Missed Story Potential: Dragalia Lost

Dragalia Lost is one of those games I really like for some reason. I’m not terribly good at it, and it’s not the best game, even in its genre, but still I keep with it. I think it’s mostly due to the story. There’s just something quite charming about it.

Not to say that it’s particularly good or anything; it’s not winning awards anytime soon. And that’s a shame. I know story is just an ancillary thing for this sort of mobile game – this one actually has gameplay – but the devs think it’s obviously still important for the fans, since they’ve put more of a focus on getting more story out, and faster. But…it leaves something to be desired. With just a little more depth, a bit more thought than the basic jrpg tropes, especially in the main story, and it could be something really special here.

To put it simply, the game’s protagonist (Euden) is the seventh child (of eight) of a good king. Said good king dies at the beginning, after getting possessed by The Great Evil. The Great Evil (not it’s name, just what it is) then possesses the younger twin sister of the MC, Zethia, who also happened to be the figurehead of the local dragon-worshiping religion (ie, the fantasy pope gets possessed by the fantasy devil) – and therefore is not a potential heir to the throne. Then said Great Evil decides she/it is going to take over the kingdom, and does – and renames the kingdom from Generic Eurofantasyland to The Evil Empire.

Right there, there’s something potentially interesting. See, one needs to have a claim on the throne, in order to claim the throne. (At least politically.) Zethia had no claim, so she has no authority to claim. Now, being The Great Evil, she has phenomenal power, and that creates an authority of its own. But that power needs to be demonstrated first. From all that we can tell, Zethia just walked onto the throne and claimed it, no opposition (besides from Euden’s little band, who’ve been branded as kingslayers – one of the few things the story gets right in this area). Not only did Zethia not have any claim in the first place, but she’s also the eighth child of the king. What about the other six or so? We quickly learn (and it makes sense) that a few don’t care about ruling, or are otherwise unfit to do so. But that still leaves at least one, and probably more, that should contest this – most notably the oldest, who naturally was assuming he’d be the next king (and has the ambition and ability to do so). But no, we see all of Euden’s older siblings simply fall in line, and none of the nobles dispute such a breech in propriety. Oh, and no one seems to really care that Zethia, the Fantasy Pope, remember, renamed the kingdom to basically be The Evil Empire – the evil world-conquering empire ruled by and worshiping The Great Evil, whom the kingdom’s founder vanquished. No big deal I guess – even to the religion she’s the head of, which is specifically opposed to said Great Evil.

And that just takes into account the internal palace politics. What about the international scene? At least the game takes some time to flesh out its world a bit: there are the not!forest elves (Sylvans), who nominally are part of this kingdom, but not really because they all live in the inpenetrable woods (and are thus exotic to humans – except for all those generic Slyvan NPC’s that show up in town scenes all the time); the other generic Eurofantasy kingdom to the north that is apparently somewhat hostile but not really since we get some of them as gacha characters; the not!Venice merchant city-state to the west; the not!China somewhere to the east (but not too far east); and the not!Japan, also not too far to the east. How do all these react to this turmoil? Asides from the not!Venice, we don’t really know – and even in this case, we only know something because the MC asks for their help, for an alliance.

And then there’s the issue of Euden and his band. At the beginning Euden and friends find an abandoned castle – abandoned, because it was hidden in a magic forest with magical mist. They use this as a base to harass the Evil Empire, and to help the various people messed up by said Evil Empire. Eventually there’s a sufficiently-large amount of refugees that Euden actually is able to declare independence from Evil Empire. What comes of this major event? Not a whole lot. Besides going to not!Venice to get an ally, things just proceed in typical JRPG fashion: save villagers from monsters or The Evil Empire, go to parties, throw parties. entertain foreigners, fight off the occasional Evil Empire patrol, and so on. The game’s story rarely uses the fact that Euden is a ruler to much effect. Sometimes, late in the story, he commands an army, or something, but generally he’s just a jrpg protagonist going around with his jrpg party gathering allies. And of course there’s the typical gacha stuff where he interacts personally with just about every character, in a manner befitting a jrpg protagonist, not a ruler (they say king; but duke, or maybe even count, would be more appropriate).

In just these few worldbuilding, political areas, the game somewhat falls flat. And it’s a real shame, because this isn’t just another typical jrpg (or even western rpg) story. They could have actually done something special here, but they didn’t even think out the implications of events in their own story. And that’s the real kicker – I think a lot of people look down on mobile rpg stories because the stories tend to do this. It seems most stories aren’t written by proper writers, but by people high up on the dev team – often the directors themselves – and that can lead to these situations where there are good idea seeds, but the seeds aren’t allowed to grow and mature, at least not properly (tonight’s story update is probably going to be a good example of this, but that’s spoiler territory). It’s just lost potential.