Golden Treasure: The Great Green is a hand-painted role-playing game from Dreaming Door Studios. In it players will take on the role of a dragon hatchling, known to others as a Draak, trying to make its way in the world. In order to survive and grow you must hunt for prey, plunder labyrinths for treasure and eventually fight others for territory.
The game has a focus on knowledge, exploration and the elements. Players must learn about the world and other creatures around them in order to grow in strength and understanding. As you venture to different areas your dragon hatchling will gain knowledge of different elements, which in turn unlock new abilities. That makes for a frustrating experience at first, when you're limited, but becomes more relaxed once you have enough power and knowledge to explore.
The Hatchling Tutorial
When you begin your first life you're a hatchling being told a story about the way the world works and how the different elements come into play. During this time you will be prompted to make choices, which will determine what type of dragon you’ll become.
This part of the game serves as a tutorial and will also guide you through the basics of exploration and combat. Once you’ve fully hatched you are ready to explore the starter area, Heartbone Valley.
Life In Heartbone Valley
The starter area is unique in that it has a timer dictating how long you can spend there, something which is thankfully eliminated later on.
You begin your journey in Heartbone Valley by making a lair near some humans, or no-tails as they are called in-game. You are warned that they will draw closer to your lair over time and you must leave before they discover you.
This part of your journey is, in my opinion, the most frustrating. It takes time to figure out the combat system and the prey you catch is small and will not give you much energy. Likewise, if you are injured during combat it can take several suns and lots of energy to recover.
I discovered that as I was learning the game's mechanics I found myself in a cycle of mostly hunting and recovering. As a weak, newly hatched dragon many foes were injuring me and I struggled with the timings if I had to catch prey. I could catch them without issue but the swiping motion to attack I just couldn’t time right. This meant lots of combat, which frequently left me injured and often saw me lose a life.
When you die 3 times then you must begin a new life. One thing which did help is that at least some of your knowledge seems to be retained as you hatch into a slightly stronger dragon. You can also skip the hatching tutorial and go straight to the valley.
The biggest drawback here is that I cannot see a way to uncover all the secrets of Heartbone Valley without multiple life spans resetting your clock. Even once I knew what I was doing and had got better at hunting I didn’t have time to explore fully before I needed to move on. It's a shame because the starting zone is every bit as interesting as later areas.
Moving Into Spiritwood
This was where the first real test came. In order to move out of Heartbone Valley you must face a foe, Twist, who will challenge you to a battle of wits. You have to answer two riddles correctly in order to claim some land for your own and are only allowed 1 mistake.
While some players may find this easy others, like myself, may get frustrated trying to work out the answers to riddles, which aren’t easily searchable.
Luckily there is a second way to claim the territory but it involves provoking and fighting Twist, who is quite a bit more powerful than your newly hatched Draak.
Once this hurdle is overcome, either through combat or through managing to get two solvable riddles, you can enter Spiritwood and the game becomes much more relaxed.
There is still a timer of sorts but you aren’t forced to move on, instead you get events which take place every few suns.
The world is large and filled with interesting places to explore. You are also stronger and can more easily hunt larger prey, breaking the never ending hunting and resting cycle and allowing you to truly enjoy the game.
Growing and Exploring
I’d love to write more about the later game and my exploration of adulthood but I’ve spent hours in Spiritwood and yet I’m still learning its secrets and I don’t want to move on yet. There are still labyrinths to explore, bees to befriend, and I wanted to try eating those suspicious looking leaves I found.
Once you move past the starting area the full freedom to explore makes this a relaxing and interesting game. This slow pace has ensured I’ve spent a large chunk of time mastering combat, hunting for shiny things, and generally discovering what the game has to offer.
While coming up against some strong foes can be a little tense, the pace soon comes back down. When you lose a life the restarting of your day allows you to more easily explore different options, giving you a chance to escape from tricky situations.
If you lose your life entirely you can restart as an adolescent in Spiritwood, eliminating the frustration of facing off against Twist over and over. I’m assuming the next area will also bring with it a new life stage and a new starting point.
Graphically the game is stunning. Each frame is hand-painted and the care that has gone into it is evident. I really enjoyed exploring because every new place visited added new aspects to the story and presented me with more beautiful images.
While I became frustrated in the early game, the later part has been much more rewarding. There are still some frustrations, which for me include the markings on a tree which I just can’t figure out, but overall the game is enjoyable to play and a relaxing way to spend some time.
It’s also the kind of game which you can play for a while then leave, since the passing of the days gives you a natural stopping point.
I’d like to see the timer for the starting zone scrapped or extended. That would go a long way in making this game much more enjoyable early on. However, despite some frustrations with the puzzle elements, which is mostly because I suck at puzzles, it’s a beautiful and enjoyable game to play.
Score 4 out of 5
The Gamer was provided with a code for this game for review purposes. It's available now on Steam.