A Dragon Named Coal is a pixel art metroidvania (i.e. a 2D platform video game with an emphasis on exploration) title starring a cute little dragon fledgling named Coal, who has no friend or family to speak of. It features lightning fast combat, gorgeous pixel art, a beautiful OST, crafting and looting, and exploration.
The game is under development by a husband and wife duo known as Clever Crow Games, a small indie game studio founded by a husband and wife team. They create RPGs by penning memorable characters, crafting explorable worlds, and weaving branching narratives. Rachel handles the pixel art you’ll see herein while Ash is the lead programmer and writer.
The game also features original scores by Greg Nicolett, a talented composer who has composed pieces for popular TV series like Smallville and The Vampire Diaries as well as game titles like Forza 5 Motorsport and Star Wars: First Assault.
What’s it got now?
The titular character, Coal, can be controlled via gamepad, mouse and keyboard, or keyboard by itself, though for the purposes of my playthrough and this article, I used a keyboard and mouse.
Coal is agile: his movements are quick and he can jump quite high. He can also breathe fire, a machanic that’s used to solve puzzles.
I very much enjoyed the demo. It’s challenging, as a metroidvania should be, and there’s a puzzle or two to solve. There’s plenty of loot to pick up–a variety of crafting materials, currency (gold), and documents that flesh out the world around you. Straying from the beaten path can be rewarding.
The writing was amusing at times and there were even some pop culture references.
What got me most excited was Neverlight–the “pocket in between the cracks of time. It’s modeled after the River Styx and the ferrywoman who takes you to the shore for a modest fee is named Char.
You can level up your skills by using them i.e. getting hit raises your defense skill while breathing fire raises your magic skill – and Coal himself can gain levels after earning enough experience, but there’s a big “Work in Progress” sign over the menu where you’d spend the points you’d get.
The demo is, however, the bare bones of what the final game will offer. As of right now, jumping feels a little floaty and the sensation carries over to aerial combos, during which there is no quick/immediate way to return to the ground. Collision between your sword and an enemy doesn’t quite feel heavy enough given the blade’s size in relation to the wielder.
I was also thrown off by the game’s scaling: the light posts that serve as checkpoints are massive while Coal himself is around the size of a child. Meanwhile, the scoundrels who kidnapped Fray’s brother are nearly twice your size, which is disconcerting.
There were also hints at features that would become relevant later in the game: you can revisit the death realm any time you find a lamp and its keeper promises goodies.
When selecting the first area, there was an option to choose the companion you’d take with you. Each will have a different ability and weakness, adding a tactical element.
The map, which should look very familiar to veterans of the genre (or anyone who has played a Legend of Zelda title) will allow fast travel once you’ve activated it.
Things we’re most excited about?
Exploration. Because who doesn’t love exploring a fantasy world full of wonderful sights and sounds?
Crafting. Dawn loves crafting.
Collecting Seraph Shards you can upgrade your weapons in a manner similar to Dark Souls’ upgrade system. Invest enough seraph shards into an equipment piece and you’ll unlock special perks for it.
Perks range from increasing damage with each sword hit to providing additional defense each time Coal takes damage. With the way we’ve written the equipment system you’ll be able to mix and match your equipment pieces for some unique effects. Particularly we wanted players to target gear that helps resolve their unique pain points they’re experiencing (dying too much, not doing enough damage, not collecting enough gold, leveling too slowly, etc).
Skill in the art of swordplay isn’t enough to survive the terrors of the countryside. You’ll need to craft potions from picked plants at alchemy stations. You can create potions to restore health, regenerate magic, or increase damage. Later in the game you’ll find potion variations that mix’n match the three mentioned types.
Very similar to Skyrim your skill level in alchemy will affect how effective brewed potions are. A better skill level or unlocked potion perks can increase the potency and/or use count. For example the Apothecary perk would increase the healing factor and total use count by 20% for health potions. That combined with a high skill level in alchemy could double the default number of uses and healing percentage.
Decisions that matter.
There’s a branching story line in the works and the handful of dialogue options I chose in game resulted in “[Character] will remember your response” flashing on the screen.It’s heartening to think that I can influence the direction in which the story will go.
So What Now?
The developers are working diligently to make their promises reality.
If you like what you’ve seen here, I beseech you to vote “yes” on A Dragon Named Coal in the SquareEnix Collective. It’s only with your help that this game can go from concept to video game. We hope to see A Dragon Named Coal in the Steam Store and DRM free on Windows, Mac, and Linux sometime in the future (and sooner than later!).
Spread the word & stay in the know, gamers ❤