gives you an idea of difficulty up front. You can, and will, re-visit missions over and over, mostly to hunt down loot to improve your character. In order to help prevent stagnation with this, you can change the difficulty level of each mission, improving the experience payouts for completing them.

Missions can be tackled solo, or you can opt to play with other players online. You can have a group of up to 4 players, with built in matchmaking functions to team up with random players or friends. Dragon Marked for Death seems to have been built with co-op play as a focus, especially considering the number of items that focus on gaining or removing aggro in a group setting. Unfortunately, during my time playing, I found very few random people via in-game matchmaking. Instead, I had to actively seek out communities of other players and get into games that way, which works, but doesn’t necessarily speak to the longevity of this game in the future.

As far as the look and feel of Dragon Marked for Death, it is very much in line with other titles from Inti Creates. If you’ve played, say, Mighty Gunvolt before, you’ll likely feel right at home here. Characters are responsive, jumping feels pretty good for a 2D platforming experience, and you’re generally given the right tools to evade enemy attacks while playing offensively. My only real complaint on the combat side is that early on most enemies feel like damage sponges. Part of this is tied to how equipment works, with various stat bonuses and randomized loot drops, it can take a little too long to get gear that makes you more effective in combat. Once you do get the right drop, you’ll generally blitz through smaller enemies like the game clearly intends you to do. Bosses can still put up a decent fight, with unique attacks and patterns to memorize, but again, the game feels very gear dependent early on.

There’s a lot to like about Dragon Marked for Death, and it stands out as a unique experience on the Nintendo Switch despite the sheer volume of 2D indie titles available on the platform. The game is at its best when playing with other people, which again is a shame considering how difficult it is to find other people to play with at this point. Provided you’re either willing to put in the work in hunting down additional players, or have a few friends interested in joining you, I think you’ll enjoy Dragon Marked for Death quite a bit. As a solo experience it can be a little less compelling, but still enjoyable enough to check out.

Note: Nighthawk Interactive provided us with a Dragon Marked for Death retail copy for review purposes.

Grade: B+