[Y]ou play a powerful dragon that likes to kidnap princesses and sleep on a hoard of treasure. Dominate the local kingdom, loot and pillage, and inspire terror in the hearts of your enemies!
The execution, however, is quite entertaining. It plays like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where the reader must decide what the protagonist should do. Your choices affect the outcome, and they have a meaningful impact on the game.
In addition to your decisions having an impact on how the story unfolds, they also have an impact your dragon’s stats. This feature lends itself to the player getting attached to one’s dragon, as one begins not only to judge how a choice fits in with the dragon’s personality, but also how that choice will affect the dragon’s physical and mental abilities. Your dragons are based on several factors. Three of those stats have two dimensions: Brutality/Finesse, Cunning/Honor, and Disdain/Vigilance. Your dragon is also rated on Infamy, Wealth, and what Wounds (if any) zie has.
The engaging writing style really helped in feeling some level of attachment to my dragon. I wanted my dragon to be powerful and rich, with a minimum amount of permanent injuries, so I was making careful choices that were also in line with the personality of my dragon.
One very positive aspect of Choice of the Dragon is how it deals with sex and gender. One of the game designer self-identifies as a feminist, and he made a conscious decision to be progressive on sex and gender issues:
Many video games assume a male protagonist, and I actively wanted to avoid that presumption. At the same time, our games require a certain amount of identification between the player and the character. A game that’s written in the second person runs into problems if the player can’t accept that “you” means both the character and the player.
Once we settled on a dragon as the protagonist of our first game, “Choice of the Dragon,” many of the gender issues became easy. No need at all for us to assign a sex to the player’s dragon—it’s perfectly easy to ask the player what their dragon’s sex is. Likewise, even the mating scene could be done in a purely gender-neutral way. Players who wanted to play a straight male dragon could. Players who wanted to play a female dragon seeking a female mate could. And people who wanted to leave that whole issue vague could as well.
Furthermore, NPCs in Choice of the Dragon are just as often female as they are male. Not only that, women in Choice of the Dragon are just as often knights and fighters as males are. While this is probably a small detail, it’s incredibly progressive for games. Games still have a long way to go in terms of even approaching equal representation in terms of sex and gender roles.
Choice of the Dragon subverts and questions many traditional patriarchal fantasy tropes, such as kidnapping princesses. This approach to sex and gender produced an experience that was far more entertaining and engaging than it would have been had patriarchal fantasy clich́́́és been presented without question.
Choice of the Dragon is a short game. I’ve played it several times over, each time ending with a dragon that had different strengths and weaknesses in terms of stats, varying levels of wealth and infamy, and with different permanent injuries. I don’t feel that the game’s length affected my enjoyment at all. It may be a short game, but it’s quite enjoyable, and I look forward to the next installment, and to more games from the Choice of Games team.