Because you gotta keep players hustling, bustling, and busier than beavers!
This post is part of a series on the mobile action RPG by Nintendo and Cygames, Dragalia Lost.
Natalie Rambles About Dragalia Lost – 2021 Remix
Chapter 1: Story and Aesthetics
Chapter 2: Play and Progression
Chapter 3: Quests, Events, Modes, and Endgame
Chapter 4: Summoning, Monetization, and Gacha
Chapter 5: Petty Quibbles and Miscellaneous Desires
Chapter 3-1: A Dilly Daily
As a gacha mobile RPG, the daily loop for the typical player in Dragalia Lost is what you would expect. Log in, get a small bonus, do daily quests, and complete daily rewards— doing your dailies as the kids like to say. Once that is taken care of, players are expected to spend their remaining reserve of stamina and getherwings on three things. Furthering along their progression by completing new quests and, if applicable, advancing in the story. Partaking in the ongoing special events in the game. And finally, accumulating valuable materials that will help them progress in the game, as you’re going to need a LOT of materials.
To provide some definitions, stamina is an auto-replenishing resource spent whenever the player partakes in single-player content and getherwings are much the same, but for co-op multiplayer content. Both serve the same basic goal of keeping the player coming back to the game and making them wait, causing Dragalia, and many games like it, to be gradual and persistent parts of one’s day, where players are intended to poke and play it in small bursts periodically. Or else they are just wasting a resource with a very clear maximum capacity and not getting more potential resources by clearing quests.
But before talking about regular quests, I would first like to talk about events.
Chapter 3-2: Events on the Horizon
Events are time-limited content featuring their own story, quests, and materials that the player accumulates over the span of several days, or even weeks, in order to obtain valuable resources, and diversify their experience in general. Events are typically the primary objective for players after they complete their dailies, as they offer elusive rewards and resources.
As to be expected, events come in a variety of flavors, but the general purpose and activities remain the same. Each event is attuned to a certain element, or elements, and put the player through a repeated cycle of quests to get the aforementioned rewards, and perhaps a permanent boon to help them in their path of progression.
Raid Events are driven by co-op boss battles between four teams of four adventurers and a large and imposing foe. As players defeat this foe, they are awarded emblems that unlock rewards, blazons tickets that are used as part of raffles that grant players various materials, an exclusive event wyrmprint, and a permanent addition to one’s team. Older events from the first 1.5 years of the game’s life and their revived renditions offered an exclusive 4-star adventurer and a crappy 5-star event welfare Max Unbound dragon. But modern events instead only offer an exclusive 5-star adventurer and Conviction items used to max out their Mana Circle all the way to 50.
When playing these events, players engage in a reward loop with a handful of quests to max out their emblem rewards for the event’s duration and obtain Blazons continuously. All of which is a fairly simple process that you can reduce to a few bullet points.
- Use stamina to embark on Boss Battles to earn bronze emblems and Otherworld Fragments.
- Use getherwings and Otherworldly Fragments to partake in Raid Battles in exchange for silver and gold emblems and (sometimes) Otherworld Gems.
- Use Otherworld Gems (but not Getherwings) to play EX/Extra Raid Battles to receive oodles of gold emblems.
- And on a daily basis, use Otherworld Fragments and getherwings to play Nightmare/Ultra Raid Battles to snag oodles of Emblems, along with a randomized sampler of rare upgrade materials
Raid events are a rather fun idea, but as player Might has ballooned over the years since the game’s launch, they have become increasingly easier and… nothing compared to what they once were. Most Raid Battles last only a few seconds before the boss is felled. Which is what happens when you bring a 50,000 Might team into a 7,800 Might encounter, and things get even worse when considering that Raid Events also come with Raid Boosts, which buff adventurer’s stats and give them extra passive abilities during battle.
There are also Omega difficulty renditions of these Raid Bosses, which are harder and more deliberate encounters where players need to learn patterns and strategies. However, after players clear these encounters once, they really have no reason to return to them. Which is unfortunate, as many of them are good and fun enough to warrant regular replays..
Facility Events have players hop between single-player quests in order to amass three core things: Event-exclusive materials that can be exchanged for resources at the event Treasure Trade. Reward points that distribute goodies when the player reaches predetermined thresholds, with the max being 1 million. And, most importantly, materials used to upgrade the event’s corresponding facility, which not only grants a permanent boost to the HP and strength of certain adventurers, but it also grants the player’s party the ability to deal extra damage to enemies within this event.
The gameplay loop of these events involves playing Boss Battles to accumulate facility materials, upgrade their facility to a sufficient level, before trying to take on the Challenge Battles. Where players fend off against 5 waves of enemies in exchange for reward points and more event-exclusive materials. Thereby showering them with a deluge of rewards not readily obtainable outside of events.
It, not unlike raid events, is a grindy cycle that encourages players to repeat content for rewards, but with two core differences. One is that players can minimize their time in events through the use of special wyrmprints that are distributed as part of the event, or obtainable via the wyrmprint Shop. These wyrmprints boost the number of facility materials and reward points players obtain by completing quests, and when used effectively on all party members, allow them to go through this content relatively quickly, while still earning enough event-exclusive materials to get the most coveted rewards.
In regards to what the player actually does, the encounters themselves are not particularly interesting, and once players are well beyond the Might recommendation, they can fairly safely auto their way through these quests while the game players at 2.0x speed. Which is convenient, but it robs these events of having anything remotely challenging, and turns them into something most experienced players can simply grind through. Which is a bit upsetting, as there is merit to these types of encounters. However, to make them more difficult would mean locking out newer players, so the developers keep them easy and breezy.
Also, older Facility Events featured these Extra Boss Battles that cropped up every 1 to 3 clears of the Expert difficulty Boss Battle quest. However, these have been cut from future facility events, much to the delight of the community.
Invasion Events are the newest Event type in Dragalia Lost, having debuted in May 2021, and their hook is that they are endurance tests to see how many enemies a player, or group of players, can defeat within 90 seconds in order to be given a sum of reward points and various currencies to spend in a treasure trade. Where the usual spectrum of goodies can be obtained, along with a collection of 3 wyrmprints with low upgrade costs and a weapon skin.
This might sound like the weakest selection of rewards for any event, and that’s pretty much the case. Raid events and facility events both offer their own exclusive low-cost wyrmprint, but the extra two here feel like less valuable than a new adventurer or facility event, which are paths to power for new players, while wyrmprints typically are not. Hell, they don’t even have the nightmare bonuses that raid and facility events offer, which are some of the best ways to get otherwise elusive items, such as sunlight stone shards.
As for the gameplay of these events, they largely consist of repeating the same 90 second quest 5 times a day and battling endless waves of enemies. The preferred way to do so is to use a rapid-first manacaster unit such as Lapis, Gala Leoniadas, Gala Chelle, or Cecile to decimate the opposition by holding down the screen and watching the character auto-aim.
While this content is less auto-friendly than others, it really is just as mindless and, by taking more time and effort, these events outstay their welcome in my book, and I look forward to future revisions. Because I think the only thing about these events that I truly like are the “Trials” with other adventurers. …which players are only encouraged to play four times, and never again..
Raid, facility, and now invasion events are the primary flavors of events. Beyond those, there were also collab events for Fire Emblem, Mega Man, Monster Hunter, and Persona 5. All of which did something a little different, but were nevertheless fun and cute additions to the game.
However, starting in June 2020 to Dragalia Lost began experimenting with a secondary style of events, which consisted of Onslaught Events, Defensive Events, and a single Colosseum Event. These events heavily recycle existing assets and content and guide players through a series of quests where they amass Glory points and Primal Crystals that can be exchanged at the event Treasure Trade. During this process, players are adorned with oodles of stamina items, and by the end, assuming their Might is high enough, their time with the event is spent partaking in a loop of Master level quests and EX quests. All with the end goals of maxing out their Glory points to 2 million and earning enough Primal Crystals to empty out the Treasure Trade of valuable goodies.
They’re basically facility events without the facilities and associated boosts and instead, their primary rewards were excessive amounts of honey, ranging somewhere from 5,520 to 6,720 if my math is right, and 5 elemental tomes for two elements. Which made them the primary avenue for unlocking shared skills.
That all being said, discussing these events is somewhat… irrelevant at the moment as, it was announced that Dragalia Lost will not see any new Offensive, Defensive, or Colosseum events starting in December 2021. Now, I am wrapping this post up in October, so I do not know what exactly will become of these events beyond reruns or being added to the Event Compendium. But I can at least convey what these events were like.
Onslaught Events are battles where the player shapeshifts into their dragon form and (either as a single unit or as a team of four dragons) must fight off against waves of enemies. It is a notable change from controlling adventurers, and there is a certain novelty to playing as these dragons for a prolonged period of time. However, dragon movesets are limited, with most only possessing a basic 3-hit combo and a single skill, so there is not much that players can do other than dodge, attack, and charge up their skills.
Plus, there is a shocking lack of variety in these Events. Every instance of these events use the same maps for the major encounters, and the only thing that truly changes are the elements of the enemies you fight. Or in other words, they get points for trying something different, but these… these just always felt like fluff.
Defensive Events task the player, or players, to run about a set map with the goal of protecting their base, or rather gate, from waves of spawning enemies, and possibly dealing with secondary mechanics, such as houses that are attacked and drawbridges that must be lowered. They are definitely the most different sort of gameplay seen in Dragalia Lost, giving players an objective more complex than simple survival, and I personally really enjoy them. They’re frantic, can be demanding, and while they are all very procedural, requiring players to do a very specific set of tasks, they have enough complexity and demand enough attention that I appreciated them on two levels.
I appreciated them as cooperative challenges, where players must band together, learn the fight, and split up, with each fulfilling a role and keeping specific mobs at bay in order to complete the quest as quickly and with as many bonuses as possible. But I also appreciated them as single-player challenges, as it puts a lot more agency on the player and their decisions.
While these quests were once a good challenge, that is not really the case anymore. Player Might has boosted dramatically since their introduction, but their challenge level has remained stagnant, making these quests procedural… or that would be the case, but the developers added the ability to auto-play these quests, which has robbed them of their challenge. Now you can just pair up with a team of decently strong players and let the game take care of all opposition.
When combined with the lack of distinct maps (there are three maps and one reskin across 9 different Events), these events strike me as a good idea with a lacking execution. I understand why these events are now easier, why auto was introduced, and why there are so few maps, but that does not make them any more stimulating to go through, especially after going through the same damn maps hundreds of times.
Colosseum Events were almost something, but the only entry in this category was Fortune’s Fray back in January 2021. An event that pitted the player against a scattering of New Year’s themed characters from
Japan Hinomoto, and these battles were great fun that required the player to practice crowd control (or assemble an auto-comp to cheese through the battle). However, it takes time and design to come up with attack patterns for several unique encounters with new enemies, so I can see why things petered off from this initial installment.
There is also one more type of event in the form of Time Attack Challenges. Which, as the name implies, pits players against a series of quests where they need to reach a designated clear time to advance to the next stage, all until they reached ranked battles, where they can battle solo and co-op variants of familiar endgame bosses from The Agito Uprising and Rise of the Sinister Dominion. Depending on how fast the players’ clears are, and what stratum of the ranking they fall into, they are awarded an epithet, and their team compositions are featured on the Dragalia Lost website.
Honestly, there is not much to say about these events. They last for about a week, give players an appreciated injection of rupies and eldwater, and the only reward in winning is a title to share in co-op lobbies. I personally do not care about the competitive side of these fights, but I still do the dailies when the events are live, and I appreciate the paltry amount of drops I get while chipping away at these fights. Not for glory, but for clears.
Time Attack Challenges started in December 2020, currently take place near the end of every month, and while I am fairly underwhelmed by them beyond their rewards, they are a far cry from the disaster that was the Time Attack Rankings introduced back in October 2019, which I talk about more in Chapter 3-7.
Overall, the events of Dragalia Lost are a sort of microcosm of the same quest/reward/power gameplay loop that the game as a whole is founded on, and while I could criticize them for being very formulaic in their structure and gameplay, I do ultimately look forward to what every event will bring.
From the new story that is placed front and center to the oodles of rewards, to the thrill of seeing something different. Events are the lifeblood of just about every gacha game or persistent live service like this, and while some things could be done better, I ultimately enjoy the staple of events Dragalia Lost has developed. They’re fun, the stories have been getting increasingly better, and they are celebrations in their own right, as players are rewarded with oodles upon oodles of goodies.
Chapter 3-3: Actually, Everything is an Event
So, you know how I just described the main types of events seen in Dragalia Lost? Well, in doing so I may have been misleading, because, based on the main quest menu, everything aside from the main campaign in Dragalia Lost is considered an “event.” However, the word “event,” at least in the world of gacha games, does not refer to a permanent fixture. It refers to something temporary, designed to keep players active, and different from the permanent content.
This is a point of confusion that dates back from this game’s first year, where its quests were segregated between the campaign and events via different screens, and rather than updating or relabelling these quests, the developers have stuck with the existing terminology. It is ultimately a minor issue, as anybody who I talk to about events could assuredly figure out that I actually mean “Limited Events,” but it is a particular bugbear of mine.
Chapter 3-4: The Permanent Events
So, I described what the time-limited content of Dragalia Lost is, but beyond that, what does one do on a daily basis, specifically? Well, apropos of a brief descriptor, here is what one does in every one of the little boxes lined up on the main Quest menu.
Avenue to Power: A wave-based quest against enemies that drop level up materials for adventurers, dragons, and weapons.
Avenue to Fortune: A simple map-based quest against enemies that drop a liberal amount of rupies, which are primarily used for constructing facilities and crafting weapons.
Elemental Ruins: A simple map-based quest with elemental hazards and enemies that grants players elemental orbs that upgrade adventurers and facilities, and some basic weapon crafting materials.
Dragon Trials: Boss battles against the five elemental story dragons, the Greatwyrms, who drop dragon level up materials, dragon scales that upgrade adventurers and facilities, and dragon spheres that are used to get duplicates of the Greatwyrms and upgrade facilities. Though, more plentiful amounts of these materials can be obtained from the Prelude difficulty of the Advanced Dragon Trials.
Imperial Onslaught: Battles against a wave of enemies before a boss enemy appears, while avoiding hazards unique to each element. Each rendition drops its own assortment of materials for crafting core elemental weapons and upgrading weapon-based facilities known as dojos.
Mercurial Gauntlet: A DPS test that tasks players to defeat a stationary enemy that occasionally attacks teams within a set amount of time. Each successful clear unlocks a higher level with a girthier target and provides players with both immediate rewards and a more plentiful treasure trove of rupies, eldwater, and crafting materials on the 15th of every month. Unlike other quests, this is not meant to be repeated or grinded, and should only be visited as players reach DPS milestones and wish to test their might… and Might.
Astral Raids: Co-op battles where the player’s team and the teams of three other players band together to fight bosses from former raid events. These are available during weekends when there is no ongoing raid event and mostly exist as a way for players to get a periodic uptick in various upgrade materials along with augments, which are boosts to the HP and strength of adventurers and wyrmprints. For most players, they are a very minor occurrence that can be taken care of in two minutes but remain part of Dragalia’s game loop. They are probably in need of a revision, and a difficulty higher than Master’s paltry 15,000 Might, when many players are brushing well past 50,000 Might.
Void Battles: Void Battles are… a complicated mess that I have detailed in Chapter 3-7. But the general gist is that they are mostly gimmick battles where players must contend with some debuff inflicted on adventurers or a buff on their opponent. Most Void Battles are used exclusively to get upgrades for Void weapons, and you get all the materials you need in ~10 runs of each. Void Dragons are used to get High Dragon weapon upgrade materials, void leaves to exchange for rupies, augments, and tier 4 elemental orbs. While Chimera battles are used to get materials for Chimeratech weapons, void leaves to exchange for rupies, augments, and tier 4 elemental orbs. Also, all Void Battle quests are on a permanent double drop rotation, so if you are going to play these quests, only do it when double drops are active.
Event Compendium: While the vast majority of events are only held on a limited basis, several events (mostly facility events) have been added to a pool of permanently accessible and downloadable events that the player can enjoy in their entirety. This includes the story, rewards, wyrmprints, and facilities that were originally distributed, albeit with some slight modifications. I highly recommend that new players check out these events, as they offer a collection of cheap-tp-upgrade wyrmprints, wyrmite that can be used for summoning, materials that can be otherwise hard to come by, and facilities that can provide a substantial boost to a team’s Might, even early on.
I honestly love the Event Compendium, and my only real qualm with it is how limited its scope is, and how selective its updates are.
The Alberian Battle Royale: Introduced with the Version 2.0 update, The Alberian Battle Royale is… what it sounds like. A 16-player battle royale where players select one of 9 weapons types, and character skins, before traversing throughout a familiar map, searching for level up whetstones, skill tokens, and buff tokens. All while hiding from or hunting other players in order to fill up the dragon gauge. I have some more detailed thoughts on this mode and its history, but I’ll put them in Chapter 3-5 instead.
Trials of the Mighty: Introduced in April 2021, Trials of the Mighty are challenge battles where the player must use a team limited by specific element and weapon type to take down an imposing boss, either with a solo team, or with a co-op team. The battles rotate out on a weekly basis, with one to three new battles being added every month as of writing this. The primary reward, and reason to play these encounters, is to obtain adventurer convictions and devotions, which are used to upgrade the mana spirals of select adventurers. My thoughts on this are a bit more complicated, but I’ll save them for Chapter 3-6.
Advanced Dragon Trials: A series of five unique boss encounters that once functioned as the endgame in Dragalia Lost, but have since been rebalanced into more of an optional piece of content. Please see Chapter 3-7 for a history lesson on this mode, and some brief thoughts on it in its current form.
The Agito Uprising: A series of five unique boss encounters that served as the endgame for Dragalia Lost for over a year, and are essential content for getting both a massive boost to adventurer HP and strength, along with the objectively best weapons in the game. I have quite a bit to say about them, which I’ll get to in Chapter 3-8.
Rise of the Sinister Dominion: The latest wave of endgame content with five unique boss encounters, where the goal is to obtain additional wyrmprints that boost adventurers in a slight yet meaningful manner. I have a bone to pick with this mode, but I’ll save that for Chapter 3-9.
The Agito Uprising – Legend Difficulty: A series of super challenging encounters that remix and expand what was introduced in The Agito Uprising and form to create the hardest content in the game thus far. However, these challenges mostly exist for the sake of providing players a challenge and completing them does not provide the player with anything more than minor stat boosts and weapon skins. They are good hard fights, and while they can be ripe bastards to figure out, I like them.
Morsayati Reckoning: A permanently available raid boss where four teams fight off against an intimidating and bombastic super boss, whose story is detailed in the Forgotten Truths event in the Event Compendium. I personally think this fight is wonderfully chaotic, has an epic presentation, and consider it a highlight of the game. The only downside is that co-op is very much geared to people who use a specific team composition of Gala Mym, Gala Cleo, Grace, and either Templar Hope or Patia. Even though there are no restrictions to this content, and there are hundreds of team compositions that could clear this fight. Still, this fight is a fun weekly highlight, and I would love to see more like them going forward.
Regardless, this fight mostly exists as a weekly excursion for most players, as the primary reason to play it is to obtain dragon augments, and facility upgrade materials that players can accumulate elsewhere.
Chapter 3-5: Player Euden’s BattleGrounds
Back in 2018, it was a common joke that every game was getting a Battle Royale mode after the success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds… or I guess PUBG Battlegrounds as it’s now known. And while Dragalia was two years late to the party… they sure did try to launch a battle royale mode. The Alberian Battle Royale (ABR) sees the player and 15 others players, or AI controlled characters, traverse through a large map that is gradually consumed by an encroaching miasma or destruction. As the map grows smallers, encounters with other players before more likely, and the hectic intensity of these matches reaches a fever pitch until only two remain amidst the encroaching miasma, and only one emerges alive and victorious.
It’s basically what one imagines when imagining a battle royale mode, and there are no meaningful carryovers from the rest of the game. There is no permanent progression in the mode itself. Available cosmetics are based on what adventurers and weapons players have in their roster. There is zero monetization directly associated with this mode. And while certain adventurers have unique traits or skills, pretty much every player going into an encounter has the same or comparable tools as their competitors.
Instead, what determines winners and losers largely comes down to memorizing the map layout, semi-randomized resource locations, player spawn locations, general luck, and a decent bit of skill.
Okay, so what exactly is the point of this mode then? Well, that is twofold. The point of this mode is to provide a form of multiplayer content that all players of all skill levels can enjoy together. But the reason why people continue to play this mode is to acquire rewards, which include an exclusive weapon skin, eldwater, rupies, two sunlight stone shards, and other goodies.
These rewards reset every month, and are obtained by amassing 1,920 battle points every month or by trading them in The Alberian Battle Royale treasure trade. Battle points (BP) carry over from month to month, and they are awarded to players based on their performance in the battle royale. If you come 12-16th place get 5 BP, 8-11th place snags 10 BP, 4-7th place is awarded 20 BP, 2nd and 3rd place get 40 BP, and the winner of the royale gets 80 BP. On top of this, there is a 2 BP bonus for every opponent defeated during the match, which caps after receiving 10 BP.
Now, you can do the math and determine just how long it would take for a player to typically get through this mode, and in my experience, it tends to be something like 50 or 80 rounds a month, with rounds lasting a max of about 5 minutes. Take the higher number from that range, throw in the waiting times for matches to begin, and ABR takes about… 7 hours a month or so, and the better one is at the mode, the less time they need to spend in it.
This time commitment, paired with how ABR is only held on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, has caused many players to view ABR as the most chore-like element of playing Dragalia Lost. And I have to agree with that sentiment. While the mode had a novelty when it launched, the hide and seek mechanics are not especially deep. And the fact that it is the same map every round really causes the mode to feel monotonous.
Part of that is my fault, as I have the same routine for nearly every encounter. I take the manacaster weapon type, as they have a good range to their attacks and a skill that boosts their speed and defense. And then I spend a few minutes patrolling around the map, looking for goodies, and then rushing into the fray as the map shrinks and all players are rallied together, while using all healing tokens I come across. I generally avoid conflict until the end, and when I do get KOs, it is normally thanks to AFK players who are hoping to farm BP passively, or bots are less aggressive than normal players, yet harder to land hits on… somehow.
Now, Dragalia has made efforts to keep this mode enjoyable over the year since its launch. They did this by rebalancing adventurers, revising the point and reward systems, changing the map by scorching the earth, and giving players a new dragon form to use every month or so. However, the core of the experience is incredibly formulaic, predictable, and loses its luster without more frequent mechanical changes. It’s fine, it’s fun enough, but it also feels like the dev team bit off more than they could chew here, and they lack the resources to develop this mode into something more.
Part of the reason why I feel confident in this assumption is that it has been over a year since ABR launched, and it is still in season 0. Implying that it is still in a beta or testing phase or sorts, and has yet to begin its seasonal run, whatever that means
ABR definitely has potential to be something great, but I do not think a PVP mode like this was ever the best idea, and while I appreciate the game introducing new and different content, the ultimate execution felt more like a monthly chore than anything else.
Chapter 3-6: The Mighty and the Tritey
Conceptually, Trials of the Mighty (TotM) are the sort of thing I wanted to see from Dragalia Lost for a while. For as much as I enjoy the title’s action RPG gameplay, it does get slightly repetitive to battle against the same scattering of endgame bosses with high stakes, instead of something more varied and moderately forgiving.
This is precisely what TotM offers. Content that is varied, approachable, and not meant to be replayed ad nauseum in order to receive an ample sum of rewards, as TotM only asks and incentivizes players to play through quests once a day. And this is because the primary rewards for these quests are locked behind a daily bonus. A daily bonus consisting of dragon augments, facility upgrade materials, and most importantly, convictions and devotions used to unlock a specific adventurer’s mana spiral.
Conceptually, I thought this quest content sounded great, and even six months later, I enjoy going through these quests every morning and seeing what each new encounter has to offer. To me, they strike a balance between something novel, interesting, fun, and just challenging enough that I need to stop and think about what I am doing. …Without being even close to as demanding as a new endgame boss.
However, there are some genuine criticisms to be had with TotM, and I would like to discuss them in detail.
Weapon Limitations: Every Trials of the Mighty encounter (excluding raid battles) forces players to bring three or four weapon types into an encounter, and prevents them from using off-element adventurers. This strongly limits the options available to players, and while all element and weapon combinations (excluding manacasters) have a readily available 3-star or 4-star unit, it still nudges players to invest in more adventurers. This is not good for their material or eldwater resources. Though it does encourage the community to try out more adventurers and give them another chance, which is good.
Also, I quite enjoy how the developers have spun this limitation into keeping these fights interesting. While a TotM quest might first appear with a certain set of weapon restrictions, the developers have started a trend of changing the weapon restrictions with each reprisal. This, combined with the months-long gap between reruns, keeps these battles feeling fresh and exciting, as the content is ultimately temporary, yet lives on in bursts.
Mana Spiral Strain: The biggest criticism for TotM is how players need to obtain the daily bonus 26 times on Expert or Master difficulty in order to get the 45 convictions and 20 devotions needed to upgrade an adventurer. While that might sound reasonable, each quest is only available for a week before a new one is rotated out, and the developers introduce anywhere from one to three new TotM battles every month. There are currently 17 TotM encounters as of publishing this, and the mode has been available for 6 months.
When a new TotM quest is added, it is literally impossible for players to unlock an adventurer’s entire mana spiral, and at the current release rate of this content, it looks like it will never be possible for players to catch up and unlock the mana spirals for every adventurer. Now, I personally look at this as an obvious issue, and assume that the developers already have a solution in mind. Such as archiving older TotM quests and making their convictions and devotions either readily available on a permanent basis. Or by introducing substitutes to convictions and devotions.
Some might look at this as bad design, but I personally look at this as a way for Dragalia to draw out the accumulation of power over a longer period of time, which is a good way to combat power creep. …And also as a way for Dragalia to make some money. I will discuss this in more detail in Chapter 4-4, but players have the ability to purchase the 7-day Pack (Double Bonus), a pack that lets players obtain twice as many daily or weekly bonuses within a 7-day (or technically 8-day) period.
This cuts down the 26 day wait time into 13 days, and makes it possible for frequent purchases to unlock… I don’t want to do the math, so I’ll just say most TotM mana spirals after their first rerun. Or in other words, while this is arguably the game being non-free-to-play friendly, I do not mind it, as you never NEED the mana spirals locked behind TotM. Hell, for more adventurers, you can get their most significant upgrade by playing these trials for a week.
Bad Theming: This is more of a personal issue of mine, but something that bothers me about TotM is how there is seldom any thematic connection between the boss battle and the convictions/devotions they provide. You have things like Poseidon’s Trial dropping materials for Gala Elisanne, which makes sense as both characters have a connection in the main campaign. But then you have things that are completely random. Like Grimnir’s Trial, a battle against a summonable adventurer, which drops materials to upgrade Akasha, an adventurer who has absolutely zero connection to Grimnir.
It makes it harder to remember what each boss drops, and while I understand that most bosses are recycled from another source in some way (such as a boss featured in the main campaign), there is something that could have been done to improve the theming around them. Whether that be by changing the setting, music, or adding some flair to the boss. But I guess this is what happens when you need to put out content quickly. You cut corners to make the date while trying to make time to work on other projects.
Chapter 3-7: The Void of Anguish and Doing The Dragons Dirty
Back when Dragalia Lost launched in September 2018, Advanced Dragon Trials (which really should be named High Dragon Trials, but whatever) were the endgame content. Meaning that they were profoundly difficult challenges where death came swiftly, the damage and health checks were unforgiving, and it was hard for players to clear the content, let alone clear it regularly. This was true for the first High Dragon, High Midgarsormr, and for all successive encounters released over the following year. However, as the game progressed, players gained access to more power through passive buffs, the ability to equip more, and the ability to boost the power of adventurers.
What was the reward for completing these challenges? Well, players gained Greatwyrm Spheres that could be used to purchase the High Dragon that the player was fighting against, or to upgrade facilities that gave them a small passive buff— emphasis on small. It served as a solid goal for many players, albeit one that required a lot of prep work. First requiring a special wyrmprint to boost adventurers’ defense against High Dragons. Then by crafting a new category of weapons known as Void Weapons, weapons crafted and upgraded using materials from Void Battles.
Void Battles initially only existed for two purposes: To artificially add a mid-game for Dragalia Lost by giving players a series of regularly updated boss battles to throw themselves at. And to give players access to High Dragon’s Bane weapons, which dealt an additional 30% damage to the respective High Dragon. Now, this sounds like a fairly solid concept— introducing a new pillar for players to get into the endgame by fighting against new bosses (that were mostly recycled from bosses already seen in the campaign) as the endgame was way too hard considering the current power available to most players.
However, almost immediately, the developers began to overcomplicate things. In the current iterations of Dragalia Lost, there are only 256 weapons and 40 void weapons. But that was not always the case. Before the introduction of manacasters, the ninth weapon type, there were over 1,200 distinct weapons in Dragalia Lost, and I think something like 800 or 900 of them were Void Weapons, spread across 8 weapon types and 5 elements. To make matters worse, the manner in which players obtained the materials for these weapons was never as clear-cut as it ought to have been due to weapon upgrade trees and a gradual release of new Void weapons along with new Void Battles. Keeping track of what you actually needed was difficult, and the weapons themselves… were pretty terrible.
Hell, even to this day it is still confusing what players need to craft Void weapons, due to how the Void Battles do not follow a clear-cut elemental structure like… every other piece of content in Dragalia Lost. Seriously, just looking at this holey distribution boils my broth.
The underlying gimmick to most Void Battles was that enemies either had a buff that made them take less damage, or they dealt a debuff that caused players to deal less damage. These concepts could lead to interesting strategies as players work around limitations, but that was not what players were supposed to do. Players were supposed to craft a Void Weapon that nullified this buff or debuff in order to take on these encounters with ease.
From a game design perspective, this approach is just… terrible. It does not present the player with an interesting problem to solve or strategize around. It presents them with a limitation that they can circumvent by grinding. And… for what? For the ability to take on the endgame and craft weapons that deal an extra 30% damage?
Void Battles were a flawed concept, and since their introduction, the developers have been trying to make it easier and easier for players to circumvent them. In November 2019, they introduced rotating double drops, making farming far more tolerable. In April 2020, they made quests permanently available, instead of putting them on a rotating schedule. With the Version 2.0 update in September 2020, they combined nearly 1,000 void weapons into a series of 40 consolidated weapons.
Then in September 2021, the developers threw up their hands and boosted the drop numbers of Void Battles by a factor of 5 to 50. Not the actual rates though. So if a material was rare and only dropped some of the time, it will still only drop some of the time, when when it does drop, players get 50 of the material instead of 1. It’s far from an elegant solution… but it works.
But hopping back to year one, players did push through this, fighting dozens upon dozens of Ghosts, Golems, Hermits, Catoblepas, Phantoms, Manticores, and Void Dragons, all for a weapon that dealt an extra 20% to 30% damage to High Dragons. It was a crappy reward for all the effort, but even that little bit was a massive help in fighting the High Dragons, so players toiled away at the Void Battles to make these immense challenges a little bit easier. I mean, it was still super hard and players had to discover specific comps to simply clear this content, but it was possible.
As the collective player Might gradually increased with time, things got easier and easier. But then, right as players were just starting to clear this content consistently and reliably, during the first anniversary celebration, Dragalia Lost decided to expand the Advanced Dragon Trials… and they did a terrible job of that. Within the span of a few weeks, they did the following:
On October 11, 2019, the developers introduced Expert difficulties for all 5 of High Dragon Trials, which was a… truly terrible idea. When adding endgame content to a title, it is typically best to stagger it out over time so that players can lab, strategize, and clamour together to surmount challenges. But here, that really did not happen. Instead, players were thrown into a tizzy as they tried to go through five new pieces of, at the time, incredibly challenging content.
This was a bad move, but it gets worse. Part of the appeal of this new endgame content is that it led to the most meaningful form of power boost in the game up until that point in the form of High Dragon weapons, which required a truckload of materials to upgrade, yet made these fights far more manageable. This is not an inherently bad approach, as it allows players to gradually make the content easier for themselves and other players they pair up with via co-op. However, right when this new layer of endgame was introduced… the developers decided to put the players against each other.
Time Attack Rankings (not to be confused with the successor, Time Attack Challenges) were introduced simultaneously with the Expert difficulty Advanced High Dragon Trials. This event rewarded players with the fastest clear times on these quests with various materials… that I don’t think were ever made public, but were presumably fairly substantial. Now, I should not need to explain why including a time attack with brand new endgame content, at launch, is a bad idea. When players are still learning, the last thing you ever want to do is pit them against each other or encourage them to binge through content while adopting anti-social tendencies… which is exactly what Cygames did. They incentivised players to be incredibly selective with what players and adventurers they let into rooms while playing these Expert trials, as they wanted to do three things: Clear these encounters reliably. Farm for weapon materials. And clear these encounters quickly so they could get greater rewards.
I was not advanced enough in the game to play Advanced Dragon Trials at the time, but it sounds like the absolute worst… which makes it all the more surprising that it gets even worse.
On October 14, 2019, the developers introduced Master difficulty Advanced Dragon Trials, which were also a part of Time Attack Rankings, and provided materials used to further upgrade High Dragon weapons. However, these quests were only available for a single week before they would be phased out with another one. Meaning that not only did Cygames introduce 5 new endgame quests at once, they also introduced 5 super hard endgame quests over the span of a month.
This all congealed together into a revolting slurry and made the endgame community of Draglaia Lost absolutely toxic for a good month. People were encouraged and rewarded for being selective. Players were encouraged to play the game for hours upon hours to amass Might as quickly as possible. And the endgame was… just a complete mess when this launched. There was so much content to explore that nobody but diehards really understood what they were doing, and even when players learned the complicated, if not brutal, patterns of these fights, they had a long way to go if they wanted to amass more Might, as the path to getting High Dragon weapons was slow and tedious.
I have zero idea who at Cygames thought this was a good idea, and they knew they screwed up as, less than three months after introducing this new content, they began a year-long process of paving over it and replacing this endgame content with something far in a way better.
After making a mess of the entire weapon system in Dragalia Lost, they decided to more or less introduce a new pillar or path to weapon progression that began in December 2019 with the introduction of Chimeratech weapons and Agito weapons. Chimeratech weapons were crafted using materials from newly introduced Chimera Strike battles which, despite technically being Void Battles, function as something almost completely separated from the Void Battle ecosystem.
These Chimera battles had a low barrier to entry, they were incredibly powerful compared to Void and Core weapons, the weapon progression was straightforward, and they helped carry players directly into the new content released from December 2019 to August 2020, The Agito Uprising, where players could obtain the new endgame weapons, the Agito weapons. Weapons that were more powerful than High Dragon weapons, could be upgraded further, and had a unique buffing skill.
It took Cygames nearly a year to do so, but they managed to overwrite the Void and High Dragon weapons with something inarguably better. …But what about the High Dragon Trials? What happened to them? Well, quite a lot, actually.
By January 2020, Cygames realized they made many missteps with the High Dragon Trials and released an update that brought three major changes:
- It introduced a revive system to the game, which made all content, including High Dragon Trials, far easier than it was previously. When players fell in combat, their team, or character, would revive 5 seconds later, and if players survived certain quests without using all their revives, then they obtained a survival bonus of additional materials.
- It extended the time limit of these quests from the harsh 5 minute limit to a far more welcoming 10 minutes, making it easier for teams to clear the encounters without meeting as rigid DPS checks.
- And it introduced the Mentor system, where players would earn wyrmite (summoning currency) in exchange for helping new players clear Standard or Expert HDT.
This helped a lot of players ease into HDT, and after the subsequent changes to the opening blast in May 2020, HDT became a far more approachable and welcoming place for beginners… and only beginners.
In short, because players were offered the valuable resource of wyrmite for clearing HDT with new players and serving as a mentor, many players began using HDT as a place to farm wyrmite. If they entered a public room without being notified about a new player who would bestow them with wyrmite, then they would simply leave and keep doing this until they found what they wanted. This, more than anything, turned HDT into a crapshoot where brand new players were always aided by experienced ones. But when it came to their second clear, they were out of luck, and it became dramatically harder for them to find a spot in public rooms, as they lacked the experience for consistent clears, and they lacked the bonus that made these “Mentor Hunters” willing to aid them in the first place.
This was all overwritten with the Version 2.0 update in September 2020, which introduced a lot of systematic changes that made HDT far easier, and removed the Mentor system from the game entirely. This was great for players who were still working on High Dragon Trials… but players also did not have much of a reason to play HDT. The weapons earned from these Trials required an excessive amount of farming and were no longer useful as weapons. They were weaker than Agito weapons, marginally better than Chimeratech weapons, and Chimeratech weapons were designed to help players obtain Agito weapons, so they just wound up being pretty pointless.
This leads us to the current day, and asking what the purpose of the High Dragon Trials currently are, and the answer is fourfold:
- To introduce the player to more complicated boss encounters— and ones that are actually pretty fun in their current form.
- To obtain weapon bonuses that passively buffs the HP and strength of all adventurers who wield a certain weapon type.
- To craft facilities that buff dragon HP and strength by a paltry percentage, but more importantly to craft Dracolith facilities, which boost dragon damage by 50%, which is well worth the investment.
- And to obtain copies of High Dragons who, thanks to their fifth unbind, are well worth going after, especially if you have some gaps in your dragon roster. I mean, they give 40% strength, 40% HP, and start each battle with an additional 40% strength buff for 3 minutes.
After this, the High Dragon Trials were more or less put into ‘archive mode.’ The stamina costs per quest were lowered by 40% and the drop rates were increased by a factor of 3, both of which made it easier for players to be over and done with these quests. That being said, players are still incentivised to keep going back to these quests. Standard difficulty HDT is a great way to farm rupies. The weekly bonuses contain Twinkling Sand, a non-farmable weapon upgrade item. And by unlocking all 45 weapon bonuses, players gain access to a 7.5% HP and Strength bonus… that many players, such as myself, unlocked quite a while ago. So while they are not dead content, they are not particularly active either.
Chapter 3-8: Ascent of the Agito
After making a ripe mess of High Dragon Trials and leaving the endgame players with a laundry list of tasks to complete, Cygames then introduced another pillar to their endgame content known as The Agito Uprising. Like High Dragon Trials, these are bosses set in circular arenas and drop materials useful for both developing facilities and crafting weapons. But they were doled out in a far wiser manner, and made for a persistent part of the Dragalia Lost experience. With updates and new difficulties trickling out from December 2019 with the release of the first boss, all the way until July 2021 with the release of the final Legend difficulty Agito boss.
The gradual rollout of content over time, the depth added by having distinct human and beast phases, and the once intensive farming that is now over… 4 times easier than it was at launch, led a lot of members of the community to really enjoy these fights, finding the most efficient compositions for solo and co-op play, and working together to clear these fights that, while imposing at first, are gradually ground away into something digestible, auto-able, and distinct between different difficulties. Unlike the High Dragon Trials were just the same basic fights with a few new phases thrown in.
In The Agito Uprising, Standard has players fight against the humanoid version of an Agito member. Expert throws in a second phase where they enter their beast form. Master is just a battle against a souped up version of beast mode. While legend consists of humanoid, beast, and a new berserk phase, where the Agito’s stats are raised, and the patterns become even more aggressive
After playing through Standard, Expert, and Master renditions of all these fights… hundreds of times, I have come to enjoy them quite a lot, and I would like to try and explain why, while also explaining how these battles work.
Volk was and is presented as the first boss in The Agito Uprising, which I think is something of a mistake, as he is one of the most imposing bosses in the entirety of Dragalia Lost. Volk’s central gimmick is that he launches arena-wide attacks that track one adventurer, periodically litters the battlefield with bombs that adventurers need to disarm by walking into them, and is all about giving adventurers inflictions. Whether it be the immobilizing stun or sleep, or even the occasional poison, he is designed to inflict conditions that leave adventurers powerless as often as possible, with the help of his unique plague effect.
Plague is a condition where adventurers who are normally immune to sleep and stun can be afflicted by them and, depending on the state of the condition, it can spread to nearby adventurers. If this happens at an inopportune time, then you can pretty much kiss a run goodbye. This, combined with various other imposing walls that players need to work through, such as the cascade of red attacks that kick in during his beast phase, the tornados of near-certain death, and the DPS check blood moon effect, all make him a rather tricky boss to get a handle on, let alone auto-play through.
There is definitely an intimidation factor here, but while I might have not liked Volk when he first debuted and whooped my butt up and down the corner, I have come to appreciate him as a boss over time. For as intimidating and imposing as he is, he is ultimately a fair boss whose DPS checks can be planned for once the player is aware of them, and whose battles require the player to remain active and attentive, keeping the encounters engaging even after countless rotations.
Ciella was technically the third Agito released, but the community generally recommends that new players start with her, as she has the most manageable set of unique mechanics for the player to learn, and while some of her moves can trip a player up, they are mostly things that the player needs to see once, internalize, and then avoid whenever a fairly clear prompt shows up.
Such as the Misty Veil move where Ciella becomes invisible, runs around, and then does an AOE attack in front of her, while leaving a safe spot behind her. Or how the player really should destroy the crystal arrows she fires, lest they explode. However, there are still some things that can trip players up. Ranging from a periodic HP check clap that happens throughout all difficulties A rotating beam that freezes adventures and saps them with massive damage. And the classic bolts from above, where players need to scatter to avoid getting wrecked by a cascade of arrows, but not everyone always picks up on the memo. Seriously, I don’t know what it is about this move, but players in co-op constantly forget about this move and die.
If the player can avoid these predictable, telegraphed, or otherwise named attacks, then this fight is pretty breezy and chill once the player’s Might reaches a certain threshold. And with wind being a versatile element with many great, bulky, and free-to-play friendly comps, this remains the best way for players to get their toes wet with the Agito. Because she truly is a battle where I feel every adventurer is viable, and nothing is truly required. …Except healing, but that’s a given.
Ayaha & Otoha are a duo-based boss battle, which makes them unique in the world of Dragalia, where bosses are normally a single figure, possibly with some lesser minions. The biggest struggle a new player would run into is simply keeping track of these two as they dart across the arena, launching red, purple, and the occasional instant-kill move that blends into the reddish background a bit too much. They can be imposing, but their attacks in their first phases are nowhere near as lethal as most other Agiro, and so long as the player keeps their distance and knows when to rush it, the first phase is manageable.
Yet it is the second phase where the battle amps the difficulty, while completely changing up what this challenge is about. Ayaha & Otoha fuse into a single being, trade in their agility for power, and proceed to deal a lot of attacks that can trip a newbie player up. From rising high in the sky and forcing players to defeat two butterfly minions. To a massive purple AOE that forces one random adventurer to head into a corner before rapidly fleeing while avoiding homing butterflies. Or the blue butterfly that can either stun Ayaha & Otoha, or inspire her to rain down damage onto the team, and probably wiping them in the process.
Ayaha & Otoha are definitely an intimidating foe… but the Dragalia Lost community has more or less rendered her a complete non-issue thanks to the omnipresence of Karina cheese clears. While most any water team can clear this fight, many co-op clears involve a team of Karinas, and possibly a Mistuba, rolling into the encounter, buffing themselves and their team, before raining down the pain on Ayaha & Otoha. Seriously, with four Karinas, Standard takes less than 10 seconds to clear, Expert can be done in about a minute, and Master… still takes a bit longer, but goes smoothly and swiftly.
Kai Yan is something of an odd fight. He never stood as an imposing boss due to how positively stacked the shadow element is with powerful adventurers, which arguably makes him the easiest of the Agito, as battles often go swiftly, and while he does have a fair bit of tech to call his own, it always feels like a minor obstacle that can be powered through.
Throughout the entire battle, Kai Yan is surrounded by Battleground, a golden circle that boosts the damage he does to adventurers, while boosting the damage adventurers do to him. And for the majority of the fight, players want to stay in that circle to deal the most damage. Periodically throughout the fight, Kai Yan will use adamantine shield, which can be powered through with regular attacks of skills, but is ideally taken down with the use of dispel. An effect that removes one buff from the target, and something that can be found via many high value shadow adventurers, or more accessible options like Ranzal’s shared skill, Cleo’s first skill, or as part of the kit of Erik, the 3-star shadow axe adventurer.
Beyond shielding himself, Kai Yan also covers the circumference of his Battleground with unbreakable satellites that inflict afflictions, and has a habit of doing massive AOE attacks that either urge players to stay inside the Battleground or outside it. Also, in higher difficulties, he summons orbs that grant him various buffs if he interacts with them. While this can all be imposing at first, he is very much a solved and solvable problem in Dragalia Lost, and with the shadow element being what it is, players can be cleared by a wide variety of team compositions, which made it fun to play in co-op, as you never know who will show up in the lobby.
Tartarus’s schtick is that he had access to a series of debilitating effects that he uses throughout the battle, and these effects can only be nullified by entering one of four portals, which Tartarus opens up periodically throughout the encounter. The fight begins with him disabling healing. As the first portal opens, he caps adventurer damage to a pitifully small amount, and the player can only resume dealing decent damage by entering the second portal, waiting out the debuff, or shapeshifting into a dragon and wrecking shop until Tartarus falls, or the second phase begins.
Periodically, he will use a move called Dimensional Shift, which locks a certain number of players into purple spheres, immobilizing them. Players can swiftly escape these spheres by shapeshifting into a dragon, or by being hit by an attack from another dragon, but the spheres double as shields and allow imprisoned players to not only avoid damage but shield other players from ordinarily devastating purple attacks. If a player is targeted during Dimensional Shift, they should rally towards Tartarus himself and stay imprisoned until he releases his purple attacks and waves of darkness. Only then should they shapeshift into a dragon, and only ONE party member needs to shapeshift. The rest can hold their gauge for when they need it.
Keep this in mind, avoid his attacks, as they are rife with afflictions, tank the shadow waves if you gotta, aim the purple attacks away from your allies, because duh, and the fight really is not that difficult to clear… But it also is not all that fun either. While other Agito battles are malleable and gooey enough to be cleared through via multiple ways, Tartarus front-ends his fights with frustration by forcing players to fight him in a specific way. It all feels drawn out in the worst way, and it was a complete crapshow early on.
When this battle launched, light was a considerably weak element, and it was hard for players to get consistent clears on this battle. But quickly the playerbase discovered that this content was actually easier with off-element units, such as Gala Alex, Elisanne, Hawk, and Patia, or the later Karina cheese comps, all of which were able to clear this content faster than a proper light team. And when actually sending a light team into battle, teams basically needed two adventurers who were immune to poison, and two who were immune to curse. Otherwise, they could not traverse the portals without dying immediately. All of which remained a problem up until dual-resistance light adventurers (Gala Euden, Gala Luca, Gala Audric, Gala Luca, Luca, and Ilia) became commonplace.
In addition to all of this, there is legend difficulty, which is… such an extreme extension of the regular gameplay that it truly is its own thing, and it makes for some of the hardest boss encounters I ever pushed myself through. It took hours of learning, labbing, and taking inspiration from others before I could reliably get through them on my own. Well, semi-reliably.
They offer a thrill that is emblematic of a quality action game. They are intense, have a lot of points that can trip people up, and while this is all far too difficult for a regularly farmable content, these battles are generally designed to only be played once a week, for the weekly bonus of extra materials. However, the materials from this fight are not used for anything that gives one a meaningful leap in power.
As such, Legend difficulty is simply something for players to test their skills, and doing so really does show off the quality of boss designs in Dragalia compared to the more turn-based or automated battles of its contemporaries. These battles require dedication, skill, planning, and perseverance. Some things might seem a bit cheap, and there are plenty of areas where a run can be ruined thanks to a second of error. But I still find these challenges to be fair, balanced, and overall quite fun to play.
…At least in solo. I have not attempted any of these fights in co-op, as I really do not want to rely on others or let others down with content this intense.
Chapter 3-9: Domination of the Sinister ArchDaemons
This section was updated on 10/30/2021 to reflect content released on 10/29/2021.
After a year of Agito being the endgame content, Dragalia decided to usher in the next generation of endgame bosses in March 2021 with the release of Rise of the Sinister Dominion (RotSD). Much like The Agito Uprising, these are a series of battles where adventurers face off against a single imposing enemy in a circular area, and power through phases where the opponent changes forms. The key difference here is that instead of collecting materials to upgrade weapons and facilities, all drops from RotSD are centered around Dominion wyrmprints. With the materials being used to unlock Dominion wyrmprint slots in Agito weapons, and also to upgrade, unbind, or create copies of the Dominion wyrmprints.
This expanded what team building could be in Dragalia, but it felt like a bit of a disappointment after the massive excess of power players obtained via the Agito weapons and the massive 30% HP and 30% strength buffs provided by the Agito Tree facilities. By comparison, all RotSD did was add another layer to team building, while introducing more farming to the game than The Agito Uprising ever did, even before they tripled the drop rates in the September 2021 update.
After all was said and done, only 30 Dominion wyrmprints were released, and there is no inclination if more would be added. While this is not necessarily bad, as 30 is still a lot of pieces of equipment to make note of, the Dominion wyrmprints never truly felt like they were making the most of their limited quantity. Many effects were repeated. Some of the new ones, like Draconic Resurrection, never felt particularly useful. And while I hoped the final set of them would somehow change things up, that was not the case. In the end, there were 7 skill damage wyrmprints, 5 skill haste wyrmprints, and only 14 unique effects across 30 pieces of equipment.
Or in other words, the reward for these fights were nowhere near as good as other forms of endgame content. And as for the fights themselves, they followed a similar format as the Agito. Standard pitted adventurers against a humanoid fallen angel form. Expert sees that fallen angel facade fall away as the boss enters their true archdemon form. While Master focuses entirely on the archdemon form, but expands things with a new phase where a second team of a different element enters the fray. That last bit is a nifty idea that makes these battles more interesting by virtue of involving two sets of adventurers, but Master is thankfully something that players are only urged to do… three times a week.
Now, I generally would not mind all of this if the fights were as good or enjoyable as The Agito Uprising. But in practice, they are… not that great.
There are three staples consistent across all RotSD fights: Curse of Nihility, which nullifies most common buffs and makes adventurers weaker in practice. Creeping Corrosion, an affliction that causes adventurers to gradually lose HP for a vaguely determined length of time and requires sufficient regen-based healing to power through. And large HP caps that keep these fights almost universally long and slow.
This is not necessarily a problem with solo content, as players can auto-play through Standard and Expert RotSD with the right team compositions, but it is a problem in co-op. It is bizarre that Standard difficulty RotSD quests, which have the same Might requirement as Standard difficulty Agito quests, cost half as many getherwings to play in co-op, yet take at least twice as long. And while Expert difficulty has the same costs as Agito and a higher Might threshold, the battles are still on the longer side, and it doesn’t feel particularly rewarding to take them down. And what do players get for all of this effort? For playing these fights hundreds upon hundreds of times? Access to Dominion wyrmprints that, while useful, are a far cry from getting new weapons, facilities, or more quantifiable boosts to Might.
Now, this could all be forgiven if the bosses themselves were especially well crafted, interesting, or otherwise engaging. Which is technically true to an extent, but that is only with regards to the demon form. Unlike the Agito fights, the fallen angel forms from Standard and Expert do not necessarily serve as preludes for the second phase of the right, and in practice, they all blur together in my mind. Partially due to how they are all humanoids in flowing robe-like garbs, and partially because they lack many unique mechanics to call their own.
All fallen angels summon orbs or enemies that launch attacks or other projectiles, dash around the single arena used for all RotSD content, unleash a purple AOE of some kind, and offer little offensive resistance as players tear through them, either to get the fight over with, or to get to the real part of the fight, the archdemons. Who are all detailed enough battles to warrant their own sections.
Lilith was the first RotSD boss released, and she is easily my favorite of the bunch. She does not have a firm gimmick to her fight, as much as she offers a flurry of attacks that force players to scatter across the map to avoid devastating purples, while chipping away at her breakable wings to weaken her, and dispelling her constantly accumulating strength buffs.
There are a few points that can trip players up. Such as sweet circle, where Lilith bombards the player in a flurry of purple attacks with a wide range, and players need to avoid Lilith’s rod as it rotates around the arena, launching attacks that can easily KO adventurers. Candy prison, where an adventurer is locked in a prison and, unless the other three can pass this DPS test, that adventurer will almost certainly fall in battle. Almost certainly, because I think this move is bugged, and you can sometimes survive even if you fail this check. Or candy shower, where markers home in on adventurers and leave behind puddles that damage any adventurer who touches them.
But beyond this, she is a very straightforward fight that is routine, easily digestible, and clearable so long as there is a good healer (preferably Hildegarde), someone laying down afflictions, and a good dispeller. She is easily the RotSD boss I fought the most (I nearly maxed out all of her wyrmprints) and while she is not as complex or tricky as any Agito boss, I think she set a good precedent for this wave of content.
Jaldabaoth came second, and his central gimmick is that he summons minions throughout the battle. Unless the player can defeat them before the markets on their heads reach zeros, a ticker beneath his health bar will go down, and once that ticker reaches zero, then the entire team is wiped. This makes defeating the mobs/ads/minions the top priority throughout much of the battle as Jaldabaoth teleports throughout the arena, launches projectile attacks, buffs himself, summons minion generators, and imposes DPS checks that give him more buffs if the player fails.
He definitely has some techniques to make for an imposing fight with his ability to summon both common baddies and what were once bosses in the form of Void Agni and Void Nidhogg. This is not inherently a bad thing, but by throwing so much stuff at the player in such a wide area, the player needs to do a lot of long-distance crowd control, and most adventurers simply are not made for that. They are made to fight clustered groups of enemies, if not a single foe.
This makes the fight tricky in both solo and co-op, and has led this fight to be dominated by Gala Leodnias. A limited character only available in select summon showcases, who is remarkable for his status as a rapid-fire manacaster. As a manacaster (gun) adventurer, he has an incredibly long range, and as the rapid-fire, he has the ability to automatically aim at all enemies near him just by initiating a force strike. He can easily dispatch the minions Jaldabaoth summons and is also capable of dealing some of the highest damage of any flame adventurer.
This got so bad that I struggled to find co-op rooms until I got Gala Leonidas some months after this fight’s debut, and even to this day, co-op is dominated by this character. I have seen people try to bring in substitutes, but I genuinely do not think I had a single co-op clear without at least one Gala Leonidas. Which either says volumes about how homogenous the community is, or how much this fight was designed around this one adventurer.
Asura came in as number three, and she is probably my favorite looking boss in the entire game. Her six arms, the ornate armor covering her body and throne, and the three faces that she rotates through during combat. She looks like this bizarre blend of Jeudochristian and Hindu mythology that I am totally down with, and is a boss I immediately wanted to love. …Which makes it all the more frustrating that Asura is easily the least interesting and engaging endgame fight in all of Dragalia Lost.
During the fight, players attack Asura while she sits in the middle of the arena, dodge when she launch a purple attack, destroy the red orbs that appear for a gimmick strength buff that only exists in this fight, and periodically wipe out a DPS check orb before Asura resets the team’s strength buffs. Also, she periodically shrinks the arena and then assaults players with a barrage of difficult to avoid projectiles that can be lethal, but probably aren’t, and… actually, I think that is about it for her kit. Just avoid the purple, destroy the red orbs for strength buffs, and try your best to deal as much damage as possible.
While Asura could be an imposing boss, her battle simply does not give the player much to do other than run around and attack things. All while she eats an obscene amount of damage, and sits on her toilet throne, never leaving it or even doing much more than maintaining her meditative pose.
Her plentiful HP and the 10 minute time limit is a genuine bigger threat than her attacks, and it makes fighting her in co-op a genuine slog where players try to dish out as much damage as possible, as quickly as possible, which led most public lobbies to be dominated by Gala Chelle. A limited character only available in select summon showcases, who is remarkable for her status as a rapid-fire manacaster with excellent DPS. It made co-op discouraging for me, as I did not have Gala Chelle until Asura was old hat, nor did I have the preferred healer, Summer Verica. I am getting her in a few days, but not right now.
Iblis is number four and… they are easily my least favorite of any boss in Dragalia Lost, and for two core reasons. Firstly, more than any other non-legend-difficulty boss in the game, Iblis has a deluge of moves that, if the player fails to properly counter them, then the entire team is wiped and the run is, most likely, over. In Master difficulty, this happens at least six times, and it takes a fair amount of trial, error, and learning to figure out how to spot these death opportunities.
- When Iblis transforms into a bat, he will dart across the screen two or three times, exchanging positions with 5 other bats in the arena. After settling on a spot, a lethal attack charges up and it can only be stopped if the player attacks the bat Iblis turned into, which can be a tight order if the adventurers do not have a damage-dealing skill ready to do.
- When Iblis uses Damning Prelude to summon three pillars, all three of them must be defeated before the timer expires, otherwise the entire team will be KO’d.
- Dissonant Aria forces players to stand off to one of two sides in the arena in order to guide bats into whirlpools, otherwise they explode and deal max damage.
All of this is before getting into his ballad gimmick, where Iblis makes himself immune to one affliction while opening up a vulnerability to another. If his blue ballad icon is active, he is susceptible to poison and immune to stormlash. And if his red ballad icon is active, he is susceptible to stormland and immune to poison. He flutters between these throughout the fights, and imposes a ticker beneath his health bar that needs to be at zero at a specified time. Otherwise, Iblis unleashes— you guessed it— a one-hit kill that wipes out the party, no exceptions.
This all makes Iblis a formidable boss with a low tolerance for error, and easily the hardest boss in Rise of the Sinister Dominion, but for the wrong reason. When he is just attacking, Iblis is straightforward and easy to follow. He mostly stands in the center, launches purple AOEs and easily dodgeable red markers, and waits while adventurers wail on him. And when wailing on him, they need to make sure they can provide the right afflictions… which is definitely a challenge for some players.
To defeat the first archdemon phase of Iblis, players need to provide an ample amount of poison and stormlash. Poison was part of Dragalia at launch, is abundant among 3-star and 4-star wind adventurers, and, in total, over 20 of the 54 wind adventures in the game as of 10/15/2021 have access to poison in some capacity.
However, only 10 wind adventurers have access to stormlash. Gala Notte and Valentine’s Chelsea are only available on a limited basis. Cecile, Formal Joachim, Saiga, Grimnir, and Basileus are all 5-stars who are difficult to obtain unless they are featured as part of a promotion. Wedding Aoi and Akasha both have access to stormlash, but it is locked behind their ToTM mana spirals, and Akasha’s is unreliable. The only readily accessible source was Humanoid Midgardsormr, who was given away as a freebie in the 2.5 anniversary event, Dawn of Dragalia, but he cannot inflict stormlash fast enough to defeat Iblis on his own.
I would say that Master Iblis is virtually impossible for players without access to the likes of Gala Notte, Valentine’s Chelsea, Cecile, Formal Joachim, Saiga, Grimnir, Basileus, or Wedding Aoi. But it gets even worse when it comes to the second phase of Master Iblis.
During this phase, players need ready access to paralysis (which, like poison, is abundant amongst light adventurers) and flashburn, which is even rarer than stormlash. Ilia, Eirene, Ryszarda, Summer Chelle, and the limited Gala Audric are the only adventurers with access to flashburn. Only 5 adventurers out of over 270 have access to this essential skill. Admittedly, they can all support a term, but they are all 5-stars and there is no widely available adventurer with access to this essential skill for this piece of endgame content.
Surtr closed out this series of bosses, and a day after his launch, I think he is definitely among the better and more enjoyable fights in RotSD.
Surtr’s central gimmick is that he is a tanky burning metal man who summons three types of crystals throughout his battle. Burning crystals that explode within a matter of seconds, depending on the attack. Large stone crystals that can tank two hits of damage, but may transform into burning crystals depending on the maneuver. And small stone crystals that either function as shields from attacks, or fool’s shields that break depending on the attack. I actually really like these as a mechanic, find them to be well implemented in across the encounter, and consider them to be a smart evolution over the crystal mechanic introduced in Ciella’s battle
With this in mind, the bulk of the battle is spent dodging purple AOE attacks and the exploding crystals, while chipping away at Surtr in the interim. It is straightforward, direct, and makes for an enjoyable boss encounter that is relatively open and flexible, unlike the strict requirements of Iblis. However, there are four parts of this first that do deserve special mention. Two defensive and two offensive.
When performing Crystal Firestorm, Surtr summons four burning crystals evenly placed across the map, launches a purple attack that triggers the north and south or east and west pillars, and then triggers the other pairs. Players are supposed to avoid them by staying near the non-detonated crystals, and then running toward an exploding crystal and into the area that used to be purple. If the player fails to avoid this, they take potentially lethal damage. While I understand what to do, it is tricky to pull this off, and the attack is not particularly intuitive in its framing… But for most team compositions I’ve seen, adventurers can tank the hit. This might be different in Master co-op (which I have not tried yet), but on other difficulties, I just chilled in the purple area, away from the crystals, and survived well enough.
The second attack that gave me trouble was Dancing Pyre, which was seen in the second phase of Master. Surtr summons four orbs around himself, and after summoning, fires them off to the edge of the screen, where the orbs turn into purple attacks that deal lethal damage. The only way to avoid them is with a small stone crystal that destroys the orb if they cross paths. The arena’s texture gives the player a line to follow to intercept the orb from its destination, but for whatever reason, it was really hard for me to get a grasp of this mechanic, as the orb moves diagonally and is unlike any other attack in this fight.
As for any team building requirements, while auto largely requires the passive abilities of Gala Elisanne, there are really only two major barriers to get through this fight. Access to dispel and afflictions.
Meanwhile, Scorching Shield buffs Surtur’s defenses, and can only be removed by being inflicted with a certain number of afflictions. While this could easily be overcome in elements with access to two afflictions, water only has one usable affliction for this fight in the form of frostbite, and it can be difficult to dish out enough frostbite fast enough to drop their shield. As such, players are encouraged to use adventurers like Regina and Sandolphen, who inflict multiple afflictions at random, shared skills that inflict multiple afflictions, or affliction inflicting shared skills with a fast recharge time.
Daystar Restoration grants Surtr a buff that regenerates his health, and is only removed via dispel. Which is something that the water element has in fairly short supply. Dispel is only available to permanent 5-stars Lapis and Finni, limited adventurers Gala Mascula and Summer Ieyasu, and as part of the TotM mana spiral for the 5-star Lazry. While I have 3 out of 5 of those options, this is still alarmingly low. Players can circumvent this limitation through shared skills capable of dispel, of which there are 17. And if you want to be extra fancy, there are 8 shared skills that deal both afflictions and dispel one buff.
Overall, I like this battle. I think it offers enough mechanical friction to remain interesting, while still being a relatively breezy and expedient time depending on how air-tight the team composition is. This can make co-op something of a bother, at least for now, during the early stages of the meta, but the co-op arguably does not matter that much, as players swiftly found ways to consistently auto this quest within a matter of hours, and using a variety of teams… assuming you have Gala Elisanne. Which I do, so good for me.
But it looks like the dominion is not done yet, as a Legend difficulty is in the works, and is set to be released in the future. …Let’s just say that I’m not especially looking forward to it, nor am I expecting anything more than a palty increase in Might. Actually, the update only specifies that it will come with a new epithet and treasure trade options. Not sure what that’s about…
Anyways, that is all I have to say about the juicy and spunchy ‘gamey’ center of Dragalia Lost. But we’re only 70% done! I still need to ramble on about the biggest point of contention with this game. The fact that it wants your damn money!
Oh, and I almost forgot, but I prepared a drop rates sheet for High Dragon, Agito, and Dominion content. I was considering doing the same for Chimeras and Void Battles, but the drops are so good nowadays that it really does not matter.