Dawnspire Review (PC)

The gameplay of Dawnspire boils down to a hack and slash version of capture the flag as two teams, light and dark, work to capture relics and return them to spawn points. Think of a marriage between the fast gameplay of Counter-Strike with the hacking and slashing of Diablo. Neat idea huh? Well, this is a budget title so let's just say it is not without its problems.

A great example of your bot allies felling the scene, leaving you to instantly die
Clearly a doctored screenshot. Here the bots are actually helping the PC

One of this game's novelties is in character creation. You choose from one of five basic archetypes (berserker, elf/ninja, assassin, fighter/healer, mage) and instead of a leveling system, you choose your skills and assign to them a set number of skill points. But after creating your character, the term “RPG” should be applied loosely in Dawnspire’s case. There is no leveling up, or gaining xp, or choosing skill sets as you go. On one hand, this is a unique way of creating an avatar and it goes along well with the single-serving syle of play Dawnspire provides. The idea behind this is to keep everyone at a certain level, which is a fine means to an end, but ultimately, the only difference is between character classes and the name you choose.

Without the ability to select race, gender, costume the game allows for little variance in characters not only in playstyle but looks as well. There are no pickups, no rewards, no earned titles, no costume changes, nothing to make one Reaver or Witch or Templar any different than the next. Why do “budget” titles have to be so shallow in these respects?

A handy tally of failures… er I mean kills
That’s a pretty cool looking sky, I guess even the sun shines on a dog’s behind once in awhile

Combat is simplistic yet it requires some strategy and a good grasp of how your powers work. Then again, the action gets so frenzied that you will find yourself clicking on everything just to get out of a tight spot. Essentially all the classes are designed to work together. What combat boils down to is to get as close as you can to your opponent and click like mad. Simple and repetitive.

Compounding the straightforward combat is the atrocious AI. The bots show some flashes of intelligence but this seems coincidental because on the whole, they fight and attack mindlessly and relentlessly. And there are no introductory servers meaning newbies fight the same enemies as veterans. Bots also cast spells and attack faster than human opponents making them difficult opponents for the wrong reasons. The frustration mounts as the AI bots have a tendency to camp spawn points. While difficult opposing AI may be forgivable, uncooperative allied AI is not. Allies show no responsiveness to players as they choose to run off to fight and die solo. The best tactic for mere survival seems to be shadowing an allied bot, using him as a decoy.

Obviously then, the game shines when more players are involved. Real people have the brains to cover for each other and use their characters and skills for the benefit of the team in direct contrast to the bots. Unfortunately the game isn't very popular yet and full servers of real people are hard to come by. The Dawnspire website lists a number of clans which means there are a good number of veteran players who can show you the ropes, you just have to be lucky enough to catch them.

The game looks and sounds good. Music mixes well with ambient sound. Fighting in the distance actually sounds like fighting in the distance. The maps are for the most part attractive and lag free but are nothing special. The layout of the maps could use a little attention as well as they all “feel” pretty much the same.

See, it IS possible to win, I knew it
Witches are arguably the most powerful class in the game, mostly because they don’t have to stand anywhere near the enemy

If you are unfazed by the inevitable, constant death, the steep learning curve, the idiot AI, the poorly-designed (but neat looking) maps, the certain index finger cramps, or the underdeveloped character creation system, you will find Dawnspire to be a unique (and economic) gaming experience. Especially when the servers start hosting more real players. Unfortunately, Dawnspire is an unfinished game and not worth your time until more thought and effort are put into streamlining and refining the experience. If this RPG-light style of gaming should become popular, it will take a better designed game then this one.

Top Game Moment:
Defeating your first bot… only to be cruelly trampled by the next.