This is probably true of most open-world games, but we’ve never felt it as strongly, as innately, as we did when playing Dragon Rising. This same freedom of expression continues into the night missions, not all of which involve special operation types and silenced weapons. Indeed, the first one you embark upon is particularly tricky due to the fact you really have to keep that trigger finger in check. One shot and the whole place lights up and, given that the area is swarming with PLA troops, not to mention the deadly threat of patrolling gunships, it is crucial to be sensible in your choices. Going in all guns blazing will not only make you fail your secondary objective (don’t be seen) but will result in your quick demise.
You might be able to bandage your wounds if you take a non-lethal hit, but that’s not easy to do in the middle of a field with bullets kicking up dirt around your prone body. Speaking of healing, you’ve also got a medic as part of your squad, someone who can help in patching up your AI squad mates or just giving you a shot from a magic syringe. This replenishes the blood you’ve lost and is another attempt to make the non-hardcore experience a little less unforgiving. Again, if you crave realism, stick it on the Hardcore mode.
Missions themselves are reasonably varied, both from the start of the game and in how they develop. There are the aforementioned stealth missions where you’ll have to secretly blow up a fuel dump or some anti-aircraft guns, plus you’ve also got rescue, beach assault and capture-and-hold-location missions.
They all involve shooting a load of PLA troops, of course, but often you’ll be sufficiently intrigued by the objectives of the next mission to bring in the whole “one more go” factor.The military fetishists out there are going to be a little disappointed with the range of guns, weapons and so on that are available. While there are enough different types of gun or vehicle to keeplaymen likeourselves satisfied, those who have an interest in military ordnance, ArmA II has the edge.
And you can’t be a sheep or a cow in Dragon Rising either. The mission editor won’t be as comprehensive as the ArmA II modding toolset Bohemia recently released, but there’s certainly sufficient depth, especially when you start getting involved with the LUA scripting language to create elaborate scenarios. Whether you’ll be able to create those amazing night battles so prevalent on YouTube, we’ll just have to see.
Another direct point of comparison with ArmA II is performance and issues thereof. Because Dragon Rising is, to be blunt, more of a game than Bohemia’s effort, it also runs a hell of a lot better. Let’s face it, awe-inspiring in terms of depth and complexity ArmA II might be, it sometimes forgets it’s actually a piece of entertainment, not a military training simulator. Dragon Rising never once forgets that it’s ultimately meant to be fun, but any issue of it being dumbed down can be dismissed by all but the most obsessive realism nuts. Indeed, it’s actually difficult to see how this game will succeed on the consoles. Concessions are made to the use of pads – radial menus, checkpoints that revive your comrades, and so on – but if you’re willing to look past these things, it’s a difficult game.
Also Dragon Rising doesn’t crash (at least, it didn’t for us). Even running on maximum graphics setting – one gripe would be the lack of advanced graphics settings to tweak – we never ran into any frame rate or performance issues. The graphics are good without being anything spectacular, so it should run well on the majority of reasonably specced machines.