GB Studio Central is giving away a copy of Dragonborne to celebrate our launch. You can find out the details here.
For many first time game developers, a simple and short experience is the easiest to create and one that will be more likely to be successful. For Chris Beach, however, a large and sprawling RPG was his first foray into the world of game development. Like most games in the genre, Dragonborne starts small, a young boy looking for his father who has gone missing, but quickly opens up to a larger adventure with a grand sense of exploration.
I was immediately reminded of Link’s Awakening when I started playing. Not the presentation or story, but rather the feel of the game and how you traverse the map. There’s little preventing you from taking “the scenic route” to your first objective and you very well could spend a lot of time off the beaten path before you end there. Early on, the map gives hints of the greater land surrounding that you have yet the ability to access and motivates you to play further to figure out. The feeling of a Zelda game was quickly subverted when I entered my first battle.
Battle systems are deceptively difficult to build, and Dragonborne’s battles are impressively set up for an earlier GB Studio game. Menu commands on screen hint at the powers and abilities that will be unlocked as you play, and the battles feel challenging enough to keep you focused and making intentful choices while not being overtly difficult to discourage you from progressing. The beautiful pixel art also helps keep the player in the game as they play.
The rest of the game follows a familiar puzzling experience: find a path that is blocked, figure out what tools and items are needed to progress, then explore and discover those items to fulfill a “quest” and progress. What Dragonborne does really well is offer choices in how the player wants to proceed. Some things will be readily available from the start, others will take time to complete, but part of the fun is keeping a mental map of all the tasks you have and where to go once you have the items needed.
In what is truly an astounding accomplishment, Dragonborne remarkably demonstrates what is possible to create within the constraints and limitations of GB Studio. A fun and in depth RPG for the small screen, it is definitely worth taking a look at the demo on itch.io and possibly picking up a Digital Copy for yourself from Spacebot’s online store. A physical run was available earlier this year but is sadly closed for pre-orders, but more things are in the works from Spacebot Interactive.
Chris Beach took some time to chat with us about his experience making Dragonborne. You can read the interview here.
Audio Engineer, Mac Technologist and Video Game Developer. Managing Editor of GBStudio Central. (he/him)