What happened to Dragon Blaze? It’s a game that I’ve played ever since it launched globally almost three years ago and have had a lot of enjoyment with, but it’s also a game that I’ve questioned the longevity of all too often. I’ve already quit twice over the last eight months and even though I’ve ended up coming back both times, my involvement in its activities and community has been considerably lessened. It doesn’t seem like I’m the only one struggling staying on, as week after week I read stories of longtime fans leaving, and the overall participation in activities, such as World Bosses and Guild Battles, has been decreasing. So what’s going on with Dragon Blaze? To put it simply, it’s becoming too complicated and discourages new players.
Most of my concerns have come down to the population decrease over the last while. I’m only in the American server, so I can’t speak for the SEA and European’s situation, but the decrease in population can be seen in activities such as World Bosses week after week, much quicker than usual. For example, Shariet on January 19, 2017 saw fewer than 7,500 participants, which is around half compared to when the boss made its debut less two years ago. Even a couple of months ago we saw between 10-12,000 in most World Boss fights. We’re less than two months into Chapter 5 and things have already dropped off substantially. Each time we see a milestone for Dragon Blaze we generally see a boost in players, but the bounce rate seems much higher than normal. I still remember talking with my former Guild leader and members during the Dark Souls Key phase, all of which expressed concern we wouldn’t even see a Chapter 5 if things didn’t improve. Even some of the higher tier members were leaving the Guild to help out with newer players to attempt to diminish this bounce rate. Now, we were able to make it into Chapter 5 thanks to a relatively maintained user base, but there’s growing concern moving forward. Even looking at the Korean server’s population, it’s not what it once was, halving its participation over the last year. While 8k active users isn’t anything to scoff at, with the next monumental ally update being presumed to be around four months way (Overlords), it’s going to be a long, uphill battle for Dragon Blaze. For reference, here are (roughly) the records of how many players participating in the various modes between January 15 and January 21. You can notice a substantial drop off as the week went on:
- WB Golem: 8,499
- WB Cerberus: 8,030
- WB Hydra: 7,721
- WB Shariet: 7,468
- PVP Arena: 8,685
- PVP Tag Match: 8,009
- Guild Battle: 6,525
- Revenge of Belphegor: 7,455
The complications are really presented with Chapter 5. This introduced a number of improvements and a couple of systems to explore, but in the process, it widened the gap between new and existing players by an even greater margin. For starters, the Daily Dungeon makes a return in a big way, allowing you to collect resources in the form of allies, jewels, essence, and the newly-introduced runes and request scrolls. The Request system is another way to enhance your own creatable character upwards of 15 levels, while Runes help boost stats for specific classes, such as Paladin, Rogue, Mage, etc. Based on a specific day, one of these dungeons will be open, but you can also buy an extra session once per day, per dungeon. These two new systems in particular only help complicate things further as those with enough rubies (the in-game currency) will be able to sprint faster and make exponentially more progress than those who don’t realize it, or just plain can’t pay for extra runs. The more runes you get, the more powerful your allies are. The more requests you get, the more capable your main character is. If you aren’t putting in the extra 150 rubies (or 120 when on sale) every day, you’ll be falling far behind – same can be said about getting a late start on it. Rune engraving is way too powerful as it is and should be nerfed; for example, I’m already past level 20 runes for each class (I’m still unsure what the max is), and that’s boosting a number of stats by 200-300%.
When it comes down to it, the investment needed to get into even the 20% of most activities, which I see as close to mandatory to keep up, is too large and too much work for those starting out. Throwing money at the game won’t help that much, either, as you’ll need hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to make significant gains from the start, especially now. Gamevil and Flint have made adjustments to resource drops and ally collection has become faster than ever before, but the gap between existing and new players is almost untouchable. This brings up another issue: grinding. Grinding has always been a staple for RPGs, be it mobile or console, but having something that requires hours upon hours to make little progress can be taxing not only on the users, but on their phones. It almost feels like you need to play this game on an emulator running in the background in order to really take advantage of it. So here’s an example of creating a base Transcended ally and the time and resources required to accomplish it:
- Stigma Key (ULT)
- Greysoul Deity
- Rogue SSS Ally ULT
- SSS Allies: 5 (+ Many S and SS)
- Gold: 2,280,420
- Essence: 24+
- Shoes: ~400 (168* Rubies or 300 Rubies in Shop)
- SSS Allies: 5 (+ Many S and SSS)
- Gold: 2,280,420
- Rogue SSS Ally ULT
- Essence: 354
- Shoes: ~6,100 (2,478* or 4,248 Rubies in Shop)
- SSS Allies: 21
- Gold: 22,400,000
- Greysoul Deity
- Essence: 150
- Shoes: ~2,625 (1,050 Rubies* or 1,800 Rubies in Shop)
- Gold: 50,000,000
Total Essence: 528
Total Shoes: ~9,125 (3,696 Rubies or 6,348 Rubies in Shop)
Total SSS Allies: 31
Total Gold: 76,960,840
Minimum Time Required: 73 hours**
* At an average rate of 7 Rubies per Essence (5.7 Essence per 100 Shoes)
**Averages 500 Shoes per 4 Hours. Doesn’t factor in time obtaining SSS allies or Gold.
Try to explain that to anyone who hasn’t played Dragon Blaze before and they’ll be sent running. Now granted, the daily login rewards help mitigate some of this, but it doesn’t change the fact that things have become a little complicated and off-putting. I’m lucky because I put so much time and effort into the game during 2016 (and half of 2017) that I have an excess amount of in-game currency, resources and a strong arsenal of allies that I have a large buffer zone where I can play casually, make it within the top 15% and still get what I want. If I want a new Transcended Ally, I can make him no problem, even ULT him. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for the majority of players, new and existing. Of course, this is a game that’s runs off of those who contribute to the game’s financial success and get everything their heart desires, but I do wish there was a little bit better payout for the modes, specifically for those in the low percentiles. For example, as someone in the top 15-20% of most activities (minus Team Battle and Guild Battle which are much worse), I earn around 2,000 rubies a week in activities. That’s not terrible, but I’m overly active, basically running the game each day hours on end, and spending over 4,000 rubies a week (almost exclusively on shoes and daily dungeon entries). I can’t imagine how discouraging it would be for those starting out or are unaware how to properly utilize their resources, especially when the payout feels insignificant. That’s not to mention that the Korean version is around six months ahead, so most hardcore players already know what the metas are ahead of time.
More than anything, I think Gamevil needs to incentive newcomers and returning players far more than they already are. Their current plan has three free Transcended allies for new players, which is a good start, but really they should be upping it to a full party at maxed, if not one at ULT status. You also need to give them a good number of resources, such as Gold, Essence, Runes, Request Scrolls, etc., just enough to get them started on the right path and have a decent chance moving forward. In addition, there should be tiered discounts in the shop, be it with real money or rubies, or just altered offerings. It might seem unfair to those who have been playing for ages such as myself, but you need to give beginners a taste of the potential, and guide them further. If anything, it’ll make things more competitive for those outside the top 10%. Now granted, I don’t have the stats of whether or not Dragon Blaze is exceeding Gamevil’s expectations as of late or they truly are losing more players than they are gaining, but all I can do is observe and analyze as I watch the numbers trickle down.
Repetition is also an unfortunate issue with Dragon Blaze. When it launched, you had a whole slew of allies to sort through. I remember how great Pirate King Byron was when I first got him, tanking everything with ease, and then finally pulling a SSS Priest after so many months without one. Even less than ideal allies, such as Dark Assassin Percy, were welcome additions to my party. There was a lot of mystery and experimenting during this phase. After this, we got our first set of Deities, each one overpowering any SSS ally you may have, but they were hard to get, and once you got one, you felt like you were on the top of the world. As the Deities kept rolling out, they introduced equippable Dragon Buster Keys, which allowed specific allies to hop into an incredibly powerful suit of armor which carried over some of their passive abilities. While all of this sounds great, this is where things somewhat fall off. The Dragon Busters turned into Dark Souls, and then the Dark Souls turned into Gigantes. They were no longer machines you could jump into, but just better versions of existing deities, especially the Gigantes.
After this, things only got worse. Flint decided to go back to the Deity formula and simply supercharge them, or as they’re called, Transcended. The problem with this is that the developers took numerous existing Deities and simply made them stronger, similar to the problem of the Gigantes. Heck, some characters such as Brightspark, Helios, Prometheus, and so on have three different forms of themselves now. This felt like a step back, and looking forward, it doesn’t look much better. Overlords will be the next big advancement, but while we’ll be getting original characters, all this really is, is another group of stronger allies to collect, simply by sacrificing a fully enhanced previously categorized ally. It’s an endless loop, and at this point, we’re back where we started. To some degree that’s good, but at the same time it’s just the same formula repeated with little variance. Warriors & Rogues will generally be good for PVP, Priests are good for survivability in Arena and a couple of the World Bosses, Incanters & Paladins are generally well rounded, and so forth. Of course there will always be some that defy the traditions, such as Lucienne is only good for World Bosses, but this is more or less what we’ve come to assign things.
It’s hard to fault Flint or Gamevil, mainly because the mobile free-to-play RPG market is far different and more competitive than it was many years ago, especially with giant corporations such as Square Enix and Bandai Namco becoming heavily invested. More and more players are leaving for new things, and truthfully, I don’t blame them. Flint has been able to work on Dragon Blaze for four long years (and hopefully for much longer), trying to keep it as relevant and innovative as possible. While I’m aware that they have introduced vastly different modes in the Korean version, which the Global version has to wait a few more months to try them out, their ally collection formula has become far too complex and repetitive for new players to truly stay on, and it doesn’t help that the user base is slowly waning in the process. There needs to be big changes to Dragon’s Blaze’s economic formula to better stabilize its player base. It may not happen immediately, or within the next few months, but its ever declining population will eventually be the end of the service, something I dread. To a certain degree, I kind of hope Flint uses everything they learned with Dragon Blaze and work on a new game, but until then, all I can do is pray Dragon Blaze’s situation improves because it’s something I’ve been with since the beginning.