Art of Conquest is a pretty lofty combination of genres — namely RTS, RPG, and a dash of MMO. This mixture of abbreviations is meant to make sure you’re attracted to at least one of these. It is a little slow to start, and its free-to-play elements could put some players off, but it still has enough potential to deserve a chance.

If you picked this game because you hoped for a good story, you might get a bit disappointed. The story is not the primary element of Art of Conquest: Dragon Dawn, but exploration. You’re working on exploring a strange world, expanding your kingdom, and wiping out any enemies you come across. Exploration is done by tapping on the screen and moving from area to area. This form of explorations is an open world kind, although at first, it won’t seem so. Instead, you’ll feel like you’re moving your little hero around between events. If you see a pot of gold placed on the ground, you can run over and grab it. Likewise, if you see an enemy somewhere on the map, you can approach them and begin an encounter.

Combat has a similar grid-style layout. You place your troops down, along with however many heroes you have at your disposal before they go for it by themselves. Early battles aren’t so significant in scope, but the longer you play, the more heroes you’ll acquire and the bigger the forces you command will be. Special attacks can be used occasionally, which can frequently change the tide of battles. Some battles might simply be against forgettable warriors, but others have you fighting against dragons. Predictably, these dragon scuffles require you to be fairly high level, but it’s a great thing to aim towards.

But that’s not the most interesting thing about Art of Conquest. Things get really intriguing on the PvP side of this game, which gets introduced after a certain amount of time. There, you can choose your heroes and troops like before, set a formation, and work out your chosen tactics. Apparently, defeating a living opponent is far more satisfying than sticking with AI opposition.

There’s more player interaction on a city scale too. Each city is controlled by a clan, which encourages you to help one another in a bid to be the strongest. These town dynamics is where Art of Conquest: Dragon Dawn feels almost like an MMO. On the other hand, the general feeling about the game depends on the style you play it.

Developing your own base is a recommendable move too. Sure, that’s something you’ve done in numerous games before, but in Art of Conquest it feels more convenient, you won’t feel aggravated because of the time you spent in training and upgrading troops. The colorful graphics prove more delightful than most other base building experiences too. A steady stream of quests encourages you to pursue a set path, providing you with plenty of rewards and reasons to keep working away at improving your land.

The Dragon Dawn expansion brought another exciting feature to the game. These are mythical creatures, and you have three attempts to guess which ones. Yep, the dragons. When their stronghold reaches level 10, every player now has a Dragon Lair added within their walls.  So they can hatch baby dragons (By the way, what’s the word for a baby dragon?) from the dragon egg, and train it to become a fine addition to their army. There are five different colors of dragon eggs, and each Commander can have an unlimited number of them, but may only keep one mature dragon. Each breed of the mature dragon has its own unique strengths and abilities. Baby dragons start with several abilities, the number of which is determined by the rarity of the dragon egg.

Dragons start with three abilities and can level up to obtain even more. Dragon abilities can be upgraded by using Soul Fire, and later promoted by using Dragon Glass. You can use Dragon Glass to upgrade your dragon to level 50. But, your dragon cannot exceed your stronghold’s level by more than 10. When your dragon reaches a milestone, you can evolve it using Soul Fire.  Evolving your dragon changes its appearance, increases its levels, and greatly upgrades its attributes. Once your stronghold reaches level 11, you can bring your dragon with you into the Abbys and fight. Although those fights don’t affect players on the normal map, by winning you can collect various rewards, including the lair map fragments. By completing the map you get the location of the dragon boss, which you and your friends can fight in the following 24 hours.

Many of these elements individually may sound familiar, but Art of Conquest’s strength lies in its ability to combine all of these in a way that feels fairly innovative. This is a game that’s ideal for those short bursts of gaming that mobile gaming can be so good at. Paying your way ahead is possible but it’s not necessary and you won’t feel too pressed into doing so. Simply playing at your own pace works well enough, ensuring that Art of Conquest is the kind of game that’s going to stick around on your phone for a while yet.