You would be forgiven for thinking that URARA-WORKS’ Drancia (out now, free) was merely a rip-off of 2013’s super-successful Slayin’ (our review), but it turns out that things aren’t necessarily that simple. Whereas Pixel Licker’s Slayin’ initially began life as a Flash game back in 2011, Drancia — which also started out as a Flash venue — can trace its origins all the way back to circa 2008. Slayin’s staff must obviously be aware of this similarity, since their own game gives special thanks to Drancia’s creator by name in the credits (although they don’t ever exactly state precisely why they’re thanking him).
Upon realizing that the Pixel Licker was making a killing off of selling a remixed version of his original idea, Drancia’s creator vowed that he would update his game — making it even better than Slayin’ in the process — and afterwards distribute it on iTunes App Store as well. Well — at this juncture — the first question you’d likely want to ask is: Does his updated Drancia successfully topple the massively popular legend that Slayin’ has already established for itself? To which I’d have to answer: “Although I can’t necessarily proclaim that this new Drancia is Slayin’s superior, per se, it’s certainly a great — yet sometimes different — game of otherwise equal-footing.”
Now — assuming you haven’t already played Slayin’ — I should probably take a moment to explain the basics of how Drancia plays, before I begin tackling the significant ways in which it differs from Pixel Licker’s legendary offering. The basic premise is that you’re a fantasy hero whom doesn’t have time for silly time-wasting things like going to inns; you’ve come to slay an endless horde of monsters, and from that goal you won’t budge. In fact, you’re so dedicated to this task that you only have one speed — full-steam forward — and thus you always charge headlong into battle no matter what (you’ll even keep your sword pointed straight in front of you, rather than swinging it about, all just to save time).
Admittedly, the upside to such a simple-minded focus is that Drancia’s on-screen controls — which admittedly were copied wholesale from Slayin’s iOS edition — are an equally simple affair. You’ll always have your left/right buttons on one end — which determine the facing of your always marching hero — and on the other end is your jump button, which will send your hero leaping forward in the currently selected direction. Through these controls you’ll be tasked with both taking out as many foes as possible — after which they’ll drop valuable shiny coins — all while also evading their numerous attacks (because dying would not only suck, it wouldn’t exactly be all that heroic either).
It should be furthermore noted that — despite the side view presentation — you’re not actually playing a side scrolling adventure here, and you eventually will come to a halt whenever your hero reaches the screen’s edges. After all — like I said earlier — you have no need of silly trifling things (such as returning back to town), so why would ever want to leave the place where all the action is? Now although this game play explanation — up to this juncture — could have equally sufficed as instructions for properly handling Slayin’, we’ve finally reached the point where Drancia’s iOS edition begins differentiating itself.
Whereas each of Slayin’s buttons generally perform a single action, these three primary buttons in Drancia each have a secondary function whenever they’re pressed twice quickly in succession. For instance: Double tapping either of the directional buttons will instruct your hero to temporarily charge forward; this is both useful for quickly reaching coins before they vanish, as well as for dodging devastating attacks during boss battles. Meanwhile, pressing the jump button again — once you’re already up in the air — will cause your hero to lunge downwards with their weapon aimed towards the ground (which can be rather useful for ensuring that your landing zones are always safe affairs).
Entirely new to Drancia is the use-magic button, which only appears whenever your hero has first unlocked their magical abilities (which furthermore means that — unlike Slayin’ — mages in this universe actually do know how to jump the same as everyone else). Additionally — whereas mages in Slayin’ would prepare their spells by standing around doing nothing — Drancia mages have a specific number of charges available, determined by their current magic stat, which refills whenever they level-up and/or finish a stage. Now most of the other heroes will — generally speaking — have some minor degree of magic ability for them to potentially unlock, Drancia’s dedicated magic-users will always have the greatest reserve arcane-capacities at their disposal.
This brings me nicely to perhaps the part where Drancia departs most massively from Slayin’s style: the leveling and health restoration systems (seeing as how they tie in heavily with the game’s magic-system). Rather than needing to wait for a merchant to arrive — and then reaching him quickly — you may freely open Drancia’s upgrade menu at any moment, and the options presented will always be the same (within the same run). Furthermore — although I will cover how this upgrade system works in just a moment — each coin grabbed has a purpose beyond merely allowing you to purchase level-ups, for they will also slowly refill your health as they are collected (based upon your heart-stat).
Anyways — getting back to topic — Drancia’s upgrade system is a giant randomly-generated tree (specific to your currently selected hero), wherein your first option may be chosen from any of the available nodes. After which, all future upgrades — all of which cost five coins more than the one prior — must be selected from the options actively connected to any of your already unlocked nodes. Each of these unlocked nodes will — based on their shown image — either raise one of the hero’s stats by one, entirely refill their health a single time, or do absolutely nothing whatsoever (but these cases are rare).
Each character has the following stats (all starting at zero): Magic uses available; Heart-level (which affects how much coin heals by), Weapon-level (which makes your weapon longer), Shield-level (which reduces damage), and Foot-level (which increases speed). Furthermore, each character will have a different theoretical maximum for each of these various stats (which additionally determines how many nodes will contain that power-up, as there will always be just enough available for you to max out that specific attribute). Normally if a character’s stats can’t collectively go high enough to fully utilize every single node in the randomly generated upgrade tree, the remaining few squares will contain full-health refill options (but — again — there a few special exceptions to this rule).
Now whereas Slayin’ currently has six different playable heroes — five of whom need to be unlocked — Drancia contains a staggering fifty heroes available, with you initially having five of them up front: the Fighter, the Paladin, the Dwarf, the Witch, and the Bear. Yes, this game really does contain a random bear — standing up right — as a playable hero (his weapon of choice even happens to be a fish-skeleton, which gets longer each time his weapon-stat is upgraded). Sadly — although the stats differ wildly for each of these heroes — none of them actually play differently in a truly mechanical nature, even though their stat differences will require you to approach all of them with different priorities.
While most of Drancia’s differences haven’t really been better or worse than Slayin’ — just unique — this is one place where the change is not only significant, but perhaps not necessarily in the best of ways either. You will probably find far more game play variety densely packed into Slayin’s scant six heroes — each of whom have radically different attack methods — than you probably will find in all fifty of the characters in Drancia. While the Bear — for example — may really mix stuff up by having a huge heart-stat for coin healing, plus a ton of full-health refill nodes, he still otherwise plays the same as everyone else (whereas Slayin’s Archer and Knight are radically different combat-wise).
Yet — in an entirely different way — I will sill give Drancia’s massive-roster mad props for wholly other reasons, for the game basically allows you to sally forth as virtually any of the monsters you’re normally battling against. Between runs you can visit an inn where a different monster will randomly be available, and — should you have enough gems on hand — you can purchase the beastie for your army. Playing as these monsters will generally be for the purpose of giving yourself an additional level of challenge, seeing as how they’re the ones who will come with varying amounts of dead-nodes to deal with.
Now you’d think with the mention of diamonds — which are earned during a run based on how well you performed — that I’d finally begin covering the IAPs options found within Drancia, and yet you actually can’t ever use IAPs to acquire diamonds within this app. The only IAP options found with the free Drancia — each of which are one time only — exist purely to unlock two secret characters, as well as enable a jukebox mode where you may freely listen to all of the game’s background music at your leisure. Quite amusingly, Drancia’s three IAP options — which collectively cost a combined total of just $4 — are known as “Treat us to a beer,” “Treat us to coffee,” as well as “Treat us to dinner.”
Finally, Drancia does seem to currently have a bug where it frequently crashes at the game-over screen — which seems to be caused by the app attempting to load ads — but this is otherwise harmless as these crashes will never cause you to lose out on any diamonds.
If you previously enjoyed Slayin’s endless side-scrolling Action-RPG game play, then you’re positively guaranteed to equally enjoy the quite similar — yet simultaneously unique — game play found within Drancia. The unique way in which upgrades are handled radically changes how level-ups are done, with players carefully choosing when — and by which path – they traverse the random skill tree. Although it may initially seem as though the rather free Drancia — which contains no coercive IAPS- – was built as a rip-off of Slayin’, the order of inspiration was actually in the entirely opposite direction (read the review’s main body for more info on this).