Ride Review: Dragon’s Fury
Photo by Chessington World of Adventures
The wrath of the Dragon is undoubtedly strong in this Asian-inspired adventure. The question is, is it any good?
Welcome to another Ride Review, the series where we dissect popular attractions across the UK and beyond to discuss their strengths, weaknesses and, ultimately, what makes them worth riding. As always, we’re judging today’s ride on our five criteria:
– Queue and facade
– Physical ride experience
– Theming (including audio and atmosphere)
– Operations (reliability, capacity and throughput)
– Suitability (sense of belonging in the area and park as a whole)
Today’s ‘coaster is one of the most important components of Chessington World of Adventures, given that it’s the first thing you see when you enter the park. Dragon’s Fury is intended to be the most thrilling ride in the line-up now Rameses Revenge is no more, so it’ll be interesting to find out how it holds up. The only comparable ride at the park, Vampire, scored 5.6/10 when we put it under our microscope in this review, so we’ll see whether Fury scores higher or lower.
Dragon’s Fury is one of two Maurer spinning coasters that opened in the UK in 2004. While the other- Spinball Whizzer at Alton Towers- is a minor part of it’s line-up, Fury was created to be one of the very biggest attractions at the park. The centrepiece of the new Asian-themed Land of the Dragons, Fury was designed by legendary attraction creator John Wardley and helped elevate Chessington’s status as a viable park for thrill-seekers early in the 21st century.
Queue and Facade
We’ll start the review by mentioning what it’s probably fair to say is the first thing that catches the eye about Dragon’s Fury: the animatronic ice-blue dragon that sits in a cave just to the left of the queue’s entrance. While this doesn’t always move, it at least sticks out in the memory as something to look at as you approach the ride. In many ways, it’s a shame they didn’t rotate it 180 degrees, because once you get into the actual queue line there’s not a lot to see.
The queue isn’t nearly as long as a big ‘coaster at Thorpe or Alton Towers, but it doesn’t really need to be and they’ve installed a mid-queue shop nonetheless. Some shelter from the sun would have been a nice touch, but overall this is a functional, if somewhat barren, start to the experience. On a more positive note, the entrance archway is nicely themed and there is a single rider line, which is a big relief on busier days. 5/10.
Physical Ride Experience
Unlike, well, almost every other ride in the country, Dragon’s Fury is a spinning ‘coaster. This means it seats four people per car- two facing one way, two facing another- and cars move independently. The weight of the person sitting in each individual seat can have a serious impact on how the car spins, meaning every ride has the potential to be different. Once you get to the top of that lift hill (which offers great views and moves surprisingly fast), there’s no real telling how the next minute will go for you.
The speed of the first drop never fails to take me by surprise. Riders plummet down and shoot straight back up again, hanging for a split second (if they’re lucky) at the peak of the hill staring straight up into the sky before taking off again. From there, though, a pattern emerges. While the downward helixes are plenty of fun as they yank cars from side to side, the ride sort of meanders between them via trim brakes and a second lift hill. Put simply, it’s a ride of contrast- a contrast of moments of joy against the moments between those moments. 6.5/10.
Well, as we’ve already mentioned, there isn’t a whole lot. The aim of the feel of this ride is ‘ancient China’ and, while it generally gets that idea across, there’s plenty of spots where not a lot has been done to theme the ‘coaster other than the red supports. The exception is during the first downward helix, which wraps riders around a nicely themed structure that, unfortunately, the nature of a spinning ‘coaster means you can rarely get a good look at.
So, while the ride has a strong thematic identity- it’s undeniably got the imagery of historic Asian mythology attached- it’s not exactly heavily themed, per se. One place where you have to give Dragon’s Fury plenty of credit is the soundtrack, which I feel works perfectly. You can sort of understand why there’s not a lot of theming, seeing as there’s not a lot of time on the ride for looking around, but a touch more would still have gone down a treat. 5/10.
The first thing I should say about this section is that Dragon’s Fury is a spinning ‘coaster, so by default it doesn’t have the best of throughputs. After all, only four people per train isn’t a recipe for short queue times. Add in Chessington’s tendency to let far too many fast-trackers in at a time and you’ll often find that Dragon’s Fury attracts some enormous queues. However, this is helped by the staff, who keep loading and unloading going at pretty much the best pace they can, and it’s also useful that the cars never fully stop in the station.
Maintenance also isn’t a huge issue here- particularly not when compared to some of Chessington’s other big hitters. It doesn’t break down very often and doesn’t usually stay down for too long. Overall, this is one of the better-operated roller coasters in the country outside of the three coaster-heavy parks. 8/10.
This is the other category where Dragon’s Fury performs strongly. As I’ve mentioned, as soon as you walk into the park this ‘coaster is pretty much the first thing you see, and it definitely makes a good first impression. Specifically, the way the lift hill and first drop are so visible looming over the pathway gives you a perfect view of what you’re about to experience. It’s also the centrepiece from which the theme of the area exudes, which always helps a ‘coaster to fit in.
I believe that Dragon’s Fury is the perfect roller coaster for Chessington World of Adventures. Without it, there may not be enough thrill rides at the park to keep me coming back as often as I do- yet it’s still manageable for families and even some grandparents. It also has that signature character and stylistic identity that all major Chessington rides have- vampires, Wild West, Egyptian, safari, Chinese. Does it fit in the park? More than that- it boosts the park. 9/10.
Dragon’s Fury is one of our favourite rides at Chessington, so I went into this review fully expecting it to score more highly than Vampire. It did, coming in with an overall mark of 6.7/10. Higher than Vampire, but not at the heights of Nemesis Inferno, I feel that this score places Dragon’s Fury exactly where it should be. This is not a white-knuckle ride. It’s a family ‘coaster through and through, but it also offers more thrills than most. If you’re looking for a balance between the fun and the family-friendly, this is absolutely the best ride in the London area for you.