by Brandon Eckerd
All my childhood friends had, at some point in their life, a Neopets account. While it wasn’t the first of the digital pets game, undoubtedly Neopets became the most well-known of the online variants and helped cultivate the scene for online pet games. Many of the modern digital pet games follow a familiar formula; starting off is slow, encouraging players to spend real-life money to gain access to content that would otherwise take hours, days, even weeks to earn with the game’s free currency. And like most mobile games, modern digital pets use wait times as an incentive to purchase items, again with real-life currency, to speed up the process.
I cannot stand this free-to-play formula. I firmly believe that players should either have access all the content with the purchase or download of a game or that the process to earn it should be welcoming and engaging for new players. Flight Rising is just another example of a game that follows this free-to-play formula, but with a few key differences. Flight Rising featues dragons as the virtual pet, and much of the game revolves around buying, breeding, selling and fighting your dragons online. Of course, your dragons can be customized with apparel, accents and their own genetic coloration. It is a mixture of a fashion, dress-up game with the strategy of selective breeding. At the same time, it introduces a turn-based fighting game and bartering bazaar for your prized dragons and their offspring. Flight Rising basically has a lot of content to appeal to a very wide audience.
One excellent aspect of Flight Rising is that, from the start, you choose which one of eleven teams you want to be on. While this aesthetically affects your dragon’s eye color, it also immediately gives you access to forums exclusive to your team. This brilliant mechanic integrates players into a smaller community for them to learn the game before they feel ready to partake in the game’s much larger, cross-team community. The community of Flight Rising is very user friendly and many members are happy to help out new teammates by providing them with dragons and supplies.
The team aspect also creates the most important feature of Flight Rising: dominance. Throughout the week, you can exalt your dragons, essentially letting them go forever to serve whatever draconic deity your team serves under. When a dragon is exalted, points are added to an invisible tally; the higher level the dragon, the more the points. At the end of the week, the results are tallied, and during the next week the top three teams get bonuses. These bonuses range from discounts at the shop, more daily treasure (the game’s currency) and additional opportunities to gather items. Teams work hard to coordinate pushes and plan when they want to fight for dominance, which reinforces the team’s community.
The game does use currency sinks very well to control some of its inflation. Once you are a couple months into the game, it becomes much easier to earn treasure. However, it costs A LOT of treasure to build new nests for breeding and to expand your lair, allowing you to keep more dragons. This outlets, alongside taxes in the auction house, help control the game’s economy.
Flight Rising does suffer from many of the same faults of other pet games. Earning treasure as a new player is dreadfully slow, although entering the Colosseum to pit your dragons against AI-controlled monsters does accelerate the process. Content that can only be accessed with Gems, which can be purchased with real-life currency, is also infuriating. In my opinion, the game’s biggest flaw is its combat system for fighting, which grows quickly tedious and comes off very uninspired.
All that being said, Flight Rising is easy to recommend as a casual game for people who like dragons, breeding fancy monsters and a creative community. Starting up is slow and the game’s glaring flaws mean it will definitely not appeal to everyone, but, if you like virtual pets, you will be happy wasting hours browsing the auctions and forums looking for the perfect mate for your favorite dragon.