NEW YORK — I looked off into the distance at the sprawling mountainside taking in the thick treeline framing a far-off castle. But before I could become too transfixed by the majesty, an ear-piercing screech sounded overhead. My attention shot upward just in time to catch a large dragon circling overhead as it belched a large fireball. It made a few more passes before landing gracefully to my right and blowing thick black smoke in my direction. The title screen for Dragonflight slowly materialized, and it was time to start my demo using the HTC Vive at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Currently available as an Early Access game on Steam VR, the $15.99 Dragonflight's premise is fairly straightforward. You climb atop a mythical beast and fly around wreaking fire-based havoc. My black, scaly steed possessed two types of flame attacks: a fireball for quick, long-range engagement and a continuous column of flame similar to a flame thrower. I quickly switched between attacks by rapidly pressing the rear triggers for fireballs and holding them for the longer attack.
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But before I started doling out death from above, I had to mount my steed, which required me to walk over and have a seat in the Vive demo using that headset's room-tracking technology. (Since the Oculus Rift lacks that functionality, I imagine I'll already be seated on the dragon when the Oculus version of Dragonflight begins.) Squeezing both triggers signaled to my dragon that it was time for liftoff, and with a mighty flap of its massive bat-like wings, we were airborne.
Since this was a demo, the beast flew on a previously determined flight path, but in the actual game, players will be free to steer their dragon wherever they want. Dragonflight's flying mechanic felt natural and left me feeling giddy as I looked down below. My attention soon turned to unleashing wanton destruction with my dragon began shooting fireballs, leveling a thicket of trees. From there, I incinerated another dragon as it made the mistake of getting in my line of fire.
Switching between short flame bursts and long columns of flame felt natural. Reaction to my trigger inputs was nearly instantaneous as was controlling the direction by brushing my thumbs against one of the touchpads. My reward for these furtive presses was crumbling castle foundations, patches of soot where trees once stood and crispy dragon carcasses.
I'm curious to try out the flight controls at a later date. But overall, Dragonflight is a cool experience that let's you live out your latent How to Train Your Dragon fantasies.