Building trust in Dragon’s Hope — Our preview of the first chapter

There are a lot of games out there where you have to fight dragons and some where you can ride them, but relatively few that let you play as one (much to my disappointment). So it was refreshing to take a look at Dragon’s Hope, a non-violent puzzle game about a young dragon trying to save his mother.

The world of Dragon’s Hope is full of animals, and it’s our dragon Damian’s honest friendship with a raccoon that makes the first impression of character after his mother is left struggling under the effects of a deadly poison. Together, they work out a cure and a plan of action — one which requires four ingredients, each the most valuable gift a separate species can offer. So it is that the first chapter of Dragon’s Hope deals with the colony of squirrels that reside on your home mountain and presents you with the task of gaining their trust — and eventual help.

Damian follows a trail of footprints across the mountain to track down a rabbit.
You had to follow the footprints to find a rabbit for this task.

What struck me the most when playing through the first chapter was Damian’s innocence and his willingness to help others to earn their trust and eventual aid, despite the urgency of his situation. This meshes really well with the bright, lively world of the mountain — where leaves float in the wind, birds fly the borders of their territory, lizards climb the walls and small mammals go about their business — and its cheerful soundtrack. I wasn’t expecting it, but the simple, feel-good vibe I got from playing this brought a smile to my face

Part of this is down to the squirrels you meet in the first chapter. They’re well characterised, quirky and pretty individual, so it’s interesting to talk to them and, later on, when you need to remember which is which, their personalities are more likely to come back to you.

Damian stands in the middle of four arrows in the bottom-left of a room with a sliding-tile puzzle.
This room may have solved my ten-year-long aversion to sliding-tile puzzles.

The puzzles that make up the bulk of Dragon’s Hope’s gameplay are many and varied. From simple maths problems and quizzes based on observation to timed scavenger hunts and sliding-tile puzzles, there’s a lot to keep you busy. Many of these were at the right level to provide a casual challenge without having to think too much about it, which sat just right for me and would probably be great for kids as well. The only places I struggled were at the sliding-tile puzzle (which it looks like you can bypass as long as you guess the image), which is the first such puzzle I remember beating (or rather, not giving up on), and in the areas where I had to run fast to do something. I found the controls there a little slippery and easy to overshoot by a tile or so, so had some trouble, but Dragon’s Hope comes with a handy guidebook full of advice on how to reach the solutions. If you get stuck, it probably has the answers.

A squirrel guard spots Damian in Dragon's Hope as he tries to make it past their patrols.
Timing isn’t my strong point — these puzzles took me rather a few tries.

Work on chapters two and three are in progress, with a fourth chapter to follow, and the first chapter is still open to further refinement. The only real improvements we’d like to see are, perhaps, support for WASD controls as well as the arrow keys, just because it would be nice to have the option based on personal preference, and a little tweaking in the patrol-dodging section. Currently, you can run up against some situations where it looks like you’re in a safe spot where the guards can’t see you, but they still do. Possibly related, at one point when you can choose to steal something from a duck, it seems you can click just before it turns back and it will still be alerted to your actions — it took a few tries to get right and a brief glance at the guidebook to double-check I was doing the right thing.

All in all, Dragon’s Hope is cheerful, simple fun, with a good dash of challenge thrown in by some of the harder puzzles. While there are a few small improvements it could make, we’re still eager to see what the next three installments have in store. If you have a little time to relax and give it a go, you can check it out on itch.io or wishlist the full version on Steam.

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