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No Rating



January 2011



- Deep, tactical battles

- Interesting puzzles

- Art direction

- Simple, yet enjoyable story



- Frame rate can drop quite a bit at times

- Camera feels loose

- Animations aren't so great

- Some bad voice acting

- Other characters butting into conversations at inopportune times



Review: Dragon Age: Origins (PC)

Review: Borderlands - Game of the Year Edition (PC)



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Drakensang: The River of Time
Score: 7 / 10


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Here's an RPG that slipped onto the market without much fan fair. Although it's not all that surprising, given the sordid history of the game's developer who almost went under recently, and has since made a heavy shift towards browser games. In any case, what we have here is a prequel to the well-received Drakensang.  The River of Time provides an entertain, albeit very traditional, adventure in a fantasy setting with some solid tactical battles making for a decent game. What holds it back from being truly great, however, is the game's lack of polish thanks to poor animation, choppy frame rates, and some sub-standard voice acting.


For those who haven't played the first Drakensang game, that won't be an issue heading into River of Time. While there are nods to that game it won't prevent a newcomer from understanding what's going on in the prequel. Players roll their character, and are given a huge variety of choices in the class that they want to play. This in and of itself will likely give quite a few people plenty of reason to replay the game. Really, you'll be sifting through page after page of possible choices in the classes that can be played. It's very impressive. After choosing a class, players find themselves traveling the main river of Aventuria, and before long are in the company of the adventurers Ardo, Forgrimm (who is also the game's narrator), and Cano, and it is with these three that players will spend the vast majority of the game as they unravel the mysterious task that the three are on.


As was mentioned earlier, the story isn't terribly original, adhering to many a fantasy genre trope, but it is quite enjoyable in how The River of Time isn't trying to cram its story down players throats. It is what it is, and doesn't take itself too seriously. It's like the story is nudging players on the shoulder saying, "Hey, let's go on an adventure. It'll be fun!" which is quite a bit easier to swallow than a lot of other fantasy RPGs that are just so straight-faced, and serious. While the main story is quite enjoyable, there are also a number of side quests that can be accepted, providing some interesting color to the goings on of The River of Time's world. A nice touch to all of this is that the game is fully voiced, helping with the flow of the story. Unfortunately, the quality of some of the acting leaves much to be desired. Most of the main characters are done reasonably well, but a number of the quest givers and others players come by in their travels do a pretty bad job of the voice work.





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This is unfortunate too since there are a lot of branching dialogue options when talking to certain quest givers. Depending if you level human nature, seduction, and other such personality traits, players will have the ability to influence the direction of a conversation, often to their advantage, which means yet more talking from these ho hum actors. While discussing these dialogue options it's also worth noting


that sometimes other characters in your party butt in trying to influence a conversation when their personality skills may not be up to par, and as such can completely blow an opportunity. This can be quite frustrating when you have made it a point to max out these stats on the game's main character only to see opportunities missed because the game forces other characters into the conversation.


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Thankfully, when these NPCs aren't talking they do look rather nice at least. The visuals in The River of Time go for something that is almost trying to be photo realistic, while tossing in a smidge of a cartoony element. The end result looks good, especially on all of the characters and enemies in the game. What looks even better are the game's environments. There is a lot of detail in the buildings, dungeons, and foliage, with outdoor areas looking particularly good. Standing by the river at sunset looks amazing with the light play off the water, and looking over the plant life in the area. A couple of minor caveats with the visuals do come up, though. First is that the character animations are lacking, with everyone running in a stiff manner. Also, the frame rate could have been better, with it getting fairly choppy in busier areas of the game. Even fiddling around with the game's settings had no affect in trying to improve this.  Moreover, the camera feels a bit loose when panning around to look at stuff.


The River of Time's real high-point, though, is its combat. If you're a fan of the old infinity engine games, then you'll most likely enjoy the battles in this game, as they are quite tactical. Players can pause the game at any time to plan out what they are going to do, sending party members to specific areas of the map, or for them to use a certain ability. Indoor areas are quite useful for taking advantage of one's environment when fighting, but one has to be mindful that a number of enemies also have a ranged weapon on them, and will happily let loose the arrows if they can't get a good whack in with their swords, so players will find themselves sometimes having to line of sight these people which can be a bit of an undertaking. Nonetheless, the battles are great, and can be extremely challenging if one unwittingly wanders into a particularly large pack of enemies. One instance that stands out in my mind was when helping a local noble clear some orcs from his lands. I'd wiped out most of them, but saw a stone pathway that had yet to be explored. Heading up it, I saw more orcs charging me, and thought, "Oh, more of these guys. This should be easy enough...wait, what are those?" First I saw the orcs coming, then there were two large shadows emerging from behind them. Turned out the orcs had a couple of ogres helping them out that were quite capable of killing my characters in one shot. Just the way the ogres entered the fray was very well done, and made the experience all the more exciting despite being wiped out by them.


However, players won't just find themselves bonking monsters over the head ad nauseum. There are a good number of puzzles to solve throughout the game as well, and they are quite well done. On occasion it may even be best to actually write out what the puzzle requires on a piece of paper in order to help visualize everything, and sort it out.


While The River of Time has its fair share of technical flaws, the story, and combat in the game more than make up for this. Also, the game is only $20 which helps one overlook its shortcomings. The game quietly slipped onto the market at the start of the year, which is a shame because it certainly deserves the attention of RPG fans. Hopefully it won't get overshadowed by the likes of Two Worlds 2 and Dragon Age 2, as the game is still quite enjoyable and worth a play through.


Mr. Nash
March 11, 2011

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