Today I came across a spellcaster ARKit game called Dragon Power Fighter AR. I always enjoy trying out new genres in AR. I know spell-casting games because I played them previously in VR. What I usually love about this shooter sub-genre is the visual effects and engaging gameplay experience. It’s interesting how well this game will play in AR, specially considering that it’s not a first-person shooter—I guess we’ll find out in this review.
Dragon Power Fighter AR Gameplay
Dragon Power Fighter AR is a third-person spellcasting shooter game developed using ARKit. You play as a superhero slash wizard kid that can fly like Superman and shoots fire projectiles as a weapon, using them to fight against alien creatures. The game was designed to be played in a standing position as the player will continuously be moving around the environment to control the kid’s flight to avoid projectiles and picking up power-ups from the floor.
The game is involved in shooting fire projectiles. However, you can also find different power-ups that will either change your weapon or improve your abilities. For example, there is a power-up sword ability (Sword mode) that grants you a powerful Japanese sword to take down enemies up close, but it’s available only for a limited time. There is also a Rage mode that will increase your speeds depending on the level you are. There is also the Destroy mode, in that mode, your powers destroy everyone around you in a blink of an eye.
As you progress through the waves you will gain permanent power boost that will help you survive in tougher levels. I was able to get an electric field around me (still don’t know what is it for exactly) and my primary spell-casting ability is faster.
The Hero has two shooting modes: regular fire projectiles and Super Power projectile. The superpower is slower to charge and release and also moves slower, but it deals more damage. At higher levels, you’ll need to shoot each enemy several times to eliminate it and it becomes really hard to clear up a wave at higher levels. I was only able to do it while flying my character around to void getting hit and also using the ability to revive the player by watching a full-screen 30-second ad in return; fair enough.
Let’s take a look at a gameplay video!
There is also a permanent shield ability that you can use to protect yourself from incoming projectiles. The use of this ability is quite slow and you need to time it right. I found that it’s not that useful at higher levels and preferred just dodging projectiles and shooting back. You can destroy an enemy projectile buy shooting it with your projectile, but then your spell is consumed and you need to release another shot to hit the enemy.
Enemies can also block your attacks. This is a really a dynamic part of the gameplay that I really like and it becomes really hard to shoot down many enemies at higher levels and requires constant movement in order to survive. Of course, you can just stand in place and shoot all the enemies, but if you do that, you are sure to die very quickly.
Another nice mechanics is the ability to stagger an enemy when you shoot it, which prevent it from shooting back for like 2 seconds. You can use this to stop an enemy from releasing the second shot. I use it to spray a group of enemies while I fly around the map to avoid getting hit.
The one thing that I really found missing is a global leaderboard. I really want to see how do I stack up against other players. You only have your personal best highscore (both highest wave and highest score) and you only see it when you start a game, why not on the home screen?! 🙁
Graphics & AR Experience
I usually prefer a first-person shooter experience, but in AR games I am willing to experience anything. I have played some first-person shooters in AR like Zombie Gunship Revenant AR and Alien Invaders AR and enjoyed the enjoyed them a lot.
In Dragon Power Fighter AR you control your fighter using your iPhone or iPad camera. Wherever you move, the character will fly towards you and will appear at the left side of the screen. For example, if you point your iPhone towards the floor, you can see that the kid changes from standing posture to flying posture. It feels good being able to control the character like that with the iPad. The animation is a bit choppy and sometimes the character stays out of the screen bounds because the character moves slower than you do, but it works fine overall.
There is also a “Night Mode” where there are no health pack drops and no position tracking enabled. This mode was designed so you can play at night or in a dark environment. The position tracking is disabled because ARKit can’t detect surfaces in a dark environment. The developer calls it like to make it like a “Hard mode” like playing at night would be more challenging. You can play this mode in any lighting situations, but the AR experience in this mode is reduced significantly. The game was very jittery in Night mode and my character lost position all the time, making this almost unplayable. I do have to admit that the splashy visual effects look much better in a dark environment and I guess this is another reason why the developer enabled it.
Here is another screenshot of the Night Mode because the visual experience is just that good!
Although it felt that Dragon Power Fighter AR needs more optimizations to work more reliably in AR, I have to say that for me, the entire gameplay experience was exquisite.
This game has probably the best looking visual effects that I’ve seen in an AR game so far. Effects that you usually get to see in ARKit demo apps. I was actually surprised that it worked so smooth on my iPad in the highest graphics settings. I especially liked the explosion effects which are just amazing to look at. I really enjoy seeing beautiful visual effects in games, because it improves the immersion and helps to elevate the entire gameplay experience, especially in action games. A few examples of good games have amazing graphics effects are Twilight Pioneers: Dragon Arena, powARdup, NBA AR App, and Zombie gunship Revenant AR. I reviewed all of those games, so you can just visit the review to take a look at some game screenshots and gameplay videoes to see what I mean.
In the settings page, you can also control the graphics quality and choose between “Fast”, “Good” or “Beautiful”. I know, weird UI text. I first didn’t know what this means.”Beautiful” is the best graphics quality. You probably should use fast if you want to play in fast frame rate or if you encounter slow frame rates while playing the game. I played the game on “Beautiful” on my iPad 9.7-inch 2017 and noticed some slow frame rate at times, but overall the framerate was impressive considering all the lighting effects that happened on screen at the same time.
I really liked the cool pause effect. This effect looks really cool in games with lots of impressive visual effects. When you pause the game, both the characters and the game effects are frozen in place and you can move around them in the 3D space–it looks beautiful. I first saw this in the game called powARdup and it was a beautiful sight to behold.
The visual effects are the highlight of this game, no doubt about it. It makes a huge difference in how the game feels when you play it, especially when it accompanied by great sound effects, animations, and a great gameplay experience.
I do have some things that I would like to see improved, for example:
- Make the hero characters move faster to the camera’s anchor point so it will be less time outside the screen’s outer visible region.
- Make the enemies move around the map, right now they just stand in place and shoot/defend.
- Add some sort of an engine burst effect underneath their feet the enemies, they look weird just standing in space.
- Maybe it’s just me but the UI graphics can be more appealing, it looks like from a game from the 80s.
- The Nigh Mode is almost unplayable. Many times the characters just fly far into the distance and I have no control of it anymore, maybe I did, but it’s too far for me to see anything. Just keep in mind that this mode not using ARKit so there is no position tracking.
- Adding voice to the kid can be really nice like when he shoots downs an enemy he gets excited or makes him make a voice when he gets hit, etc.Same goes for the enemies.
- Maybe I didn’t reach high enough, but I didn’t see boss fights. This can be really cool!
- A global leaderboard is missing
- The shield mechanics is too slow and I found myself not using it. It somewhat ruins the flow of the game, should be faster in my opinion.
The game doesn’t have a lot of depth and it’s all about progressing through the waves. I wish there was more of a little story so we know a bit of this kid and his powers, could be really nice.
I have many ideas that can make the game even better, but maybe this how the developer wanted it to be, just a casual fun yet challenging ARKit spellcaster game, and that’s fine by me. In fact, any game can be improved in many ways, but it doesn’t necessary means that the game should be slashed hard for the lack of the developer’s intention to deliver the gameplay experience as it is. I am looking at the whole package (e.g. features, issues, graphics, content, UI, gameplay experience, fun factor, innovation, performance, usability, etc.) and compare it to other game in its genre and see how its stacks up. My final impressions are very positive and it’s great that the first spellcaster game in AR looks and play so well. It puts a high bar for other developers who want to developer a similar game.
I am so pleased that I found Dragon Power Fighter AR. It’s one of the more interesting casual ARKit shooters out there in my opinion and it is a very photogenic game as well. It does so many things so well, including having exquisite visual effects, it nails down the 3rd person movement really well (some improvements are needed), there is in-game progression system, the shooting experience is satisfying, there are variety of enemies to shoot, nice defensive mechanics for both the hero and the enemies, beautiful animations, loveable hero character, challenging gameplay, stunning night mode (although need optimizations badly), great sound effects, progressive music, ability to control the graphics quality, cool power-ups and weapon modes, easy controls, cool pause mode and more.
Many AR games are missing many of those things. I try to pay close attention to as many fine details as I can and this game has done really well in so many aspects. This is why the end results is a very satisfying AR gameplay experience.
There are things that can definitely improve the game, even more, I mentioned some of the above. The game is free on the app store, it features frequent full-screen ads, but it’s well worth it and helps support the developer for his hard work.
This is the first spellcaster game I played in AR and WOW, what an impressive display that was. It’s already late and I really wanted to this review to reflect all the positive and negative part of this game for two main reasons: first, to make sure many people try this game and support the developer for his great work so we can see this game become better and seeing more great game from it in the future, and second, hopefully, this review is read by the developer and he can see my remarks and improve it where it needs to be improved.
This is an excellent ARKit shooter, and I highly recommend that you play it. I definitely going back to play it more.
P.S. if you pay close attention to the enemies’animations, you can see that sometimes the enemy put his hands on the hips like saying: “I’m here, come on and try to shoot me”.