In the past few months alone, Final Fantasy 14 has become of the most talked-about MMORPGs on the market. It's not a mobile game you can play on the go, but there is one big portable title out there that offers a lot of what players enjoy about Square Enix's megahit. Dragalia Lost, a game developed by World Flipper team Cygames and published by Nintendo itself, is a fantasy title all about dragons, evil empires, lost lineages, and, more importantly, massive boss battles. Sound familiar? It's worth checking out.
Final Fantasy 14 has become renowned for its cinematic boss battles, highly engaging and emotional story, and roleplay of every flavour. Dragalia Lost has one of those going for it. Its battles aren't quite as flashy – it is a chibi-style mobile game, after all – but it boasts a similar gameplay loop that's sure to entice those who enjoy struggling against a difficult battle and subsequently grinding for better gear or figuring out creative ways to rise above it.
In the early days, High Dragon Trials (story battles re-tuned for end-game characters) were something only a small percentage of the player base could manage. They required a specific set of upgraded items to even survive the initial unavoidable burst of damage. In just the first few seconds, you'd know if you were equipped for the job. If not, you'd go back and continue the grind for optimal gear. For veteran Final Fantasy 14 fans, it was the equivalent of the infamous Faust, a mini-boss that dealt massive amounts of damage purely to test the endurance of a team hoping to take on the real deal within.
During the High Dragon Trial days, this generous gacha game's character roster was so small that only a select few units were mathematically capable of clearing the fights. If attempting it solo, you'd be in control of three of your other units – units you'd have to manually gear up and still be at the mercy of its then-lacklustre AI to complete. But in taking the MMORPG approach of teaming up with three other players, each person would need to learn the delicate dance of the tightly timed fight, with one slip-up potentially spelling the end of a tiring ten-minute run.
It's a lifestyle Final Fantasy 14 fans know all too well. Its dozens of big boss battles all tick to the same tune. Attacks come out like clockwork, and in putting in the practice, a team slowly but surely learns exactly where they should be at any second, where to go next, who with, and what they may have done that led to a team wipe. Progress can start deceptively smooth, but as the fight goes on, the opportunity to practice later mechanics becomes harder and harder to reach reliably.
Each boss battle is like a marathon run of the classic memory game toy Simon. In Final Fantasy, you're tasked with balancing a precise 24-button attack rotation while dancing around a boss' killer attacks. In Dragalia Lost, its characters only have a handful of abilities to use, but in charging each with a flurry of tap-based normal and charged attacks, the idea remains the same. You need to remember the steps of a dangerous waltz while identifying the optimal time to strike with your best abilities.
Sometimes you'll want to let a boss phase play out to get a welcome break from the chaos, whereas other times you might want to do everything you can to "break" the boss, knocking them into a vulnerable state and potentially averting one of their deadlier mechanics. They're all different, but they all follow the same design philosophy.
Like in any major MMORPG, taking on some of the newest and toughest boss battles in Dragalia Lost is no easy feat. It's been a while since I last attempted it myself, but taking on Kai Yan during the Agito boss battle era really made me miss the days I'd spend working through the latest raid tier in Final Fantasy 14.
Myself, my partner, and countless random players spent what must have been a dozen hours at least just learning boss attack patterns, figuring out which set of characters to bring to heal through and remove the enemy's pesky debuffs, and finally identifying how to optimize our damage. Even learning to store a healing skill to survive a difficult phase became part of our eventual strategy. Rushing in rarely worked, and learning to pull your punches was often a very viable way through a difficult section.
In a pinch, Dragalia Lost can offer the excitement of Final Fantasy 14's lucrative raiding scene. The in-game networking features aren't quite up to the task of having you find a consistent group for progression. You'll likely end up going back to the starting point as a drop-out is replaced with a fresh-faced adventurer if you don't familiarize yourself with its active Discord group. But when random players stick around long enough to see a difficult battle through to the end, the adrenaline rush and subsequent relief is not unlike what you'd feel vanquishing a Primal in Square Enix's MMO.
And you can easily work both into your life. Dragalia Lost is a team-building gacha game at heart. You don't grind the main campaign to level up. Instead, it's more about building teams that can auto-run the content needed to unlock the gear and resources needed to see your characters through a tougher battle. And they have roles, as well. Your favourite character may happen to be the damage machine Gala Cleo, but if you have one of the meta healers for a particular fight, you may have to change your play style to get through the latest content drop.
And pull back to one of the most integral parts of Final Fantasy's success, Dragalia Lost's story is filled with a similar amount of bizarre twists and dramatic turns as well. Dragons, empires, androids, aliens. They're all here. And most are pretty neat boss battles as well. Its base building isn't exactly a decorative player housing system, but it is another big reason to grind content for marginal power increases. That egg-shaped stage in your kingdom could be the difference between felling a world-ending demon and fading into the void.