Square-Enix is most well known for making RPGs, most notably, Final Fantasy. They tried to switch things up here with the release of a more hack-n-slash action game called Drakengard. Square-Enix’s games have a reputation of being very good, does this hold true for their non- RPGs?I am not the world’s biggest console RPG fan. I like PC RPGs. That being said, I enjoyed Final Fantasy 1 and 2, as well as more recently Final Fantasy XI online. I do, however, respect Square-Enix’s ability to tell a good story, and get their players involved. The fan support of this company is crazy! I was very excited when I got the chance to review Drakengard, which is a little more hack-n-slash, therefore, a little more up my alley.
Without spoilers, the basic story is that you play a warrior named Caim, whose sister, a princess, has been captured by the evil “Empire”. You slash your way into the castle through hoards of enemies, but in the process you get mortally wounded. You come across a dragon who’s much in the same state you are. The two decide it’d be mutually beneficial to form a pact, saving both lives, but binding them forever. In the process, Caim loses his ability to speak.
So, you are now a warrior who can not only kill hoards of enemies with his personal arsenal of weapons, but you have a giant red dragon helping. Nice!
Drakengard is a story, and the story unfolds in between levels in the form of your typical Square cinemas. They are long enough to tell the story, without being so long that people like me lose interest. (If I want to watch a movie, I’ll do just that…) You do get to know the characters (and Caim is pretty dark, that’s all I’ll say), and even feel for them. The cinemas are of very high quality, and the music during them is very nice as well.
I was disappointed with the lack of dolby 5.1 support, as well as lack of widescreen support. It is always a pet peeve when I can’t use my gaming setup to it’s fullest. In general the sounds where ok, didn’t stand out to me as either good or bad.
That’s about all the good you’ll hear from me, unfortunately. The style of Drakengard(people with giant swords, and spiky hair) is what you’d expect. The graphics are very well done, animations are decent. It’s just that the game play is lacking.
The first thing I thought of when playing this title was, “God, this is like a crappy version of Dynasty Warriors!” (On a tangent, I love the Dynasty Warriors series of games, they are up there in my top 10.) That being said, if you don’t like DW, you won’t like this game.
So, why is Drakengard a crappier version of DW? Well, all the enemies look the same for each level. They move in unison, they run in unison, etc. There are mini-bosses, but nothing like the generals in DW. Usually at the end of a level you’ll fight one or two harder enemies, and they aren’t even really that hard. In a pure hack-n-slash game, you need something to keep the players coming back for more. Getting power, different enemies, etc, these are the things that keep me coming back to play for another 10 minutes. I just didn’t want to play after the first hour or two.
There isn’t really the idea of the combo that DW has. You slam the attack button over and over and over, and your character will form a little combo, but it’s just not enough. Very repetitive. There isn’t much character development. As you gain experience, you get more health bar. As you use weapons, you level that weapon up, doing more damage (much like DW4).
You have a “magic” attack button, which allows you to get out of a bind. As you attack enemies, you build your magic meter, when full you can use your attack. This is very similar to Mousou that you get in DW.
Caim has the ability to block, attack, and dodge. The dodge was a cool idea, but isn’t very useful. You do a side barrel roll out of the way of danger, but into more piles of enemies.
You do get more weapons as you play, and you are allowed to switch those weapons on the fly, which was a pretty cool feature. Certain weapons are more useful in certain situations. You could use the big clumsy hammer, and get out of that pile of guys, but the damage per enemy is less than say your sword. At least it gives some strategy to what you’re going to do during the game.
It was just the monotony that got to me. The only thing that changes it up is on some levels you fly around on your dragon like that old Sega game Panzer Dragoon (which I admit I’ve never played). The dragon levels come in two flavors, pure up in the sky levels, and melee levels that you are allowed to hop on the dragon during.
The pure flying levels, in my opinion, sucked. They are more annoying than fun, and it’s pretty hard to dodge all those projectiles coming in. It was really fun to be on a dragon at first, but that wore off after about 15 minutes.
The other dragon levels are the hybrid dragon/melee levels. Much like the horses in DW, you call your dragon, and when on the dragon you fly around until an archer shoots you off. After which you can get back on. Flying around breathing fire on hoards of guys was a bit of a rush, but again, after 5 minutes or so, it was old hat.
I had such high hopes for Drakengard, that the review seems more negative than it really is. It’s an “ok” game. It’d be a good 3 day rental. After the first two you may not even want it for that 3rd day, but if hack-n-slash is your thing, maybe check it out. The dragon is fun for a while; the ability to easily switch weapons is nice. The style and graphics are well done, it just isn’t fun. Drakengard doesn’t involve you enough to want to keep playing it over and over.
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