There are plenty of 2048 and "evolution" games. There's also a lot of dragon games on the Play Store, but what if you were to blend the two? Developer Gram Games Limited have dipped wetted their toes in the past by creating a couple of lighter versions of 2048, but in Merge Dragons! they combined the three, and to significant effect, I might add.
There are several things to praise in Merge Dragons! Firstly, I am delighted that it features an option to disable purchases. You know, for kids. However, this is also a clear indication that you can play without worrying too much about hitting a cap at some point.
I rarely find a good reason to play freemiums, my main objections being the lack of challenges, the snail-like pacing, and finally, the perpetual feeling of being unfairly constricted in some way or another. Merge Dragons! does not elude my second problem, but, surprisingly, it manages to keep me, a hater of freemiums, hooked for hours on end. How is that even possible? Well, let's analyze it a bit.
Although you won't realize this from the first moments, but Merge Dragons! emulates the standard village-building formula. You get some small lebensraum where you can build and store objects that help your progress or that unlock more real estate. Here's where the first unique gameplay mechanic comes off as very important: Everything in *Merge Dragons is upgradeable by merging at least three identical objects of a lower tier. If you've ever played a 2048 or one of those zany evolution games, you'll know of what I'm talking.
Merging items makes them more efficient, but it also clears up some of the tile space that you need so direly. However, that doesn't mean you'll want to merge as soon as you've obtained three of a kind. Merging five will return two of the same while joining more, depending on the type, will yield three, four, and even more. So you'll regularly have to manage your existing space to accommodate whatever you consider being a priority, and there are always plenty of choices.
I won't bore you with the fine details of how the game mechanics work. Let's say that having these beasts makes things much more accessible. You create dragons by merging three or more of their kind of eggs. You can also obtain more powerful dragons in the same way. Besides being extremely useful for expanding your land and collecting items, they also vary from cute to downright impressive. Upgrading these dragons seems to be the ultimate focus of the game, although there are enough pragmatic reasons to do the same, even if you don't care about their looks necessarily. That's why I enjoy playing Merge Dragons! so much!
Beyond the effectiveness of using the dragons proactively, you'll see that there's also always something to do on the side. Completing missions and challenges in faraway lands is an endeavor that's limited by an action point system. However, your home turf is ever-changing, either by having seeds fly by or sprout from a mother tree or by having the dragons wake up to work on something of their choice, like building or extracting.
That doesn't mean that Merge Dragons! has no flaws. The main problem I noticed is the easiness of making mistakes. Sliding a finger can mean either scrolling the screen or moving an item. While there's a way to disable scrolling, unfortunately, there is no possibility to disable item interactions, which would have made more sense. It is downright annoying to mistakenly merge three items and leave two more lying around when in fact you wanted to adjust your view only. This problem can be maddening when it comes to objects of a high rarity.
Even though it carries some execution flaws (correctable nonetheless,) Merge Dragons! is a surprising title. It manages to keep you engaged minute by minute, either by having to maintain your growing town or by exploring to obtain something new. The evolution inspired progression with the extra edge is profoundly elating, and you also get to grow dragons! Just make sure you set a time limit since this game can steal your time like nothing else.