*Sources of screenshots are listed in their respective file-names.
I invested over 12 hours into Airship Dragoon.*
I don’t usually reveal how long I play a game before reviewing it–I play as much as I feel is needed for an evaluation. However, the time I spent with Airship Dragoon felt different than with any other game we’ve reviewed on Video Games and the Bible…
Upon first seeing it appear on the Steam Store, I was ready to fall in love. Here was a 3D strategy game in the vein of Xenonauts, but set in a steampunk universe. In development for over 2 and a half years, Airship Dragoon was solely created by “Steve Yorkshire” as his first commercial project.
Video Games and the Bible loves to support independent developers making awesome, family-friendly games, so I was excited to see more. While this game is indeed Christian-friendly and has a strong gameplay foundation, certain aspects of this title left me feeling…disappointed.
Airship Dragoon is set in an alternate-reality steampunk world. Here, the “near magical” power of coal and magnets have allowed the fictional empires of the 18th century to open an inter-dimensional portal to a rich, unspoiled continent.
Two campaigns are available. The main campaign (“Pangea”) allows you to control your chosen fictional faction (Chinese Dynasty, Peoples’ Collective, Zulu Nation, US Republic, Austro-Hungarian Empire or British Royalists) and attempt to conquer this new land.
Conquering territory is accomplished by moving across the hex-map in your airship. Locations not currently controlled by your rivals are added to your dominion, providing resources for your war.
Upon encountering an enemy territory, pirate stronghold or rival airship, you are brought into battle. Engagements are turn-based and play out across a fully 3D landscape. This makes movement as simple as choosing a mode (Cautious, Standard or Charge!) and clicking on an unoccupied space.
Every turn, your soldiers have a number of “Actions”–points which you can use to make them move, shoot, reload, etc. You are continually asked to balance your number of Actions with the need to accomplish objectives and fight the enemy. In several instances, I found myself having to decide whether to save a shot to protect a teammate, try to immediately kill an enemy or run to find a better tactical position…
In moments like these where everything is on the line and all goes right, Airship Dragoon shines.
However, the more time I spent with this game, the less I felt that my skill determined my success.
For the first 5 hours of Airship Dragoon, I found myself failing over and over again. I tried slowing down and being more methodical, but no matter what I did, nothing seemed to work.
Suddenly, at the 6 hour mark, things started to change.
I began to win skirmishes against the Pirates of Pangea. By using the “Cautious” movement mode and (what seemed at the time) superior tactical positioning, I consistently defeated enemies. Even though battles in Airship Dragoon commonly last 30 minutes or longer, the fact that I was finally winning made enduring the occasionally plodding pace feel worth it.
I continued to put more hours into the game. However, near the nine to ten hour mark, I noticed something odd:
Using the same exact tactics of seizing the high ground, moving cautiously, utilizing cover, etc.–I was now losing horribly. Bullets didn’t seem to hit my enemies while theirs consistently hit me. I began to realize how certain vital information is withheld from the player, such as the percentage chance for a shot to hit or miss.
I am not easily frustrated by loss–what upsets me as a player feeling that my actions don’t matter. This makes my past victories now seem hollow.
When players no longer believe their skills have a determining effect, a 30-40 minute engagement lost is extremely discouraging.
For the first work of a lone developer, Airship Dragoon is impressive. Two full campaigns (the aformentioned “Pangea” mode and a bonus “Pirate” campaign) along with a “Single Battle” skirmish mode give you a LOT of bang for your buck. The average campaign lasts over 100 hours.
However, in the developer’s attempt to make a realistic experience hearkening back to the early titles of Julian Gollop, I see a missed opportunity to allow the player to feel in control despite the chaos of battle. A free demo is available to help you decide whether this title is the right one for your family.
The player can wield an “Electron Bomb” and “Lightning Cannon.”
Buy Now! (Steam)
Buy Now! (Directly from Developer)