If you're looking for a punishing, cerebral game that rewards skill of almost any sort and offers no respite for the weak, check out Dragon Overseer from the aptly named studio Skill To Win. The game casts you as a dragon keeper, tasked with just about all aspects of a dragon's life from birth to death, up to and including pitting them against other dragons, having them explore the wilderness, or flying them into a migrating flock of weaker wyverns to rain wanton destruction upon their ranks. If your mind, will, or reflexes aren't up to the task, you'll raise weak dragons who'll find themselves injured often and never rise into the hall of fame. If you're truly skilled and knowledgeable, however, your gloriously powerful dragon army will storm the ranks, crush enemies, and ace their training exercises as easily as they breathe elemental magic. If you'd like to see how you'd fare as a dragon keeper, the game is live in the Play Store right now for $1.99. That price will go up once the creator figures that there are enough early adopters to create a good community of players at the top and present a sufficient challenge for newbies.
Background: Success in this game boils down to three things; knowledge, cunning, and reflex. Battles are turn-based, but the actions chosen in those turns take place in real time, and there are ways for the player to intervene to put things in their dragon's favor. Outside of battle, there are genetic traits to manage, feeding and training options that will change how your dragons perform and grow, and a plethora of variables that affect breeding, ensuring that no two dragon bloodlines will ever produce offspring that perform the same way. Each dragon has innate base stats, but what stats grow and how much is completely up to you; each level up rewards your dragon with a pool of skill points to pour into whatever stats you see fit. Skill growth is likewise up to you; pit your dragon against bosses in the wild to steal defeated opponents' souls and inherit their powers. Once you feel you've bred a worthy dragon, you can head to the PVP arena to take on other players. You'll be matched up against dragons that have taken around the same number of turns as you, meaning that you won't find yourself grossly outclassed in PVP, and if you lose, it's completely your own fault. You didn't bite off more than you could chew, you didn't get steamrolled by a strategy you had no access to, and you didn't lose to somebody who paid for their advantage in money, time, or anything else but skill; either you messed up in battle or raising, or your opponent was just a more skilled dragon overseer than you were. Period. The hall of fame rewards top dragons across three categories, being PvP, Score, and Power, so even if you can't best other players, a well-trained dragon can still get your name in there. As a bonus, this game is built to respect players' time and commitment levels, so there are no daily log-in bonuses or other time-based incentives, and your turns stack up over time. This means that you can take a break from the game, then come back and build your dragons up just as you would have if you had never left.
Impact: The impact of a game like this doing exceedingly well would be nothing short of a shock to the core of mobile gaming. While a game this difficult and niche from such a small developer will likely never go viral, it does serve to show that completely skill-based gameplay can translate well to a mobile format, with none of the pay-to-win, chance, or time-based elements popular in freemium titles anywhere to be found. Mobile games with simplified mechanics or forced mobile-friendly elements are a dime-a-dozen these days, whereas games that punish you only for genuine mistakes and reward you only for genuine skill are just starting to gain a foothold in the popular mobile gaming space. The ever-popular Fortnite: Battle Royale is a pretty good example of this, being a console port of a free, skill-based game with microtransactions only for cosmetic items, but its success alone doesn't seem to be enough to popularize the removal of mobile-born elements from most popular games in the Play Store, especially amid a sea of wildly successful mobile-first titles that sport such features. Still, between this game and Pascals Wager, mobile gamers who enjoy a pure challenge look set to have a pretty good 2019.