Natalie Rambles About Dragalia Lost – Chapter 2: Systems, Gameplay, and Progression

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Because these things are a quintessential part of any good live service!

This post is part of a series on the mobile action RPG by Nintendo and Cygames, Dragalia Lost. For additional context, please read the earlier installments of this series.

Natalie Rambles About Dragalia Lost:
Chapter 1: Story and Aesthetics
Chapter 2: Systems, Gameplay, and Progression
Chapter 3: Quests, Events, and Endgame
Chapter 4: Summoning, Monetization, and Gacha
Chapter 5: Love, Loss, and Gripes
Chapter 6: Dragalia Digest and Developments

Note: This post was finalized on September 14th, 2020. Any changes to the systems, mechanics, and so forth announced or implemented after this date are not reflected in Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Chapter 2-1: Do the Dragalia

So, in Chapter 1 I detailed what Dragalia Lost is about, and how its aesthetics are superb, but what exactly do you do in the game, and how does it play? Well, as a gacha game, its game loop should be fairly familiar for players who have dabbled in the genre before. It is a menu-driven affair broken up between story segments, various bite-sized quests that defer resources onto the player, and said resources can be used to accumulate power. Dragalia’s approach is no different, as the game has players go from quest to quest, summoning new adventurers, and upgrading them with the resources they obtain from going on quests.

Each quest sees a merry band of four adventurers, each with their own set of equipment, skills, and abilities marching through a geometrically simple map before battling a boss in an arena, fighting mobs of enemies in an arena, or just fighting a boss in their own arena. They’re straightforward, easily digestible in short bursts, and unless the player is overpowered, or just autos their way through these quests, they offer just enough mechanics to engage with before players are granted resources or rewards for clearing a quest.

But unlike most games of this ilk, Dragalia differentiates itself by being a real-time action RPG where players need to manually dodge and strike enemies, rather than relying on menu-based inputs and turn-based systems. Instead, the player must hold down and drag a finger to move, swipe to dodge attacks, tap to strike, press and release to perform a force strike (charge attack), and tap the icons aligning the bottom of the screen to use skills.

When compared to console-style action RPGs, the sheer number of things the player can do in these combat encounters is rather limited. However, the true depth of Dragalia’s gameplay comes from everything surrounding the player’s inputs. From learning the mechanics pivotal to success, getting your numbers big enough to tackle content, learning the patterns of enemies and bosses, preparing for the content you plan on taking on, and learning how to effectively use the few tools available to you.

Admittedly, the importance of these things is not communicated to the player during the early stages of the game, where players can clear through content by enabling auto-play, but once you get to the endgame, or even the mid-game, you dearly need to stop, pay attention, recognize patterns, and learn the needed techniques and technicals, or else you’ll get toasted, roasted, and deaded within seconds. As such, there is definitely a level of skill demanded of the player if they want to pursue continued success, but by being relatively lax with its inputs, I find it to be a rather approachable combat system. Or it would be if it was explained in a touch more detail.

When a game is a live service and constantly iterating itself like Dragalia Lost, it is not uncommon to see features be announced through a version update and explained in the help section, yet never be fully tutorialized for new players who might not think to read up on the patch notes to learn how to effectively play the game.

It is because of this that I, a player who did not start playing this game until mid-August 2019, went an embarrassingly long amount of time not understanding some fairly fundamental concepts of the game. Such as how enemy attacks in Dragalia typically come in two forms. Red (or yellow) attacks that can be avoided using the plentiful invincibility frames of a character’s dodge or a skill animation and purple attacks that you cannot avoid under most circumstances. And even after I understood the fundamentals, it still took me a while to understand the more fringe or battle specific mechanics found in certain boss encounters.

There have been efforts to make these mechanics more digestible, such as attack breakdowns for the High Dragon Trials, but the game really could use a series of playable tutorials for its higher-level mechanics. Otherwise, the best way to learn about the minutiae of the game is to head down to the fan community on places like Reddit or Discord and ask the pleasant people there to explain mechanics to you. It kind of sucks, the developers should try to better tutorialize their mechanics… but this is honestly an emblematic part of live services, gacha games, and most multiplayer titles in the era of the internet.

These games are designed around the fact that people create, compile, and curate information for them. And for as much as part of me thinks that a game should strive to be as self-contained as possible… video games have pretty much always been designed with the knowledge that players can consult resources to help them with their performance, progression, and completion. And what sort of Ramble would this be if I did not break down just some of Dragalia’s myriad systems in excruciating detail?

Chapter 2-2: Spirals, Systems, and Success

So, Dragalia Lost is a game enjoying and unlocking stories big and small and a simple yet deep combat system about battling assorted baddies. But the glue that holds everything together is the progression system meant to endear players to the game and keep them coming back for hundreds of hours, as it is the way of any successful mobage (mobile game). In fact, glue might be the best way to describe the progression system, as it is not the most attractive thing, is kind of all over the place, and it’s easy to get stuck on one of its many gooey talons and sub-mechanics.

But before describing these systems in detail, I want to talk about Might. Might is the cumulative representation of a party’s power in Dragalia Lost, it is what gates players out of and pushes them into new content, and it is the numerical manifestation of their accomplishments in the game. It is a number derived from the HP and Strength (the only adjustable numerical stats in the game), along with the associated numerical values of active skills and passive abilities of one’s team. Each team consists of up to 4 playable Adventurers, the Dragons they are equipped with, the Weapons they wield, and the Wyrmprints they carry, all buffed by Facilities the player has built throughout the Halidom… See, I told you this was messy.

Well, okay, each of these five factors have their own unique subsystems and minutiae that could warrant their own guide, but they all follow a few universal concepts… except for Facilities, which are kind of their own thing.

Leveling: Adventurers, dragons, weapons, and wyrmprints all have corresponding levels that determine their HP and strength, and all of these can be increased by using corresponding materials. Adventurers use crystals, dragons use dragonfruits, weapons use whetstones, and wyrmprints use waters. Adventurers technically receive EXP from completing quests, but the amount is often low, and crystals are readily available, so they are seen as the preferred method of leveling.

Unbinding: When first received, most dragons, weapons, and wyrmprints have lower level caps and are not at their full effectiveness, but they can be upgraded through a process known as unbinding. This involves taking an identical copy of the equipment and combining them together. Once the dragon, weapon, or wyrmprint has been unbound four times, it is at its full effectiveness and has been Max Unbound, also known as MUB. When you initially receive a dragon, weapon, or wyrmprint, it likely has 0 Unbinds, or is 0UB.

Augments: As one plays Dragalia Lost, they will find various ways to obtain items that increase the base HP and strength of their adventurers, dragons, weapons, and wyrmprints to up a maximum of +100 HP and +100 strength. These can be a very effective way to push teams to the limit and can amount to an additional 4,000 Might per team. Or at least in theory.

While augments for adventurers and wyrmprints are readily accessible via mid-game and endgame content, there is no current way for players to obtain additional augments for dragons and weapons. The developers, as far as I am aware, have said nothing about making these dragons and weapons augments more available, so they are a curiosity present in the game, but never expanded upon.

Summoning: In gacha games, much of the player’s progression is limited and led by the act of summoning/pulling/drawing new things in exchange for either a freemium currency awarded by completing feats or tasks in the game itself or premium currency that players can buy. What players obtain is based on a probability table, and is often denoted by a rarity system. In Dragalia Lost, players can summon adventurers and dragons. Duplicate adventurers are automatically converted into a valuable resource known as Eldwater, while dragons can be converted into Eldwater at the player’s discretion. I will explain the summoning feature in detail in Chapter 4-1.

Rarity: Like many games of this genre, every equippable and adventurer in Dragalia Lost has a designated star-based ranking with it, which is relegated to 3-stars, 4-stars, and 5-stars… for the most part. Between adventurers, dragons, weapons, and wyrmprints, all of them handle rarity a bit differently, and as such details will be provided in each corresponding section.

WARNING: In Dragalia Lost, players have the ability to level up their weapons, dragons, and wyrmprints by using other weapons, dragons, and wyrmprints. Under no circumstances is this advisable for dragons and wyrmprints. Instead, players with unwanted duplicate dragons and wyrmprints should visit the Team menu and navigate to the Collection section. In the Collection menu there is an option to part ways with dragons and to sell wyrmprints. By removing these from your inventory, players are given with Eldwater, which is always valuable.

For unwanted weapons, you can sell them, use them to level them up or dismantle them. Honestly, there is not as much risk associated with trashing them. …Also, duplicate weapons (and wyrmprints) are apparently going bye-bye come later September, so this is a super-duper non-issue.

Chapter 2-3: All The Warriors and All The Waifus

Considering that Dragalia is an action game and that every adventurer has their own assortment of active skills, passive abilities, weapon types, element, and sometimes unique mechanics, it should be no surprise that the playable characters are the most complex part of the game. There are over 200 adventurers in the game as of writing, and getting a handle on which characters are better than others and how to synergize them around can be rather overwhelming for new players, who may feel overwhelmed by the deluge of options and information thrown their way.

To circumvent this, the game encourages players to use the optimize feature to generate a team, while instilling players with a few core tenants. That teams should generally be the same element, which is readily doable since players start with a decent team in each of the 5 elements (flame, water, wind, light, and shadow). That teams should feature multiple weapon types. And that a healer (a staff-wielder) is an essential part of teams (at least until you get to the endgame, when they are needed for some fights, but not for others).

While useful early on, the optimize feature can discourage players from recognizing the depth that is hidden behind and associated with each character and their kit, encouraging them to not bother with the minutiae and insinuating that it really does not matter that much. Which, for the early game, is pretty much true. The road throughout the first few chapters of the story, and to 10,000 Might is a lax one where just about any team, including ones made of the 24 freebie characters all players have access to, is completely viable.

It is only after that, and after what very well may be dozens of hours, that players really ought to stop and recognize just what they have. When they should look at the active skills of each adventurer closely, their passive abilities, and their co-abilities (passives shared with the entire team) in order to understand which characters are good for them and which they want to invest in.From there, they should consult fan communities for recent information on what characters are good and start using them, while steadily learning the tells for good characters. Seriously, the community loves labbing this stuff, and they will happily give you pointers if you are courteous.

Personally, I consider this to be a fairly substantial issue with the game, in that there are not many aids to help players in the team-building process beyond the optimize feature, the Might of a given team, and the aforementioned general advice. Instead, it is recommended that players look beyond the game to learn what characters are considered good, try to find up-to-date character breakdowns, and build a team based on vague approximations and recommendations you see until you learn enough about the mechanics to spot a good or useful unit. All of which can make it difficult for new players to get a grasp of who they should devote their initially limited resources into. And while I want to tell them “do whatever, dude,” I know that it is not particularly good advice.

Rarity: When summoned or obtained, every adventurer is affixed with a rarity, ranging from basic and common 3-stars to rare and elusive 5-stars. The general rule is that a higher rarity denotes which unit is better, but in Dragalia Lost that rule is not always true, as there are plenty of 3-stars and 4-stars that are perfectly viable even in the endgame, and who outclass 5-stars. But it is always true that 3-stars and 4-stars are restrained by caps that limit their max level and how much they can upgrade their Mana Circles (a linear skill tree). However, even these limits can be circumvented by promoting 3-stars and 4-stars to 5-stars.

Promotion: This is a fairly simple process of taking an existing adventurer of lower rarity and upgrading them to a 5-star, expanding their level and Mana Circle caps and giving them a slight stat boost, all in exchange for Eldwater. Every lower rarity adventurer can be upgraded this way, and the costs of upgrading are universally 2,500 Eldwater for upgrading 3-stars to 4-stars, and 25,000 Eldwater for upgrading 4-stars to 5-stars.

Mana Circles: While leveling characters results in basic stat boosts, Mana Circles upgrade the skills, abilities, and overall kit of every character in the game, at least until they reach a cap. 3-stars can only upgrade 30 nodes, 4-stars can upgrade 40, 5-stars can upgrade 50. These nodes are unlocked through the use of various upgrade materials such as mana, elemental orbs, and dragon scales, which are rather easy to obtain in large quantities and can be used to get every character up to the soft cap of 40 nodes with little and relatively little investment. Beyond that, however, players want to be conservative with their resources, as in order to get to 50 nodes, they need to use elusive items like Champion’s Testaments along with a total of 73,000 Eldwater.

But once a character is at 50 nodes, they are fully upgraded and fully awesomely powerful, right? Well, not quite. You see, power creep and units getting invalidated by new ones is something of a common trend in any game with a prolonged and active development. From trading card games to these sorts of live services. With Dragalia Lost, the developers chose to combat this problem through the implementation of Mana Spirals.

Mana Spirals: These are little more than expanded Mana Circles that are only available to certain adventurers. These boost adventurer level caps from 80 to 100, upgrades their skills and abilities, and overall makes these select adventurers somewhat to dramatically better depending on the character, with the effects being more and more pronounced as they go from 50 nodes to their new cap of 70 nodes.

However, upgrading these 20 new nodes means that more resources are needed. This includes a modest amount of materials from High Dragon Trials, which I will discuss in Chapter 3-5. A total of 48 Tier 4 elemental orbs that can be obtained through certain mid-game quests, such as Chimera Void Battles, and story quests on Very Hard, and in both instances, the best drop rate you can typically hope for is 1 orb per run. Along with a scattering of Champion Testaments, which are a difficult to obtain material primarily earned from ongoing events.

When compounded with the resources needed to get characters from 40 nodes to 50, this definitely makes Mana Spiral adventurers quite an investment, and in order to make sure it is a good investment, players are advised to look into the community for aid, tier lists, or the DPS simulator, looking into which adventurers received good spirals and investing in those. For example, the main characters Euden, Ranzal, Luca, and Cleo all received good Mana Spirals, and can be brought into endgame content. While certain 3-star characters, such as Xania, Melody, Althemia, and Vice, are better than many 5-star units when the player fully invested into them.

But even if you can invest into adventurers by filling out their Mana Spiral, the question remains is whether or not it is worth doing so, as Mana Spiral adventurers are not inherently better than those without Spirals, and those without Spirals can be brought to their full potential for a fraction of the cost. Personally, I think Mana Spirals are still worth looking into, as some of the characters you get from it are super good, and if you enjoy a character and enjoy playing them, then Mana Spirals are a way to make them viable in more content throughout the game. Besides, for everything I said about the upgrade resources being limited, after some time, players should have enough for at least a couple of Mana Spiral characters.

…Also, like half the roster is viable for the endgame, so don’t fuss too much about needing a top tier and needing to make the best investment. Because while it does matter, you can get by with a ragtag group in a lot of cases.

Shared Skills: These are a fairly recent addition to the game that allows adventurers to use the active skills of other adventurers. The leader of each team can equip up to two shared skills, outfitting them with healing skills, buffs, or offensive skills that broaden what the character can achieve in combat. Players start the game with the shared skills of characters obtained throughout the main campaign, and while these are perfectly acceptable and viable, players can also expand this collection dramatically by unlocking the shared skills of other adventurers once they reach 50 Mana Circle nodes. However, in order to unlock the shared skills players need a designated number of elemental tomes, which are primarily obtained via certain events, but can also be purchased using premium currency via the game’s shop.

Shared skills add another dimension to character building that players can get very serious about if they want to, but in my experience, they aren’t that important. Personally, the only ones I invested in are the shared skills of Patia (a defensive and offensive teamwide buff), Halloween Lowen (a teamwide heal with a regen effect and a defense buff), and Incognito Nefaria (a cute dance that draws enemies together and does damage over time). But there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the default shared skills of Ranzal and Cleo. Which function as a solid damage dealing attack (that can be upgraded into a great attack) and a helpful teamwide heal respectively.

Chapter 2-4: Dragalia is Lost, but Dragons Aren’t

Dragons play an important part of Dragalia Lost’s core identity, mechanics, and are about half of its namesake, but despite so much emphasis being put on them, they are fairly simple to grasp mechanically and serve three primary purposes.

The first is how throughout combat players will steadily accumulate their dragon gauge as they dish out damage and fell enemies, and once it is at least 50% full, players will be able to shapeshift their controlled adventurer into the equipped dragon, granting them a temporary super form, access to a unique dragon skill, and often the ability to deal superior damage with a basic 3-hit combo. These shapeshifts only last a few seconds, but are a core part of combat in Dragalia Lost, due to how they can not only decimate enemies and provide buffs, but double as an efficient means of tanking big damage.

When not in dragon form, dragons serve two primary purposes. To provide a boost to the HP and strength of their corresponding adventurer by a modest amount that, while appreciated during the early game, becomes largely negligible as time goes on. And how each dragon has a passive ability, or abilities, that boost their associated adventurer’s stats, damage, or general capabilities by a set percentage. From direct HP and strength buffs to increased skill damage, affliction bonuses, skill haste, and many more. These are what you actually want to consider when looking at dragons, and it is easy to divide dragons into several categories and find their accompanying niche.

Strength boosting dragons are good for any offensive unit, as strength directly increases damage and more damage is always better. HP boosting dragons are good for healers, as HP is a key part of how much they heal their allies before, and the healer is the last unit you want to die, so you may as well make them tanky. Skill damage dragons are good for adventurers with multiple offensive skills, or ones that already deal massive skill damage.

Skill haste dragons are good for pretty much everybody, because skills equate to good things, but they are really good on units that buff teammates, as then the buffs keep coming in at a faster rate, and the effects are maximized. And lastly, dragons that boost both HP and strength tend to not be especially optimal, but they are a good way of getting both a bit of extra cushion on flakey adventurers without fully sacrificing their DPS, and are pretty frequently rocked by healers when getting into the endgame.

There are some exceptions to this rule, but dragons tend to be fairly simple, and so long as players focus on the relatively straightforward abilities over the Might, they should be golden. Unfortunately, the path of progression for dragons is one significantly more staggered and slow than any other progression system in the game. This is due to a lot of reasons, starting with how, unlike adventurers, dragons occupy a very unambiguous tier system of usefulness.

3-star dragons are garbage all-around and should be put aside as soon as possible. Event welfare dragons (dragons given away as part of ongoing events) are technically considered 5-star dragons, but even at level 100 and when MUB, and mostly exist to help new players get into the game until they can obtain better dragons, such as 4-star dragons. 4-star dragons are reliable standby, can be used well beyond the mid-game, and provide significant stat boosts. And while MUB 4-star dragons are better than many 0UB 5-star dragons, once you fully upgrade a 5-star, they are significantly better than anything beneath them. The problem comes with actually unbinding them.

In order to unbind 5-star dragons, players need to do one of three things. One, summon or obtain additional copies of the same dragon. Two, use Sunlight Stones to unbind these 5-star dragons. Or three, farm for Draconic Essence by playing certain story quests repeatedly, and use them to unbind the corresponding dragons.

However, summoning specifically for duplicates is considered a waste of summoning currency, and Sunlight Stones are only obtainable on select occasions and should be reserved for dragons that players will likely be unable to obtain in the future, namely the meta-defining Gala Dragons. This makes Draconic Essences easily the best option for unbinding dragons, but the game currently only offers Essences for 15 select 5-star dragons, and Essences can be something of a grind to obtain. Players can only obtain 6 a day, it takes 50 to unbind a dragon once, and to go from 0 to 4 unbinds, it will take a little over a month of daily grinding on quests that offer little of value beyond Draconic Essences… unless a double drop and half stamina event is going on. In which case you’d be a fool not to grind your knickers off.

It is because of these reasons that I am still using 4-star dragons even after playing this game for over a year, because I simply haven’t obtained enough, or good enough, 5-star dragons to replace them. On one hand, it sucks that the pursuit of power and progression is skewed in such a manner. But on the other… I managed to defeat an endgame boss dozens of times with one MUB 5-star dragon, two 1UB 5-stars, and one MUB 4-star. So perhaps dragons are not the be-all-end-all of one’s pursuit of power.

Chapter 2-5: Why, Weapons, Why?

Despite what the image above (ripped from the in-game tutorial comic) says, weapons primarily exist as strength modifiers, boosting the DPS of units while bestowing them with additional skills and abilities. Each adventurer can only equip a single weapon type, and if the weapon is attuned to the same element as the adventurer, they receive a 1.5x boost in its stats. Weapons are sometimes obtained as rewards or drops, but the primary way to obtain weapons is via crafting, where players offer a predetermined sum of materials in exchange for a copy of the weapon.

Once crafted, the weapon can be leveled up and unbound by being paired with copies of the same weapon. However, being Max Unbound is not the end for weapons, as most of them can be enhanced to a higher tier of weapon, where they are given better stats, may gain a new or better skill/ability, and can obtain an elemental affinity.

It is a fine system on paper, and it should be simple… but there are roughly 1,200 distinct weapons in Dragalia Lost, over half of them are basically worthless and not worth crafting, and this entire system is set to be reworked and reconstructed in late September 2020.

How is this the case and why did things turn out this way? Well, when Dragalia Lost first started out, the weapon system was very direct and simple. The game launched with 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star weapons of each weapon type, all could be unbound and enhanced into elemental variants, and the progression system was fairly straightforward, starting with the base tier 1 3-star weapons and ending with the tier 3 elemental 5-star weapons. But that all changed in February 2019 with the introduction of Void Battles and Void Weapons.

Void Weapons were designed as a way of giving players more weapons to craft and strive for without directly usurping existing weapons in regards to shear strength. They were meant to be lateral moves that possessed unique abilities that made the weapons useful for certain content. The idea was for players to fight boss A to gain the materials to fight Boss B, who has an effect or ability that is resisted or nullified using a weapon crafted from the materials dropped by boss A.

This made sense from a certain perspective, and all culminated in players fighting Void Dragon bosses in order to craft weapons to make the existing endgame content, the High Dragon Trials, significantly easier for players to break into. This worked just fine for a while, and Void Battles in general represented a lively mid-game for players to get used to fighting more complex and imposing boss battles before breaking into the endgame. But then the developers just went kind of crazy back in October 2019 when they released the High Dragon weapons. Weapons that, at their base level, were only a marginal upgrade over the next highest weapon, but could be fully upgraded to weapons that were TWICE as powerful as anything else in the entire game.

This, naturally, made a mess of things, as players rushed to grind the materials needed to craft these weapons in order to stay on top of current and future content, and made the Void Weapons largely irrelevant as anything more than a stepping stone to getting HDT weapons. Then in December 2019, the developers tried to shape up the weapon meta once more by introducing the Chimera and Agito lines of weapons, which have undergone a staggered release. All Chimera weapons were released by July 2020 and all tier 1 Agito weapons released by August 2020, but tier 2 Agito weapons are being staggered to this day, and likely will not be released for every element until early 2021.

The Chimera weapons quickly became the best weapons for most early-game and mid-game players, as they are easy to grind, economical to craft, and offer far more strength than the original 5-star weapons. While the Agito weapons became the best weapons in the entire game, due to their inherent Might and their ability to give players offensive or defensive buffs. Despite costing far fewer resources and less dedication, the Agito weapons are statistically the best weapons in the entire game, and the prohibitively expensive High Dragon weapons can be cut out of one’s progression entirely.

However, this fact is not made obvious to most new players, who will likely become overwhelmed and generally baffled by the relentless variety of weapons available to them when looking at the crafting screen, along with the tiered weapon crafting system and elemental offshoots with their own unique skills and properties. The developers have tried to make the progression system clearer by giving the Chimera, Agito, and High Dragon weapons their own unique banners, but the weapon system has been in need of an overhaul.

And it is in fact getting one, so really I should just shut up and wait to see what this overhaul is supposed to be, but I have been working on this article for over a month, and I do not want to throw out all of my work, so… Here’s my recommended weapon progression strategy as of September 22, 2020:

Now that I have given a bit of a history lesson, I probably should clearly and directly explain to any potential new players what weapons are worth crafting and when they should do so. When starting out, players should keep things simple, striving to obtain and Max Unbind the basic tier 1 versions of the 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star “Core Weapons”. Using these, along with whatever other weapons they receive as rewards or drops, players should be able to make their way into the Void Battles upon clearing chapter 7 of the story, where they can begin pursuing Void Weapons.

Most Void Weapons are not worth crafting! There is a suggested progression system, but you can avoid most steps and jump straight to any Void Battle quest you want to once you meet the Might requirements. However, for certain quests, it is highly recommended that you have a certain void weapon, as they are considerably difficult without them. For Catoblepas Strike, you want Petrify Res weapons. For Void Zephyr, you want Dull Res weapons. For Void Agni, you want Scorching Air Res weapons. For Void Nidhogg, you want Enervation Res weapons.

But the Void Weapons you really want to focus on are the Manticore weapons. Players want to craft one of these for every weapon type in every element, as they are the prerequisite to getting both Chimera and Agito weapons. This does not need to be done at once and can be done at any time as Manticore battles are always available, but should be an ultimate goal for players as time goes on. With Manticore weapons in hand, players should temporarily skip over the Void Dragons (Zephyr, Agni, Poseidon, Jeanne d’Arc, and Nidhogg), and head straight into the Standard difficulty Chimeras until they can craft a tier 1 Chimera weapon, and eventually move up to Expert difficulty, were players get better drops, including the materials needed to craft tier 2 Chimera weapon.

Once your entire teams are suited with 0 unbind tier 2 Chimera weapons of their respective element… you’re pretty much good to take on Standard difficulty endgame content, and can steadily begin crafting Agito weapons, as all prerequisites have been met. The path to getting here is one that will take quite a bit of time, grinding, and resources, but fortunately the Expert difficulty Chimera battles are actually a rich avenue for grinding in general. Chimera battles drop Chimera weapon materials, stat-boosting augments, tier 4 elemental orbs, and an ample amount of void leaves and void seeds that can be exchanged for Rupies (a soft currency used for too many things to name) at the Treasure Trade located in the shop menu.

Chapter 2-6: Lenticular Trading Cards of Passive Power

Despite the complexity of crafting weapons, they are fairly straightforward numerical increases, where their goal is universal, and their value can be easily represented using a number. But that is absolutely not the case with wyrmprints. Wyrmprints are accessories with accompanying passive abilities that improve something about the adventurer conditionally or unconditionally, and while they are fairly easy to understand if one stops, looks, and internalizes what the equipment actually does, they can be overwhelming at first.

When dealing with wyrmprints, you are dealing with a collection of 200+ pieces of equipment with dozens of unique effects and trying to reconcile them across a party. As such, it can be far more tempting for players to simply go with what the game’s optimization feature recommends, but that is not advantageous, as the game does not properly distinguish between wyrmprint abilities, and will sometimes come up with utterly nonsensical pairings. Like giving a sword-user a wyrmprint that boosts the skill damage of dagger-users.

Instead, it is recommended for players to gather up and use whatever they come across to get through the early game and then veer into versatile and good wyrmprints with a lot of applications, before pursuing ones that are considered optimal for certain adventurers or builds. But how do players get wyrmprints? Well, they can be drops for completing quests, rewards for completing tasks, or distributed as part of an event. But the simplest and easiest way to get wyrmprints is to visit the wyrmprint shop, located in the shop menu, where players can purchase wyrmprints in exchange for Eldwater.

You search for the wyrmprint you want, spend a resource on it, and it is added to your collection, with nothing gating players away from most prints unless they are either tied to an event or are only available at certain times. The UX could use an overhaul, but whatever you want, you can get, and from early on in the game players can start building towards wyrmprints like Resounding Rendition, Jewels of the Sun, and Give Me Your Wounded. All of which are staple wyrmprints with versatile purposes that are useful well into the endgame.

Now, when purchasing wyrmprints, players want to treat it as an investment, as they can cost a lot of Eldwater, especially when starting out, and they naturally want to make sure that they are investing in the best Wyrmprints. How do players determine which are the best? Well, they can just look at the effects of each wyrmprint, but doing so requires players to calculate a lot of concepts and weigh a lot of effects in their mind.

Once again, I think the best way to figure out which wyrmprints are good, at least at first, is to look towards the community for guidance and advice. But if that sounds like too much of a hassle, a lot of players pick out their wyrmprints based on what the DPS Simulator recommends, and if you want a more extensive breakdown, I would recommend Dragalia Foundry’s July 2020 Wyrmprint Guide.

Overall, I really like the wyrmprint system as it gives players control and the ability to choose what they want, instead of relying on a gacha to get the things they want… but it wasn’t always this way. Yes, when Dragalia first launched wyrmprints were primarily obtained via summoning, which was terrible and made it harder for players to get everything. They thankfully fixed this in April 2019, and as somebody who started playing in August 2019, I never got to even tangentially experience how bad this must have been.

…Oh, right, I need to talk about rarity and wyrmprints. Much like with dragons, rarity affects the marginal amount of HP and strength wyrmprints give, their max level, and their general quality. But while 5-star wyrmprints are typically better, there are plenty of solid 4-star wyrmprints, including His Clever Brother, The Plaguebringer, From Whence He Comes, and Pipe Down, all of which are used even in the endgame. 3-stars are mostly garbage though.

Chapter 2-7: Always Be Constructing — Or Your Life Is Inert!

Adventurers, dragons, weapons, and wyrmprints. All of these things are a way to amass Might and progress through the game, but they are isolated systems that only affect one’s team when they are in use. This is how most RPGs operate, but Dragalia also features a way to passively, permanently, and universally improve the stats of all adventurers through the Halidom. The in-universe base of the protagonists that serves as the resting place for facilities. Facilities are monuments that bestow permanent passive HP, strength, and damage upgrades onto adventurers or dragons of a corresponding weapon type or element… along with a few that serve as Rupie and resource generators that you check up on every few hours. It is a way for players to invest resources on gradual, yet ultimately significant boosts in power by upgrading these facilities and waiting for their upgraded forms to be built.

I downright adore this system! I think it is an incredibly smart way for players to reliably invest in something in a game where players can easily be overwhelmed by decisions. I think it is a great way to keep players engaged and coming back because they will likely be able to build a new facility every few hours. And I love the sense of growth, development, and progression to be had with constructing facilities and watching numbers go up and slowly amount to something substantial.

When starting out the game, does an extra 2% in HP and strength to all adventurers of a given category really amount to much? No, not really. Does it make much of a difference when you are applying this bonus to a bunch of fully upgraded adventurers? Again, no. But by upgrading all the facilities, by slowly crawling at the goalpost, by making investments over a long stretch of time, the bonuses to the inherent HP and strength of adventurers add up to an over 90% bonus. And when I realized just how close I was to doubling my base stats, I was utterly delighted.

Not only because of the net numerical effect, but because of the journey to get there. My path to getting here was filled with grinding and investing or using these facilities as a way to motivate my progression through the game, and it was worth it for a lot of reasons. The numbers that were boosting my adventurers and dragons. The sheer spectacle of a fully decked out Halidom adorned with all the facilities arranged in an aesthetically appealing and spatially conscious manner. And the burning sense of pride and accomplishment the likes of which I have not felt since I completed the National Pokédex in 2014.

My Dojos are donezo! My altars be boppin’! My trees are at SSR dankness! My event facilities are maxed! My slime statues are coated with dust because they’re outmoded! My dragon facilities are at their soft caps! And the same can be said about my Rupie Mines!

However, this all can be imposing to new players, and to them, I have some simple advice:

  • Try to upgrade your fixed facilities— your Halidom and Smithy— as soon as you can because they open up extra mechanics.
  • Once you get situated with the game and feel like exploring, go to the Event Compendium and start developing the event facilities you get from there. Most event facilities offer a max of a 9.5% bonus to HP and an 8.5% bonus to strength, and while it is a grind to get there, it is worth it in the long-term.
  • Hustle Hammers are tools used to immediately finish the construction of a facility, but only a limited number of them, roughly 200, are currently available to all Dragalia Lost players. As such, players are encouraged to only use them if a facility will take more than a full day to construct and if the player has the resources needed to upgrade the facility to the next level
  • Beyond that, remember ABC: Always Be Constructing, and keep on leveling up facilities, as it never is a bad investment… unless it is Rupie Mines, which soft-cap at level 30… or the dragon facilities… which I will talk about in Chapter 3-5.

Chapter 2-8: Multiplayer Mayhem

In talking about all of these progression systems, I failed to mention an incredibly useful tool as part of one’s path of progression. As a live service, Dragalia Lost naturally has multiplayer features, and these primarily take the form of co-op. The vast majority of quests in the game can be played with other players through public or private lobbies that allow for players’ combined and cumulative strength to take on content with more efficiency than is available to players soloing the quests.

Other players act independently, shapeshift into dragons at their own accord, and can offer players something they might be lacking in their current team. It adds more variety to the game as you never know who exactly you will be paired up with and what adventurer and equipment they will be using. And for new players, co-op is the best way for players to clear new content, as they will more often than not join with veterans who can help carry them through new content and allow them to meet the milestones they need in order to progress.

But beyond that, co-op multiplayer is a large component of what one does in Dragalia Lost, and while I am typically not big on multiplayer, I actually really enjoy pairing up with random players in this game. Every battle plays out a bit differently, even if the boss and general team composition are the same. You indirectly learn a lot about other adventurers by playing alongside them. And there is a sense of teamwork and comradery felt as players communicate to one another with stickers and throw themselves into routine dailies and new challenges.

Chapter 2-9: Did I Mention Depth?

I have talked so much about this game, but at the same time, I feel like I am just scratching the surface of its mechanics. Despite being a mobile game, a game on a casual platform, Dragalia Lost has the depth of an MMORPG— which it technically is— a Mobile Multiplayer Online-only RPG. Between all the afflictions, buffs, and sheer quantity of tech that is employed here, this is easily one of the most mechanically deep and complicated games I have invested myself in, and I really appreciate that. It keeps the game engaging, it is always evolving, and I find the core underlying gameplay and progression systems engaging enough that I want to see how things grow with new adventurers, dragons, and so forth.

However, all of that is meant to be learned as the player progresses through the game. Like any online multiplayer social game, Dragalia Lost is best when you are playing it with others, when information is shared, and when you as a player can experience intrinsic growth by accumulating knowledge and skills as your characters and teams extrinsically rise in Might. And even if I really have been doing a crummy job on the whole social aspect, as I just pull tech from the Discord, Reddit, and YouTube instead of talking to people, I have still experienced this multifaceted progression system, and I love it.

I love the sense of progressing in a game, of making my characters better, of being able to do more, and being able to breeze through what were once challenges with relative ease. I love the progression system in the game because it is constant, it is persistent, and every day brings with it a new growth of some kind as facilities are upgraded, new equipment is unbound, and summons are performed to expand and enhance my collection of adventures. There is always something to strive for, something to keep me playing, and more for me to learn as I have eased my way into endgame content. However, for all my boasting, I have not fully explained how Dragalia Lost works, and the cycle of content that the player engages with while spiraling higher and higher as they progress from the path of a beginner to that of a master.

So, I’ll do that… Next time!

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