Title: Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era
Release Date: October 23, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: RPG Adventure
Developer Ninetail continues to expand its catalog of adult RPGs in the Western market, and I’m all for it. While I may not always share the same interests when it comes to the explored kinks, who am I to judge the fantasy tentacle enthusiasts? In their latest release, Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era, I’d say this is one of the milder entries in the series where you assume the role of a hero rather than a demon conquering the world. Regardless of your approach to this adventure, romance is in the air, even if you have to navigate through mundane dungeons to find it.
Character-Driven Narrative in Gears of Dragoon
Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era star Rustar, an adventurer who embarks on a quest to explore the depths of the Dragonshaft. This journey leads him to encounter Percy, who carries a vital mission to restore the world’s magical balance, but she also needs to travel through the Dragonshaft, and Rustar is here to help. However, the narrative is intricate, and more characters join the cause as their paths intersect.
Despite the various plot points branching from the main quest, the story handles itself admirably, with each character leaving a mark on the party’s dynamics. Personally, I found Ashley’s story arc to be my favorite, likely due to her substantial character growth throughout each chapter.
The battle system also takes some getting used to because there is a bit of information overload when you first enter a fight.
You can recruit 12 characters to your crew, but only six can enter a dungeon at a time. Each character’s class somewhat aligns with their personality and allows for some intriguing customization. However, the game does a poor job of guiding you through its outdated menu design. Features like weapon customization, shopping, guild management, party skills, and loadout are not very user-friendly. Fortunately, my experience with other games from this developer gave me a general idea of what I was doing, but as I mentioned earlier, once I encountered Ashley, there was no turning back.
The gameplay loop involves organizing your party at your base and choosing a mission. Later in the game, a vast list of missions becomes available, with some requiring specific prerequisites for acceptance. To make the experience easier, it’s advisable to tackle all the side-quests before progressing through the campaign. Being under-leveled in this game can be quite frustrating, but once you grasp the nuances of battle, which have some intricacies, the game proceeds at a steady pace.
The gameplay loop involves organizing your party at your base and choosing a mission. Being under-leveled in this game can be quite frustrating.
After accepting a quest, you’ll receive briefing through story scenes, depart, and likely sit through more story scenes. Speaking of which, this is actually a well-written fantasy adventure. While it may contain some overused tropes, I appreciated how it balanced tension and camaraderie among the cast. The stakes leading up to the final boss battle are real, but after 40 hours of gameplay, I’d say this is a game best enjoyed in hour-long sessions. It lacks that hook that keeps you saying, “Just one more mission.”
Dungeon exploration is rather uninspiring. Despite theme changes, they all feel fairly similar. Unfortunately, the lack of tutorials extends to this aspect of gameplay as well. At times, you’re left without a map, forcing you to wander aimlessly until you trigger a scene or find the battle area. Having a map makes it somewhat easier, but with no speed settings to hasten your running pace or battle speed, you end up wasting time. In my younger years, I enjoyed getting lost because it meant leveling up, but I was never deeply attached to the battle system and always wanted to get back to the story the moment I entered the dungeons. Thankfully, there are difficulty options to make your experience more accessible.
While exploring, you’ll come across various points of interest that provide materials and items for selling or crafting at your base. In my playthrough, I avoided crafting because I didn’t understand how to do it. However, there comes a point in the game where you’re forced to either sink or swim because you need more powerful gear. By the way, did you know that Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era is actually the second entry in the series? Unfortunately, we didn’t receive the first one in the West, but from what I’ve seen, we got the better one.
The battle system also takes some getting used to because there is a bit of information overload when you first enter a fight. You have attacks and skills that can be used after a cooldown. There’s an auto function that will have your party constantly attack enemies, but I wish this also included a system where the healers would heal wounded party members. One gripe about fights is how they group enemies. Sometimes you’ll be fighting against ten enemies, and it definitely overstays its welcome. It’s a decent turn-based battle system, but it is very basic at its core.
Adult Content, Presentation, and Overall Experience
Now, let’s delve into the adult content. Interestingly, your choices can lead to being locked out of certain routes. The game attempts to create a morality system that influences the routes you take. It might be wise to consult a guide if you want to ensure you end up with your preferred character.
Typically, I don’t say this, but the all-ages version makes more sense than the often out-of-place adult version. The story tends to flow smoothly and occasionally takes detours for intimate scenes that have minimal impact on the actual plot. The scenes, though well-drawn, mostly consist of moaning and aren’t particularly integral to the narrative. On the other hand, if you have a particular interest in themes like feet and tentacles, this might be the game for you.
Typically, I don’t say this, but the all-ages version makes more sense than the often out-of-place adult version.
The result of all this is a unique experience within the visual novel genre that goes beyond simple storytelling. There’s a decent turn-based RPG here that could benefit from quality improvements to enhance the overall experience. Speed options and tutorials would be a good starting point because this isn’t a game that should demand a lot of patience to understand, and yet, that’s often the case.
Regarding the presentation, Ninetails consistently delivers captivating fantasy character designs and concepts. They excel at maintaining player engagement during story moments by frequently changing scenes and showcasing battles through brief animations. The music is exceptionally good, with the battle themes taking me by surprise.
Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era offers a fascinating blend of adult content and intricate storytelling, accompanied by a somewhat complex RPG experience. While the game has its lows, such as a lack of tutorials and occasionally repetitive dungeons, it manages to leave a good impression with its well-written narrative, diverse characters, and captivating fantasy elements. Whether you’re here for the romantic entanglements, the challenging battles, or the intriguing character customization, this game has something to offer.
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