Fantasy games are a wonderful form of escapism and I love how the plot can take you on some weird and wonderful journeys. The combination of mystical beasts, magical powers, and made up kingdoms is a recipe for a wild and interesting adventure. The Handler of Dragons uses this freedom to create an interesting story filled with lore and unusual characters.
Developed by Jerzy Calinski and published by Golden Eggs Studio, this is a 3D action RPG. It’s an Early Access title, so this preview will judge it on its current build. You control a husband and father who’s unaware of the power he possesses. His quiet life is about to be turned upside down as a chance encounter with a stranger has deep-rooted ramifications.
Choose your fate in The Handler of Dragons.
Unlike many RPGs, you have the freedom to decide your fate in The Handler of Dragons. Yes, the core story progresses no matter your decisions, but how the surrounding world and its people perceive you alter significantly. This was my favourite mechanic that was incorporated into an otherwise very standard affair.
You control a hero who lives in a small house at the edge of a wood. A stranger appears and asks for help. This then delivers a cutscene where you discover you can talk to dragons and you learn about the power to control these beasts. You can consume their first shed scale to become more powerful, or you can set the majestic beasts free. This is the overarching plot and you quickly become accustomed to helping dragons, learning new skills, and meeting new cultures.
The story culminates in a standard Good vs Evil encounter. You must use everything you’ve learned to avenge the fallen dragons and prove you have Dragon Handler blood flowing through your veins.
A dramatic, albeit cheesy story that’s let down by clunky mechanics and uninspiring worlds.
With so many amazing RPGs to choose from, you have to do something special to stand out. Sadly, however, in its current build, The Handler of Dragons doesn’t do enough to make itself memorable! I liked its dramatic, albeit cheesy plot and enjoyed the personalities of the NPCs and the dragons you encounter. Yet, this wasn’t enough to paper over the very evident cracks.
The gameplay is broken down across many minor quests that take you on a journey across many regions. You encounter dwarves, the undead, a plethora of dragons, and more as you gain power and learn new abilities. In theory, this should have been an incredible journey, yet it felt rushed, stale, and dated. Subsequently, I built no rapport with the characters and cared not about my decision making. This was a shame, as it undermines the best element of the game.
Matters only get worse.
The issues only got worse because of the clunky combat mechanics, uninspiring quests, and laughably poor acting and subtitles. I have no issues with poor acting or badly proofread subtitles. In fact, they offered some much needed comical relief. My gripe is it highlights the lack of polish and the inability to alter obvious problems.
These issues hold many of the key components back. The movement within The Handler of Dragons is some of the campest and most clunky I’ve endured to date. You’ll crash into the scenery, fall into pits, off ledges, and generally have a torrid time. This then impacts the combat mechanics! You’ll die repeatedly as your hero swings, misses, and turns like a tanker in the Suez Canal. It’s a recipe for disaster and something that needs to be drastically altered if the developers wish this to succeed.
The staple for any RPG is the crafting mechanics, varied equipment, the levelling of your character, and the associated skill tree. The Handler of Dragons comprises each of these elements, however, it’s all subpar.
Everything is nerfed by the increasing levels of the monsters you encounter and subsequently, you never feel like a powerful hero. This is disappointing and this hollow state continues with the lacklustre spells! Using them doesn’t generate fireworks or a wow moment and sadly, it’s a bit of a damp squib.
The Handler of Dragons has poor textures, dated graphics, but plenty of potential.
My laptop was powerful enough to play this on ultra settings, yet this wasn’t enough to iron out the many creases. With glitches galore, awful textures, frame rate issues, and dated graphics, there is a lot to work on. Yet, there is plenty of potential for the developers to create a beautiful looking game. The currently mediocre worlds could easily be fantastic with some minor tweaks. If the environments were more interactive, the NPCs more believable, and traversing each section more seamless, this would improve it vastly.
The audio is both excellent and awful! A contradiction in terms, I know, but bear with me. I loved the mixture of medieval fantasy music, the aggressive combat tunes, and the sound effects. These factors truly transport you to this make-believe world and worked beautifully with the theme. Sadly, though, the illusion is broken by the dreadful aforementioned acting. Amateur dramatic societies are less wooden and the part-time actors generally don’t mispronounce every other word.
Clunky is being kind.
To describe the controls as ‘clunky’ is particularly kind, as they are much worse, mostly. Like the graphics, some small changes will improve the experience. If the developers make it much more responsive, reduce the lag on all commands and tighten up the movement, it’ll be improved immeasurably. I did, however, like the layout and the ability to use a gamepad. These were two big positives that highlight the available potential.
If you can battle through the many niggling issues, you’ll find a game that has lots of replay value. Thanks to its array of dialogue choices, you can alter your relationship and character in many ways. Its large achievement list requires multiple playthroughs and different dialogue choices, so completionists will get to experience everything on offer.
The Handler of Dragons could be great.
Currently, The Handler of Dragons is a world away from where it needs to be. Yet, I can see plenty of potential behind its rough edges. With excellent lore, nice dialogue mechanics, and the possibility of wonderful lands to explore, it could be great. Sadly, it needs plenty of polishing to get where it should be. Hopefully, it’ll improve with time if the developers keep working on its core concept. If you wish to try this early access title, you can buy it here! Forge your path, collect the dragon scales, and take down the evil power.
The Handler of Dragons is an Early Access Steam title. With plenty of potential, there is a lot to be hopeful about. Sadly, in its current build, it’s a world away from where it needs to be. With some minor tweaks, the developers can polish its very rough edges.
(Reviewed on PC using Steam & the game is currently in Early Access. It will be available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation in 2022.)