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Review: Kingdom Hearts Dark Road


Aquaberry

Kingdom Hearts Dark Road has now been live for a week!

Upon completion of the first episode, here are our staff's impressions of this new chapter in the series!

Gameplay
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We found the responses to the gameplay of KHUχ to be simplistic and bland. While it is certainly more new-player-friendly than KHUχ, and has the option to speed you through to the story scenes, the lack of depth in gameplay can make it a dull affair to those looking for a challenge. Either way, the lack of AP was appreciated!

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The KHDR home screen is simply a static screen of the current world, very unlike KHUχ, where you can move your character around and see what quests and events are available. In KHDR, you don't travel around worlds anymore.

There are currently 20 brief quests, interspersed by several "Kill X amount of enemies in Y place" missions. You simply start a battle and continue until you either die or just want to stop. You can also put the game on auto battle mode and relax; some members of our staff liked the option to press "World Battle" and progress with the story without having to commit to hours of grinding, which can be monotonous while battling wave after wave of enemies with no exploration. However, the game on auto play can be a bit slower than the speed at which you can play it manually play; there's always a brief pause before the AI selects cards, whereas you can do this right away on manual.

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If you were not a fan of the card mechanics in Chain of Memories/RE: Chain of Memories and Flick Rush in Dream Drop Distance, you will most probably not like it in KHDR! Battle is a matter of using cards randomly drawn from your (customizable) deck with enemies attacking in real time, but there's relatively little strategy to it beyond making sure the first one is a good one, trying to use 3 of the same color (green/red/blue), and praying that your RNG is decent on which ones show up out of your deck. The chance to get the Key Art cards (some of the strongest cards in the mobile games) is unfortunately very low, sitting at a measly 0.19%.

You can change the last party member with any of the four new characters (Hermod, Urd, Bragi and Vor) but it's doesn't seem like they add much to the gameplay.

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KHDR has the player grind excessive amounts of BP to level up, especially after Level 10. The difference in strength between the Rank 1 and Rank 2 enemies seems disproportionate; you can be stronger than a Rank 1 enemy, but find it incredibly difficult getting through more than two or three enemies at Rank 2. The difficulty spikes on the quests are also enormous, leading the player to grind even more to simply get a chance to complete the quests that are currently avaliable.

There are no Keyblades to swap between, no equipment. Instead, there are two main routes to gaining power.

The first is pulling for cards depicting various features of the series (enemies, art, Keyblades, and characters) in return for draw tickets, or jewels (shared with KHUχ, so pulling here reduces your jewels there and vice versa), which, if you get duplicates of, automatically merge to power up up to +10.

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The other is by acquiring BP, which so far serves only one purpose in KHDR: spending it to level up and increase Xehanort's base stats, although there is an empty shop tab labeled for it. As a side note, you can also gain tiny, incremental increases to various stats, mostly HP, either by collecting duplicate cards, or by killing 1, 10, 100, and 1,000 of the same enemy. BP is gained in small increments by defeating Heartless, or in fairly large amounts in the current event, which grants large amounts of it in return for special event keys, which you can of course buy with premium currency, or earn with weekly and monthly missions. You can also gain a minuscule amount of BP while the game is off. But it feels like it's something you might need to save for whatever is available in the future that requires it. Should you use all your BP to level up Xehanort now, or save it for whatever item that the game might have in store in the future? We don't know!

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But by far, the cheapest (and least soul-crushing) way of gaining BP is by entering an endless battle mode too weak to kill you, and then turning on auto mode

The gameplay is, at its core, very simplistic. While KHUχ has, over the years, veered into being overly complex and convoluted with its numerous ways of powering up the medals you attain, KHDR avoids that by requiring little to no thought whatsoever. If you're playing on auto mode, we suggest you turn it off if you see that you're out of cards, and tap to refill your cards faster. Just try to get through the quests fast to get to the story events.

Characters and Story
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Based on our experience of the chapter available for KHDR, and our experience of playing it in the past week, it seems to have much more of a story-focused feel than KHUχ. But this is compromised by the incredible amount of grinding you have to do to progress to five brief cutscenes, which can demotivate the player into stopping (or turning on auto mode).

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The characters are interesting and the story is enjoyable. The relationship between Xehanort and Eraqus is one we were excited to see. They have an easy chemistry one expects from a pair of actual, real-world friends. Furthermore, the story has the distinction of moving faster and being more tight and focused than KHUχ, in our experience.

The four new Keyblade wielders, however, are effectively entirely interchangeable as party members with no difference to the story, saying the exact same things where they appear, with no difference whatsoever on who you choose despite having different personalities. They unfortunately seem to serve as set pieces and props more than actual, well-written, influential characters, especially considering... 

Spoiler

... all four of them appear to be dead four years later, in an unspecified incident that Eraqus seems to think Xehanort blames himself for. Effectively, much like Strelitzia, they exist to eventually die and perhaps motivate another character; just, this time, there are four of them.

KHDR is certainly bound to be even more compelling than its counterpart KHUχ. It seems to be a more personal tale with a shocking twist at the end of Episode 1 (see in spoiler box). The story, though short, has a strong beginning, enticing hardcore fans to follow along, craving future lore and insights into how and why Xehanort became the Seeker of Darkness.

Overall Impressions
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KHDR is a simple, fun game to play on your phone, but not a title with much to write home about. It starts very slow, with only time to tell if it will get livelier or stay an idle experience. While the mechanics may be new-user friendly, we don't actively recommend it for those who have not played KHUχ as it relies, for now anyway, too much on your KHUχ progress to even get to a decent point in it. In fact, as a KHUχ player, it's possible to use it as an easy way to make more jewels for KHDR due to its almost entirely idle nature and fairly generous weekly/monthly rewards.

While KHDR's story is compelling, engaging, and appreciatingly fast-paced, and the friendship between the younger versions of Master Xehanort and Master Eraqus are a joy to experience, the gameplay grind is likely to be too monotonous and uneventful and to be skipped over on auto mode.

KHDR apparently had a relatively small team that worked on it, and some of the limitations are somewhat understandable given the lack of focus it received. The KHUχ team was still working on KHUχ when developing KHDR, and with only two animators. With time, updates, expertise and a bit more focus on it, perhaps that can be changed. It's too early to tell.

Overall Rating
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5.8 out of 10

 

Many thanks to @Allwil13, @Otti#8624@Ryuji_Shiryu, @Aqua_Wren, @OrpheusJoshua, PowerJusho_KH13  and others for sharing their first impressions of Kingdom Hearts Dark Road!

Let us know what you thought about it, and what you expect in the coming developments!



User Feedback

Recommended Comments

Awesome reviews guys. This review is basically how I feel with Kingdom Hearts Dark Road. However, this game has some potential to tell a good story despite being a mobile game.

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I agree with a lot of this, it's a pretty fair and accurate review. Though I wasn't expecting a lot to begin with, It feels like an accessory to KHUX right now more than a full fledged game. Hopefully it will expand and improve with future updates, but until then the characters and story are the only really intriguing parts for me.

I really want to find more positive things to say about it but, I'm kind of at a loss for now. xD 

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10 hours ago, WakelessDream said:

I really want to find more positive things to say about it but, I'm kind of at a loss for now. xD 

This, I wasn't a fan of the idea of it but held my judgement, and I can't say I'm happy that the mistakes from UXs release weren't worked upon. Some people say that it's a good game because it doesn't require any input due to auto mode. Well, I'm not certain I can call any game that 100% plays itself a "good" game because I personally am not gaming. Maybe gaming the system sure.

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5 hours ago, 2 quid is good said:

This, I wasn't a fan of the idea of it but held my judgement, and I can't say I'm happy that the mistakes from UXs release weren't worked upon. Some people say that it's a good game because it doesn't require any input due to auto mode. Well, I'm not certain I can call any game that 100% plays itself a "good" game because I personally am not gaming. Maybe gaming the system sure.

Mmm yeah, I mean KHUX has an auto battle system too and you can leave your device idle for a bit but it still requires some level of engagement (walking up to the next enemy, using your supernova attacks, paying attention to the enemy counter). I suppose you do have the option to turn off auto battle and play KHDR manually but even then it's still pretty hand holdy.  

If the story is all this has going for it, then I kind of question if this was the best medium to present it in at this point. And I'm really not trying to rip on this game. >.<

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