If you keep an eye on any mainstream media you’ll know that fantasy (along with sci-fi and superheroes) are slowly taking over. Game of Thrones, Warcraft, Penny Dreadful, American Horror Story, The BFG, X-Men, Ghostbusters, Final Fantasy, The Witcher etc.. just to name a few big IPs doing the rounds. In the casino sector, the fantasy genre has always been a niche category. Unsurprisingly this is changing very quickly and Big Time Gaming have delivered a new and quite different entry to the scene.
Dragon Born is a 7 x 6 slot game. It is a way game as opposed to a line game. The game follows a medieval theme with the highest paying symbol being a dragon, The lower symbols are gems, or garments, and then there are the Royal symbols, and the wild symbols. The wild symbol during the base game is a joker that takes up the entire reel, and appears on reels 2 to 6. The diamond symbol, which is the only animated symbol, is the trigger for the free games. During free spins, the wild is the less visually appealing word “wild”, but it is more useful than a large wild. I’ll explain why it is more useful later.
The game is an “up to” 117649 ways game. The help screens do not explicitly explain why the words “up to” are used to describe a way game. I thought there had to be a reason not calling the game a “117649 way game” without the extra descriptors. The reason for the “up to” is also the explanation for why the smaller wild symbols from the free games are more useful than the large wild symbols of the base game. It turns out that the symbols during the base game vary in size.
A symbol with double the height of another symbol still counts as 1 symbol on the base game. Let me explain by way of an example, imagine that you received a Jack on reel 1, a double height Jack on reel 2, and a Jack on reel 3. You get paid for 3 of a kind Jacks only once. That means that there are fewer ways to win than the full 117649 ways. Because a symbol that is twice the height of another is in effect reducing the size of the reel where it is present by 1. During free games, all symbols are single height, so you always have 117649 ways of winning during free games.
The one good thing about the taller symbols is that they are more aesthetically pleasing than the shorter symbols. So, if you are happy to trade winning chances for presentation, this game is for you. In the end, the RTP of the game is still 95%, so mathematically speaking, the presentation isn’t costing the player anything by way of RTP. The player can always look up at the top of the board to see how many ways remain possible for each spin.
After playing 500 games at 1 Euro per game, I had lost 136.95 Euros. In other words, on average, I was losing 27.39 cents per game on average. This is an RTP of roughly 73% for my session.
For my session, the free game bonuses I received were:
|Dragon Born Bonus Results|
|Bonus Trigger||Resulting Win|
The most obvious thing is that 3 bonus triggers from 500 spins means a bonus trigger of ~1/166. This is on the high side but hard to judge from the small sample size. The bigger issue I found was the low wins that came from 2 of the bonuses. Given the playtest was at £1 stake, from the scarcity of the bonus I was hoping for slightly bigger wins more inline with Bonus 2 result.
The rules of the game are simple if you can understand the symbols of varying sizes. Keep in mind that a stack of 2 symbols on a reel is better than a single symbol with twice the height. The free spins of the game are where the fun is. The player is always playing on a 7×6 board, and so always has the possibility of all 117649 ways. There are stacked symbols to add to the volatility of the free spins. Meaning that when you win, you should win in lots of ways. During free spins, each diamond you get on screen awards you one additional free game.
Dragon Born is a regular ‘way’ game with the new twists that the number of possible ways to win on the base game change depending on how many larger than normal symbols you get on each reel. Also, it is a nice touch that the screen has so many possible ways. This is best realised during free games, since you are always eligible to win with all possible ways. Aside from that, it follows the regular rules.
Dragon Born is a regular ‘way’ game with the new twists that the number of possible ways to win on the base game change depending on how many larger than normal symbols you get on each reel.
The behaviour of the larger symbols feels like getting a larger symbol on a reel is a penalty, as you have fewer ways to win available to you than you would have had, had the symbol been of small height. This is not something wrong with the game, but my expectation is that a larger than normal symbol means that my awards, as a result of said symbol, should be higher than if the symbol were smaller. Continuing with the visuals the UI is not great. Buttons feel out of place, settings feel hidden away in the wrong area (UK auto-spin configuration for example), you have whole modal boxes that have nothing other than a soundfx selector in them… compared to other games, it feels like the UI has not progressed since the 90s. Perhaps that’s a design feature? Either way I wasn’t a fan.
The game has only 1 bonus, which is the free spins. Although the free spins are more fun than the base game, I had expectations of a bonus that would follow the medieval times theme.
I went into this review really wanting to love this game. Early impressions on its release suggested this would be one of my favourite games, but after spending more and more time with it, I’ve come away felling like it lacks depth and excitement. It is still a good game and perhaps the review criteria doesn’t do it justice as the sheer complexity of the massive 7 x 6 game window is worth playing for that experience alone. There is just not much more to it once you’ve hit 1 or 2 bonus features.