It seems like a good many games coming out these days have a related Facebook game to try and get the fans excited about the coming blockbuster. Dragon Age: Legends is the companion game to the up-and-coming Dragon Age 2. Legends is still in closed beta, but here’s a preview of what you can expect when the game opens to the public after the jump.

Dragon Age: Legends is, to all intents and purposes, a strategy, turn-based MMO RPG that you play on Facebook. In much the same vein as other Facebook games, you can draft your friends in to accompany you on your quest. The really nice part of it is that they don’t have to be online to join you. So what is Legends all about?

Ostensibly, the story is the foreshadowing of the events that will take place in Dragon Age 2, and foretells the rise of the darkspawn horde. Again. Your character is the standard Adventurer type (in other words, your pick of warrior, mage, or rogue—one day I’d love to see a non-standard character archetype!) who embarks on a quest to explore the Free Marches, the area that Dragon Age 2 takes place in. The gameplay is divided into two distinct sections: quest and castle management.

The quest section of the game has your character going from encounter to encounter, fighting battles and progressing the storyline. There’s not much depth to the story itself, and the sequence of events are roughly as linear as a beam of coherent light. Once you’ve experienced an event, you can’t redo it, so character progression, it seems, is also similarly linear. Not all events are battles, and there is the odd event that serves to progress the story only, but you still get loot for those events.

To proceed to an event, you need to have enough energy for it. Energy replenishes over time, and this seems to be the standard way of preventing people from playing too long and finishing the game in a single session. If it seems like padding, then you’d be correct, and this must be the one thing about all Facebook games that drives me absolutely moggy. I hate this mechanic, and it seems like a lazy way to get people to play the game in short bursts over a long period.

Battles are a turn-based strategy affair. Protagonists appear on the left of the screen, and waves of enemies appear on the right. Some enemies are more prone to one kind of attack than another, so it’s a good idea to keep a decent mix of character types in later, multi-wave battles. During each turn, each character can use an item (most of which don’t end the turn), and attack (which usually does end the turn). When you defeat a wave of enemies, you proceed to the next wave until you’ve cleared the stage.

Your allies are any friends you’ve managed to draft into playing the game with you, and they retain any levels and spells that they have managed to achieve. Strong allies make for easy battles. If you have no friends playing Legends, then the game is kind enough to give you a small band of NPCs that you can use, because there is no way in any of the nine circles of hell that you’re going to be able to get through the later battles alone. As with any PRG, you also get to outfit your character with numerous weapons, bits of armor, spells, abilities, and so on. If you’ve ever played an RPG before, you should be well familiar with this bit.

And then Legends hits you with another artificial game-lengthener. Each ally you use has a recharge time (usually in the order of hours), and this means that you can only go through so many battles before you have to stop and wait a few hours before getting on with it. It’s not significant, but it’s annoying enough to warrant a mention.

The second half of the game sees you managing a castle. You’re only awarded a few rooms to begin with, and you have to decide on the functionality of those rooms. Each room type costs a small pile of gold, but they have very specific functions. The apothecary, for example, can generate more healing potions for you (once again in a magnitude of hours). For each person you want to have working on making things, you’ll need a set of living quarters. On top of all that, you can spend money (if you have it) to upgrade the castle rooms. This allows the room to produce different kinds of stuff that you may need on your quest. You can also expand the given space, once again with more gold. If you’re out of gold, you can spend real-life money in exchange for in-game gold to buy castle rooms, castle space, special items, weapons, etc. If you have the money to spend on this sort of thing, it can make the experience go that much faster.

The animations themselves have a certain kind of “cardboard cut-out” charm to them, and I love the graphic of (who I assume to be) Shale the Golem from Dragon Age 1 doing a bizarre dance on the loading screens. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but you don’t need to break ground to produce charm. The graphics serve their purpose and not much more.

Overall, the game is bite-sized fun. You’ll have to come back day after day (or every few hours if you have the time or inclination) to continue the game, but this seems to be the unfortunate trend set by many Facebook games. The only reason to keep playing this game long after the fun factor has worn off is to unlock the goodies you’ll get by linking the game data to Dragon Age 2, and I am extremely excited about that, given how much I enjoyed the first game.

Should you play Legends? Give it a try if you’re a fan of turn-based RPGs, and definitely give it a go if you’ve an interest in what happens prior to the events of Dragon Age 2.

Score: 6/10 (the other 4 points went with the different kinds of artificial padding).