Dragon Front Beta preview: I can't stop playing

Note: This preview is based on the Oculus Rift version of Dragon Front.

When I first heard about a card game for the Oculus Rift, I wasn't too excited — VR for me has so far been mostly all about shooting and action. After a few late nights and many hours, I'll be the first to recommend this free game to anyone with a Rift or Gear VR.

Simple board, deep strategy

Dragon Front places you atop a fortress. There is another fortress across the board from you, which is 16 blocks in size — your simple 4x4 square. The first row is your spawn row where most combatants first appear, and between the second and third rows is the border between your land and your foe's land.

At first glance, I was reminded of a game born from a love between chess and Magic: The Gathering. Although there are only four lanes in which you can advance, you must make a plan depending on the cards you have in your hand and the cards your foe already has in play. When you play a card, you either spawn a unit or building on the board or cast a spell. Most cards require Mana to use, which means you can't just play any card you want from the start of the game.

The board.

Your Mana pool must be managed properly in order to win — losing units, starting rounds, or playing certain cards can all gain you mana, but you'll be hard-pressed to end a game with a large amount. In fact, at the start of my Dragon Front career, I was often cashing in cards in my hand just to add one extra point of Mana to my pool, which resulted in me running out of cards at the end of the game. I still managed to destroy my opponent's fortress thanks to a strong attack from Grizzly Mac, but my own fortress was losing health because I'd exhausted my deck.

Plenty of choices

There are currently four factions to choose from: Thorns, Scales, Eclipse, Strife. Each faction has different heroes, different units, and different spells to choose from. When you first start the game, you're forced into a great tutorial that lets you play as each faction before letting you loose — by the end, you'll no doubt have an idea of which faction you want to play.

One of the Thorns heroes,

As you progress, you receive booster packs that contain new cards that can be added to your deck. These cards can belong to one of any faction, or they can be grey-framed — these can be used with all factions. Each deck can hold up to 30 cards, and you can have four decks on the go at a time.

If you love to rush your opponent before they can sort their cards, you're best served choosing Strife and going aggro all over the board. If you love to sit back and strategize, Thorns allows you to absorb damage and attack when the time is right. There will undoubtedly be many play-styles revealed over the course of this game's lifetime, which is one of the main draws to these types of games.

Your enemy

Dragon Front is meant to be played online against real opponents, but you can also play against AI if you want to try out a new deck or new strategy. AI is a formidable foe when you first start out, but you'll soon move on to search for more challenging opponents.

Matchmaking fails.

At this point, it's difficult finding a multiplayer match. I did successfully find a game several times but a few of them encountered a connection error. Most of the time, though, was spent sitting in the Searching for Match screen.

Maybe it was the time of day I was trying to play, or maybe I was just unlucky connecting. Regardless, the player-base is growing, so finding games will get easier.

The VR aspect

While this game could definitely be played on a normal monitor with a mouse — or on a wooden board with paper cards — there is definitely something to be said about commanding your troops from atop your fortress.

A mean but attractive environment.

The Oculus remote is your primary controller here, with the center of your vision acting as a cursor. There are a number of handy shortcuts on the remote, so in no time you'll be moving quickly through tasks when your turn starts.

The artwork is attractive, the character animations are smooth, and the sounds are pleasing, which really contributes to not wanting to leave the Dragon Front world — you won't notice the sun going down, so when you finally pull off your Rift, you might be surprised to see that it's quite late and you have to work in the morning. No, VR didn't create this type of game, but it certainly makes it better.

Contribute to the final product

Because this is an unfinished product, you'll no doubt run into a bug — like the one where you can't accept your victory reward so have to exit or concede. Oculus has a great forum centered around Dragon Front where you can find information about their Discord channel, you can report errors, and you can discuss strategy with other players.

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