The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon

December 12, 2008

Dawn of the Dragon is the final installment of Spyro reboot, The Legend of Spyro. It is obvious that Dawn of the Dragon is the third in a series, and that hurts it a bit – especially since it is the first installment of the series on the current generation of consoles. On one hand it can be annoying to fans to rehash the stories of prequel games, but on the other it is immensely helpful in keeping newcomers from feeling overwhelmed if characters are at least introduced. Dawn of the Dragon really drops the ball here as players are expected to just know that Cynder (Spyro’s current sidekick) was the villain of the first game, Malefor is never properly introduced, and the player is never reminded why Hunter has come searching for Spyro. This is nothing that a quick trip to Wikipedia can’t solve, but the player shouldn’t need to leave the game world to find out about characters and their motivations.

The narrative is decent, and those that have played the first two games will get a satisfying end to the Legend of Spyro trilogy, but those that are new to the series will simply go through the motions and enjoy an above-average platformer with tight controls and interesting play mechanics. This time around Spyro and Cynder and tethered together, and the player controls both of them. Spyro is the stronger, but Cynder is faster, and each dragon has access to unique magical attacks useful for taking out specific enemies and solving simple environmental puzzles.

Dawn of the Dragon’s dual character mechanic lends itself well to local cooperative play. One player controls Spyro while the other controls Cynder, and playing with a friend makes the game much more enjoyable. The cooperative play’s only negative mark is that the action takes place on a single screen which prevents players from exploring different areas of the level. When considering Dawn of the Dragon’s tether mechanic and narrative the decision makes sense, but sometimes gameplay and fun need to take a small back seat to internal consistency – especially when such a concession would make the game more fun.

When played alone the second dragon will be AI-controlled and get caught on environmental geometry, lag behind, and be fairly ineffective in combat. The tether system, at least, means that the player never needs to go off looking for Cynder as the game will eventually drag her along for the ride. This is particularly useful since Spyro finally has the ability to fly in any direction at any time. It is unbelievable just how long it took for this feature to show up in a platforming game about flying creatures. Flying controls are fluid, responsive, and taking to the skies is easy to do on a whim. That’s quite a feat considering Dawn of the Dragon is the first Spyro title to include the ability to fly to and from anywhere.

Take away a little next-gen polish and the ability to fly at the drop of a hat, however, and it becomes apparent that Dawn of the Dragon is strikingly similar to its predecessors in that there is little enemy variety, the environmental puzzles are overly simplistic, and the camera is still too finicky for a 3D platform adventure. Gamers used to Zelda-style puzzles and combat will find no challenge here, but those that are already invested in the Legend of Spyro storyline will enjoy the little purple dragon’s final adventure.

Pros: satisfying story wrap-up, free-flying
Cons: subpar combat AI, too easy puzzles
ESRB: E10+ for Fantasy Violence – this platformer is appropriate for all ages
Plays Like: The Legend of Spyro, Crash Bandicoot

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.