Dragalia Lost rubs me in so many wrong, predictable ways. On paper it’s a serviceable, if a little simplistic action-RPG for phones. But the Nintendo-published gacha game sports all the frustrating hallmarks of its subgenre. There’s a “stamina” bar that keeps you from playing too much, for instance, and the story is a string of fantasy tropes that don’t justify the game’s constant exposition dumps. I could write an entire list of all my little grievances. In fact, in an early bout of the Festivus spirit, I think I will.
- There are 10 million kinds of upgrade materials. Everything from heroes, to weapons, to a little castle-building mini-game can level up. All those things need their own specific upgrade materials. Which means tons of grinding.
- It’s an action game for phones. So the touch-based controls force you to block the screen with your own fingers. It’s hard to follow the action, much less enjoy it.
- The load times are a real bummer for a game that’s meant for short bursts.
- The main menu is an incomprehensible mess. There are 17 different submenus to click. Most of them want to sell you something.
But there is one feature I wholeheartedly recommend, even if you don’t play the game itself. Dragalia Lost’s soundtrack is outstanding. I knew as soon as I heard the main theme (by Japanese musician DAOKO, who coincidentally co-performed one of my recent anime faves) that this soundtrack was something special. And it just kept getting better.
Dragalia Lost has a different track for just about everything. There’s normal boss music, story boss music, and event boss music. Summoning heroes (basically the most important thing in any gacha game) has its own song, but so does summoning special event items. There’s a medley to counter every microtransaction.
It should get repetitive. This is a mobile game you’re meant to grind day in and day out, after all (I even wrote a Dragalia Lost beginner’s guide to help people avoid my mistakes). But there’s so much variety that I’m still not sick of any one track. And despite that, it’s all thematically consistent. There’s an upbeat, sort of childlike quality to every song that doesn’t feel traditionally JPRG-like. The main menu chirps with a sing-along tune while your acquired characters walk across the screen and bob their heads on-tempo. Unseen hands clap along with the rhythm of the summoning ritual.
It’s just the sort of fun, jaunty tone that makes you want to spend some money. Probably. So far I’ve avoided buying premium currency. I can feel myself inching towards where the game expects me drop some cash, however. Although it’s certainly not the most aggressively mercenary mobile game I’ve ever played.
Maybe I will tip Nintendo and Cygames, the developer, a few bucks.Besides the music, Dragalia Lost does nail what every gacha game needs: plenty of waifus and husbandos with stats and just-horny-enough character designs to lust after. The music hooked me, but it’s the same old mobile game tricks that are tickling my “gotta catch ‘em all” nerve. Even if I drop off the game, though, I’m absolutely adding the soundtrack to my rotation.