Tales from the Dragon Mountain: The Strix
First posted on 25 February 2013. Last updated on 25 February 2013.
Tales from the Dragon Mountain: The Strix, released in 2011, is a casual adventure game from Croatian indie developer Cateia Games. Formed in 2003, Cateia Games has previously released a number of causal and traditional adventure games, including The Legend of Crystal Valley (2009), Iron Roses (2009), Hotel (2010), and Kaptain Brawe: a Brawe New World (2010), among others. Tales from the Dragon Mountain: The Strix is to the first title in the Tales from the Dragon Mountain series. A sequel, Tales from the Dragon Mountain: The Lair, has already been announced to be in production by the developer.
Tales from the Dragon Mountain: The Strix is a third-person, point-and-click casual adventure game. You take on the role of protagonist named Mina Lockheart, who returns after 17 years to Pozoj Creek, where her family estate left behind to her by her grandmother resides. Reminiscing her past as a child, and haunted by her memories of the estate going up in flames, Mina soon discovers a dark secret hidden inside the now abandoned mansion. She also learns that an ancient evil spirit named Strix is seeking to destroy a magical land once guarded by her grandmother. It is up to you (as Mina) to find and destroy Strix, to save Pozoj Peak and its inhabitants, and to fulfill your destiny as the new guardian of this magical land.
The game is available as a digital download from the developer. Installation is simple and trouble free. A Main Menu appears to greet you when the game is started: Play, Settings, Credits, Player, Help, and Exit Game. The game offers 3 difficulty modes from which you can choose: Easy, Casual, and Adventure. Choosing a difficulty mode automatically dictates how fast hint and skip recharges occur as well as whether or not sparkle hints and the find items panel are enabled. There is provision for volume control, but there is no provision for screen resolution selection. The Help option explains how the cursors (of which there are 5 cursor types), the inventory, the hint button, and other elements of the interface operate within the game.
The game plays over 6 chapters. It begins with a long cinematic cut scene telling the pittance of a story of Mina daydreaming about her early life with her grandmother as a child living in Pozoj Creek. Mina recalls the tales told to her by her grandmother about sprites and magical creatures from the woods as well as the evil Dark Lord named Strix. She also remembers the medallion given to her by her grandmother that is supposed to protect her. Years later, when Mina has a vivid dream of her grandmother whispering to her with the message "Go back and finish what needs to be done", she is compelled to seek out the meaning of this cryptic message. The medallion also suddenly lights up like a beacon, calling her to return to Pozoj Creek. From there, Mina finds her grandmother's creature friends and discovers that it is her destiny to save them from Strix's evil spells.
This is by far the easiest game I have ever played. The game is a casual adventure intermixing lightweight puzzles with hidden object game elements. The puzzles vary quite a bit in variety: spot the difference, color matching, jigsaws, sliders, rotating puzzles, number puzzles, among others. In fact, there are 191 hidden or inventory objects to find and 33 mini-games or puzzles to solve. Unfortunately, the hidden objects are often poorly placed, with the majority of them more obvious than elephants in a flea circus.
Navigation is straightforward, with large arrows showing you where to go in each scene. Game saves are executed by clicking on the menu button on the bottom right of the screen. As you exit the menu, the current game is automatically saved. There are no save slots, so you cannot go back into an earlier save. However, you can create multiple player profiles, with a different save associated with each different profile.
Except for the most novice players, there is basically little difference in gameplay between the different difficultly modes. With the Easy mode, you are told what to look for, sparkles show you the active areas, and the hint and skip timers are recharged quicker. With the Casual mode, the sparkle disappears and the hint and skip timers are recharged slower. With the Adventure mode, the find items panel is disabled. Regardless of which difficulty mode you choose, the hint timer will eventually fill to nudge you forward in the right direction if you need help to progress.
The game is noticeably devoid of characters and dialogs. The story features only 9 characters, and substantial dialogs occur only during cinematic cut scenes. Mina's character is well drawn, but the sprites, goblins, and beasts are very amateurishly illustrated. I am quite impressed by most of the 2D background arts, though, which are colorful and reasonably detailed.
The voiceovers of the minor characters are irritating and not to my liking. The sound effects are rudimentary but acceptable, whereas the background music is good but repetitious.
Gameplay is somewhat nonlinear within each chapter, in that you have some freedom in the order you visit the different locations to search for the needed hidden objects. However, only when these hidden objects are all found—then and only then—can the associated mini-game or puzzle be activated and solved. The inventory objects can be stored in a satchel. An object can be selected to use with another object or to facilitate a specific task.
In sum, Tales from the Dragon Mountain: The Strix is a casual adventure game that I cannot wholeheartedly recommend to seasoned adventure game fans. Still, I believe that the game may find a limited audience among novice gamers who want to dabble into the adventure genre. The game lacks an overall sense of coherence, resembling a series of disjointed causal games that have been cramped into a single adventure game. With a playing time of only 2-4 hours, some gamers may also find the resultant experience to be lacking and unsatisfying.