I am one of those gamers who have really enjoyed the resurgence of FMV games in recent years. One of the most recognizable brands in this space are the folks at Wales Interactive, who have done a significant number of these interactive films over the years. I myself played many of their early titles, like The Bunker, Late Shift, and The Complex. There have been many more since.
The latest in their interactive film collection is Mia and the Dragon Princess, which stars a barmaid in London who comes across a woman that doesn’t speak English and is on the run from police. The two quickly become embroiled in a pirate treasure hunt over 100 years in the making. It’s the premise for a fun adventure, but do all the pieces come together, or should this FMV game walk the plank? Let’s find out.
A Strangely Compelling, but Uneven, Adventure
Mia and the Dragon Princess opens with a well-animated introduction recounting the tales of an ancient princess and a pirate who, after gaining huge amounts of treasure, were separated. The princess was given a wrist device to find the ultimate location of her share, but otherwise their legend faded to history.
We jump forward to modern day London, joining a barmaid name Mia who is working at a local pub. While doing her usual duties, Mia comes across a women named Marshanda who is dressed in a hospital gown, sporting a wrist device, and on the run from the police. If this isn’t enough, she doesn’t speak a word of English either.
Together, the two navigate a delicate situation at the bar, where the owner of a restaurant upstairs, and a powerful thug, starts roughing up the owner to convince him to sell the pub, which has been in his family for generations.
The combination of pirate legend and crime drama makes for an enticing premise right off the bat. Marshanda’s wrist device and her connection to he pirate treasure also make for a compelling mystery. Like many of Wales Interactive’s games, you mostly watch the events of Mia and the Dragon Princess play out, but you’ll get opportunities throughout it’s 1-hour run time to make decisions that affect the story.
These decisions always come in pairs, and while they have an effect on your personality traits via several stats you can see when making choices, the game offers a story map right off the bat to show you which path you’re on, and which decisions you’ve made in prior playthroughs.
For some, this may be too direct, but I appreciated the knowledge because it let me see vastly different outcomes in my three total playthroughs during my time with the game. While the choices are binary, and the overall story can take one of two distinct paths, the individual decisions do lead to some surprising changes and deaths or lack thereof as you experiment with different options.
All of that being said, the game has a number of endings, and the quality varies greatly between them. I understand the need for “bad” endings in this type of game, but my first ending was extremely abrupt and disappointing. I almost wish those types of endings were reserved only for the second playthrough or more.
I say this, because my second ending was nearly perfect. It had a lot more answers, more intrigue, some fun adventuring, and a satisfying conclusion. While I admittedly didn’t see every single ending the game offers, I’m confident I saw the best possible ending from both of the main paths and what I would consider one of the worst endings as well.
After my second playthrough, I felt Mia and the Dragon Princess growing on me, but if I wasn’t reviewing it, I would have been turned off immensely by that first ending. Fans of this genre who know how widly things can change will know that one ending does not a story make, but I would caution others to understand that this game needs at least 3 playthroughs of different choices to really see all it has to offer.
This is made easier by the fact that you can skip scenes you’ve already seen with the R1 button. That being said, the game may still have you watch some scenes over again if you’re in between choices you’ve never made before, so keep that in mind.
Even after seeing the major beats of the story, I was left with several unanswered questions, one of them a big one. I suppose it’s possible this is answered somewhere in the remaining endings, but it’s such a big question mark from the beginning of the game, one would think it gets revealed in numerous endings if the answer exists at all.
Solid Fight Scenes Clash With Mixed Performances
Mia and the Dragon Princess has an ecletic cast and some standout moments to be sure. The fight scenes in particular are excellent, approaching the quality of John Wick, but not quite that good. Even so, Marshanda kicks a lot of ass during the various paths, and it’s fun to watch.
The acting can be intentionally cheesy at times, which works in the game’s favor at certain points. I’m all for cheesy jokes and ridiculous events, but Mia and the Dragon Princess tends to push things into corny territory at times, and does so with wreckless abandon.
I hate to use the term “cringe” but that’s how I would describe some of the more forced moments in certain paths of the story. The visual effects also leave something to be desired, though they do the job just fine.
Mia and the Dragon Princess is a title that didn’t make the best first impression, but it grew on me over time. The story has some genuinely fun and compelling moments throughout, and there are standout performances from Mia, Marshanda, and the main villain, but the whole experience doesn’t quite feel cohesive enough to give it a strong recommendation.
That being said, this is a solid title when compared to other FMV efforts out there. Fans of the genre or Wales Interactive’s work can easily add another point or two to the score, but newcomers should check their expectations around the performances and the interactivity before they take the plunge.
Final Score: 6.0/10
Article by – Bradley Ramsey
Insert date – 5/05/2023