Dragoneer's Aria can be best described as a classic turn-based RPG centred on the well tested Japanese hero cliche, which normally consists of an unknown rookie who eventually becomes the saviour of the world.
Dragoneer's Aria puts you in the shoes of a graduate dragoon called Valen Kessler, whose graduation was interrupted by the return of the Black Dragon, Nidhogg. The Black Dragon was defeated and exiled a long time ago by the Holy Dragon, Grinlek, but the Holy Dragon was mortally wounded in the process. As it died, its soul separated into six different dragons, one for each of the elements: Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Thunder and Frost. These dragons kept the peace in the lands, and in turn dragoons were created to protect them.
The return of the Black Dragon results in the devastation of the city Granadis (where the graduation takes place) and the injuring of the Water Dragon. Hence, the premise of the game - Valen is tasked with finding out why the Black Dragon has returned and why the other Dragons except the Water Dragon were not present at the graduation (all six dragons are required to be present for the graduation of dragoneers).
To do this, Valen will eventualy bring along with him three others. Euphe Kalm, a female elf empath and healer, joins you almost immediately and she brings with her the Water Orb (more on Orbs later). On the way, you will find Mary Murphy, a child pirate captain, who sports a rifle as tall as herself, and, Ruslan L'Avelith, a disillusioned druid-like male elf.
Each character brings its own special on-and-off combat skills (known as Battle and Field skills respectively). Each use of a skill consumes 1 mana. Mana is also consumed when spells are used (but the amount of mana consumed is equal to the level of the spell).
In Dragoneer's Aria, spells are represented by Lusces, which are magically infused gems that are only active if they are equipped into a character's accessory. Lusces can be found in containers that are littered across the Dragoneer's Aria world, or in loot from defeated enemies. In addition, the level of a spell is increased by its continued use. This is quite a departure from the traditional approach of learning spells and levelling them up by using points gained at each level.
In fact, Dragoneer's Aria introduces a few other interesting variations to the mechanics of the traditional RPG. For instance, 1 Mana is gained after 100 Energy is gained, and Energy is gained by each successful hit of a standard attack. We're not yet sure exactly the benefit or attraction of having one meter fill another, but it is different.
Then, there is the Guard action featured in combat. While it intuitively means to block against an enemy attack, the effectiveness of the block and therefore the amount of damage received depends on your ability to complete the resulting "mini-game", which is akin to a cut-down version of Guitar Hero or Dance Dance Revolution. If you set a character to Guard and it is attacked, you are presented with a group of symbols, some coloured and some not. Hitting the "X" button when a coloured symbol is highlighted deflects 20% of the damage. If you get all 5 coloured symbols in succession and within the set time, all damage is deflected. Pretty neat!
Also, unlike traditional RPGs where your characters are usually forced to act in a preset sequence (e.g. based on some statistic), Dragoneer's Aria allows you to choose the sequence in which your characters act. While this may be considered somewhat unrealistic or simplistic, it does provide a sense of freedom that has not been offered before.