Review: Mia and the Dragon Princess Is Schlock, Full of Missed Opportunities
I’m still old enough that I remember when full motion video (or FMV) was a novel addition to games. FMV mostly gave way to the use of computer generated cutscenes, despite the early promise (and ubiquitousness) of live action cutscenes. There has been a bit of a resurgence of FMV with studios like Wales Interactive earnestly releasing content featuring live actors. But while Wales Interactive does make “traditional” video games, there is still a huge gap between what can be considered by most as a “traditional” game and one that is really just a choose-your-own-adventure style game.
Mia and the Dragon Princess is an interactive movie in the choose your own adventure format. Its story revolves around a pirate treasure connected to a tourist bar. Absurdly, one of the pirates has been frozen in ice for centuries and has been recently woken up to lead a criminal to hidden pirate treasure. There’s a neat animated intro that does a good job establishing the legend, but it glosses right over some important details. It’s absurd, and while Mia and the Dragon Princess does embrace absurdity to some degree, it also uses some pretty extreme violence causing some janky tonal shifts.
Paul McGann chews the scenery as the evil Mr. Walsh, who is looking for pirate’s gold—but his is a character without sufficient build up, and the violence he employs feels excessive and out of place. He has supposedly planned this operation for decades, but is willing to risk his freedom by telling his men flippantly to “kill them all” in one scene, and even going as far as employing hand grenades in another.
That’s not the only case of surprising violence, either. Depending on the choices you make some characters can die in quite shocking ways—and while seeing how different characters can live or die is a draw for such a game, it feels like your choices don’t really directly affect any specific character’s fate.
Don’t get me wrong, Mia and the Dragon Princess does allow users to make choices that change the shape of the narrative significantly – it just feels like there are times when it also robs you of a choice that is rather significant to the storyline. Still, there are a good number of ways the story can play out.
Luckily, you can keep track of the branches you take in the story through the in-game menu. It’s even easy to choose the branch you want to take, as the top and bottom answer corresponds to the appropriate branch. You can also skip over scenes you’ve already watched to get to choices you haven’t made—at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. I was forced to rewatch several scenes I’ve seen without being able to skip them, which made for a tedious rewatch.
And that’s all you can really do with Mia and the Dragon Princess. You can really just rewatch, make a few different choices, and that’s it. While there is a meter that displays different statistics like intelligence, bravery, responsibility, etc. they don’t really seem to mean anything in the long run. There is a “good” ending, but you can only get to that through making the “correct” choices. And while that’s exactly what I expected with this title, I was surprised on how uneven the quality is based on the choices you make. Half the game feels cheaper than the other half, and the “true” ending’s path feels like it ate up all of the game’s production values.
While the choose-your-own-adventure thing has been done successfully in video games before, Mia and the Dragon Princess isn’t exactly a success. I think developer Wales Interactive missed a lot of opportunities in regards to letting the player make impactful decisions. And even as an interactive movie it ends up feeling corny with action that never feels impactful or emotional moments that don’t quite land. If you really need to experience Mia and the Dragon Princess I’d suggest just watching a streamer play through it.
Mia and the Dragoon Princess is available today on PC/Mac (Steam & Epic), PS4, PS5, Xbox O/S/X, Switch, iOS, and Android.