Game Reviews

‘Hidden Dragon Legend’ Review: Should Have Stayed Hidden

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Quick Take: Impressive set design and initially fun combat are bogged down by too many technical problems and poor art choices.

There have been a few feudal period pieces released over the last couple of years. 2016’s Aragami, and the excellent Nioh which released this year immediately spring to mind. Each sporting their own unique gameplay style that lend well to the period they are representing. Developer MegaFun Games enter the ring with Hidden Dragon Legend, and the results are anything but.

Hidden Dragon Legend starts off well enough. Players control Lu as he is waking up in a prison complex, bodies and pools of blood around him. He doesn’t remember much, and as he makes his way outside he is jumped by a group of of warriors who attempt to kill him. When this proves difficult, they run away to warn their leader. Granted, the story is pretty by the numbers, and this opening section was probably the most fun I had with Hidden Dragon Legend. Not because it was a great opening, but because things spiraled so negatively from there.

The very first cutscene gave me a pretty clear indicator of how things were going to go for the rest of my time with Hidden Dragon. Graphically, Hidden Dragon is a mess. Stiff character animations, and bad facial animations are just the beginning of the technical problems MegaFun games has here. The environments Lu is exploring actually look pretty good, so it’s pretty disappointing that everything else looks so terrible. Character movements are clunky, and the facial animations are nonexistent.

On top of those issues, are the terrible dialogue and voice acting. Not just the voice actors they chose for the roles, but the actual recordings of the voice actors. For a game set in imperial China, every voice actor sounds really American. I know this is an Indie title and not going for 100% authenticity, but as a developer, it seems like a smart move to at least make an attempt to sell the story. I’m also having a really hard time trying to figure out the best way to describe the issue with the recording of the voice acting. The best way to describe it is that the voice actors were positioned too close to the microphones, and then no sound effects were overlayed over their voices. This makes all the voice acting feel way out of place, especially when there are fights going on during cutscenes. 

Combat in Hidden Dragon Legend is probably the highlight, but it quickly overstays it’s welcome. After exiting the prison complex in the beginning, a very brief, basic tutorial is laid out for players. Square is a light attack, triangle for heavy, L1 for dodge, and then R2 and a face button for a special attack. After this, there was another quick update on the combat controls, that I could press up and square or triangle to launch enemies into the air, and then down and one of the two attack buttons to attack downwards. Therein lies the problem, because the upward and downward attacks lie at the heart of the combat. Over, and over, and over again. There are combos that Hidden Dragon doesn’t tell you about, and that’s fine. This is a combo heavy hack and slash, and I’m okay with having to learn how to perform these on my own and play a game. However, the combos didn’t seem to do much more damage then the upwards and downwards attacks, and I ended up taking more damage as a result. When attacking the stronger enemies in Hidden Dragon, after a few attacks, they begin to glow yellow and their attacks cannot be interrupted by my combos. Because of this, in order to do more damage, I ended up rinsing and repeating the upward attacks over and over again.

As players defeat enemies and open the treasure chests scattered around the world, they earn rage points that are used to upgrade Sutras. This is where Hidden Dragon actually shows a little bit of nuance to the combat system. Some treasure chests contain parts of a Sutra, which are upgrades of a sort to your character. After collecting four of one Sutra, players can upgrade it using the points they’ve earned from defeating enemies and discovering treasure chests. Some of them range from dealing extra damage, to earning extra currency, but learning to upgrade the best ones for a situation took a little time. There is also an upgrade system to the combos that players can perform, unlocking new abilities to certain combos like not being able to be knocked down. The problem with that is unless you’re facing off against a group of smaller enemies, the combos are pretty useless. Granted, players can lock the smaller enemies into a death cycle where they can’t move, and the combos and special moves are actually really flashy and well animated. 

On the bright side, the menus are a mine of information. Once I started exploring the menus a bit, I discovered the combo and sutra upgrades. I discovered lore and character stories. This was an extremely welcome addition since Hidden Dragon doesn’t give players a whole lot of information, and the story needed any amount of context for all of it’s characters.

For a game that has built itself around the Metroidvania style of 2.5D platforming, Hidden Dragon does it surprisingly poorly. The controls are spongey and unresponsive, and I often found myself losing a jump as part of my double jump when trying to navigate to a new platform. There were a few cool aspects, like when Lu found a grapling hook, which offered some new ways to navigate sections. Luckily, and I mentioned this above, the environments actually looked rather nice to explore. From navigating rooftops to exploring dungeons and buildings from imperial China the world that MegaFun games built is rather nice, which extrapolates the disappointment from the character animations and design.

MegaFun games could have had a hit on their hands, impressive set design and initially fun combat are bogged down by too many technical problems and poor art choices. There are definitely worse games to play, but there aren’t too many reasons to jump into this imagining of imperial China.

Hidden Dragon Legend is available now on Playstation 4 and PC. This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher for that purpose.

SCORE: 1.8 out of 5

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