There's a secret sauce to making an FMV game engaging and fun that Wales Interactive always seems to be dancing along the border of. I find their output at its most entertaining when the scope is small and the stakes are low. Their latest title, Mia and the Dragon Princess, is certainly on the more ambitious side of things and it suffers as a result.
Mia and the Dragon Princess opens with an animated sequence of illustrations telling the tale of an old pirate legend, the specifics of which shape the full narrative. From there, the game fast-forwards to modern times and focuses on the staff of a pirate-themed bar on a day when a mysterious visitor language seeks their help while on the run from the police.
This kicks off a an adventure filled mostly with stunt and action sequences that only slow down just enough to dole out some important plot details. As with all FMV games, this story plays out through video clips, though the clips you see and the adventure you go on is somewhat under your control as you are sometimes asked to make decisions about what to say or do in specific situations.
Short and sloppy
Despite the generations-spanning narrative and lengthy action sequences, it's easy to complete Mia and the Dragon Princess in a single sitting. While I appreciate a swift pace (particularly for games of this type), the storytelling here feels rushed. There are things you will definitely still have questions about and some seemingly random happenings to grapple with by the time you reach the end of the story.
Of course, you can fill in some narrative gaps by replaying the game and making different choices to reveal other scenes and plot points, but I found myself not finding entirely satisfying answers, and some things just happen in Mia and the Dragon Princess that are completely unexplained or simply strongly implied without really letting you know what is supposed to be happening. This is at its most jarring on your first playthrough when you have the least exposure to the game's world, but replaying only sheds partial light on things.
Even if there weren't gaps in Mia and the Dragon Princess's storytelling, I'm not sure it would help the overall experience all that much. The twists and turns in the plot are all either predictable from miles away or completely random with no in between and the acting is all very stiff and awkward (thanks in part to a lackluster script).
That said, I was actually somewhat impressed by this game's action set pieces. They obviously don't compete with bigger budget action media, but they are mostly competently choreographed and have some impact to them. If you want to see some of the moves yourself, Mia and the Dragon Princess is a free-to-start title and includes bits of dialog and action before asking you to pay to experience the whole thing.
The bottom line
Mia and the Dragon Princess is definitely one of the weaker FMV games from Wales Interactive. It's certainly more action-packed than most and that stuff is pretty cool, but there's so many other aspects of the game that just don't really come together to tell its story in a way that is particularly gripping.