Dragalia Lost: High Dragon Trial Update: Problem With the Game, Or With the Players?

Dragalia Lost recently had an update that adds higher difficulties to the High Dragon Trials. Said HDT’s were the game’s end-game content, so now they’re even more end-gamier. In addition, there is a time trial, with leaderboards for the top 25, and prizes depending on where one ranked in total (percentage-wise). With this update came a new tier (well, two tiers) of weapons, which required doing the new tiers of HDT’s to get the materials for.

Needless to say, people got mad. And stupid. Trouble is, until these things came out, the game was pretty easy, even at its hardest. With not too much grinding (though still too much for me, Mr. Casual), one could max out their buildings and gear, which would help trivialize most content, even the HDT’s, with just a modicum of skill. However, this update introduced the first real esports elements. Now people couldn’t have everything with a bit of effort in a short period of time (using resources they’d already stashed up), but they would actually have to put in a serious effort, and use some actual skill. This change dashed the expectation of many vocal players, but I think would be good for the game overall.

Serious lack of self-awareness, there.

Like pretty much all these games, Dragalia Lost depends on whales. But whales need reasons to whale, in this game – there’s just so much competition out there for that precious whale dosh. There are traditionally two big reasons to whale in a gacha game: esports or waifury. (I’m going to include all sorts of ‘I need this character because they’re my [X]!’, including husbandos, fujoships, etc., because the waifu man reigns over all these.) Esports is the more reliable way to whale whales, since competition is something the devs have the most control over. Meanwhile, going after the waifu enthusiasts depends wholly on the whims of the players, while the devs can only try to create appealing designs for their fanbase; the most reliable way to go after these players is to make alts of characters that have already proven popular.

For Dragalia Lost, the esports game has been severely lacking, because there hasn’t been any real, official competition in any way. Sure, you can whale, git gud, and all that, but who are you comparing your skills too? And who can you show off to? The best one could do would be upload clears to Youtube or Twitter. However, even in a coop game like Granblue Fantasy one can race other players directly in a raid, to see how much damage each person can do before killing the enemy, and it is shown immediately at the bottom of the screen. Now, with the time-trial leaderboards, good players and whales can have it all: actual hard content that uses their resources, skills, and experience; a way to compare their skills directly to other players; and a way to show off to each others and all the plebs.

Now, that hasn’t exactly gone over well with some of the non-esports players and whales. Like I said, many were used to only putting in an modicum of effort to get all the prizes. There actually is a bit of a grind to get the top-tier weapons, which requires actually completing the HDT’s multiple times. And a lot of players don’t have the skills or gear for that. Which makes them mad.

Personally, I see this as a “git gud and stop crying” situation. Lots of whiny babbies out there saying the game has gone to crap just because they can’t access everything within two or three weeks of it happening. Very entitled, and I don’t use that word lightly.

Also, people crying because they can’t pub everything. For good or ill, pubbing is a major thing in this game. If you don’t have some other way of organizing things, which is pretty hard since the guild function in this game is pretty limited, then you’re stuck pubbing. And, while there are filters to pubs, they aren’t really reliable. You’ve basically got might filtering (basically gear score), which doesn’t mean that the players actually know the fight. And there’s no way to kick players inflating might, or using the wrong gear, or whatever, so people just put up ridiculous might requirements for their rooms. Lots of people looking for carries.

Not to say there aren’t problems with the game, or this situation. I’ll point them out here:

First, the HDT’s are very punishing. They have a lot of OHKO attacks, which means that not only are runs over if anyone makes a single mistake, but healers are pretty much useless – if they’re not absolutely necessary due to ‘everybody WILL take damage’ mechanics. In this game, the trinity isn’t dps-tank-healer, it’s dps-support-healer, since tanks can’t really do anything in this game. Which means dps is all-important, which means being anything besides dps requires that unit to contribute more dps than is lost by not using a proper dps unit. Since pubs generally don’t have the eports skills to not make mistakes, this means a lot of pubs fail.

Second, Gala Cleo. It’s not often that a single unit will run/ruin an entire meta, but there she is. She’s got everything: buffs, heals, dps, debuffs. That all on its own would make her a top-tier unit, but not broken like she is. The thing is, her buffs stack with each other. Meaning, if you had a full team of Gleos, you’d potentially have HUGE buffs, or constant uptime on said buffs. On a character that already is pretty good dps, this is completely broken. Take the stacking away, and she’s merely very good. But as it is, in most any content you’d take Dark characters to (and others you wouldn’t), she’s best-in-slot, no good if you don’t have her. And it’s not like dark is hurting for good units either, but when you’re competing with BEST UNIT IN GAME BY FAR, good isn’t good enough. And it’s not like taking away the stacking buffs would be a huge nerf to the unit, pissing off the players that whaled for her, since without that she’s still one of the best units in the game.

The culprit herself.

Third, while the HDT’s are a bit of a grind…there’s nothing to do after it’s over. “Good” grinds put stuff behind RNG, or otherwise make it so even the best players have to continually run content for various reasons. If they don’t, they won’t play. They’ll play the esports content, but nothing below that. One way around that is, as mentioned, RNG for a lot of stuff, so players need to run things again and again and again to get what they want; this is the traditional MMO raid gear setup. They’ll grumble, but they’ll do it, if there’s enough incentive to do so. Another way is to have the lower-tier content give resources that are still important to higher-tier players, through trade-ins and the like. Granblue Fantasy generally does both of those: RNG to get the gear pieces one needs, and trading in lower-tier gear to get the resources needed to upgrade that high-tier gear they actually use. Dragalia Lost doesn’t do either: run the HDT’s enough times, and you’re guaranteed to get what you want, with no reason to go back later (yet).

Why is this important? (Aside from the fact that devs want players to engage with all the content they spent time on, I mean.) It’s because newer players need help going through the lower-tier stuff. They can’t learn to git gud if no one is willing to help them out. This game is a coop game, which means it needs players to coop with. As has been seen in just these past few weeks, if all the good players are doing the higher-tier stuff, because they’re done with the lower-tier stuff for whatever reason, then the low-tier stuff will not be very doable for the low-tier players. In this specific instance, there’s literally no reason to do the Standard difficulty for the HDT’s, because higher difficulties give all the same mats, in higher amounts, as well as the stuff needed to upgrade to the higher-tier weapons. So the Standard HDT’s are floundering.

All of these are things the devs can actually control. I think fixing these three items would be greatly beneficial to the fun of the game, and for the enjoyment of the people playing the game (two different things, since some people don’t like fun). Right now, a lot of the fans are crying for no reason, saying the game is dead for no reason, like they always do. But, there is truth to their complaints, and things can be improved.

Tomorrow is Halloween, so here’s some pumpkin stuff for Halloween.