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Playstation 2






Square Enix






M (Mature)



Q1 2004



- Good instrumentation for the music

- Ability to level up weapons

- Pretty CG cut scenes



- Enemies are dumb as a post

- Repetitive combat on foot and in the air

- Lackluster visuals

- Horrid voice acting

- Music tracks are get repetitive quickly



Review: Drakan: The Ancients' Gate (Playstation 2)

Review: Dynasty Warriors 4 (Playstation 2)



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Score: 5.9/10


Itís all well and good to include concepts that proved popular in older games when creating a new one, but it doesnít mean a thing if it comes off as uninspired or soulless.  This is what ultimately kills Drakengard.  Sure it may look good on paper to combine the dragon riding of Panzer Dragoon with fighting legions of enemies at once a la the Dynasty Warrior series, but it has to feel like the genres were combined for a reason, not just for the sake of combining them.  Both modes suffer from being highly repetitive, the game as a whole wonít dazzle anyone with graphics outside of the occasional pretty CG cut scene, and most of the enemies are as dumb as a post, all adding up to a game that is not worth oneís time.


drakengard-1.jpg (18965 bytes)          drakengard-2.jpg (18656 bytes)


The story proves to be very aggravating as it follows Caim (who you play as), his dragon, and Caimís sister Furiae, as they try to escape the Empire who wants to capture Furiae so that they may eventually cause the recreation of the world.  For the longest time the story doesnít go anywhere.  It seems like events are glued together just as an excuse to start a new action sequence.  A lot of what the story tries to cover is an examination of human nature as the characters ponder peopleís actions in the war against the Empire.  Unfortunately a lot of the commentary feels like whining hidden in the form of a philosophical question.  What really hurts the story, though, is how it is presented, as the voice acting is often not very good, cheapening the whole experience.


Things donít get much better when dealing with the combat either.  When on foot players face wave after wave of enemies much like in Dynasty Warriors, but the problem is that they just arenít that bright.  They line up and take a beating without putting up much resistance.  Even worse is that their commanders arenít that much more challenging and lack any real reward or sense of accomplishment for having defeated them.  If beating down enemies in hand-to-hand combat becomes to mundane, players can hop aboard their dragon and rain hell fire on the bad guys too.  Itís just too bad this usually makes combat even more dull as the players can mow down countless enemies at once with little resistance outside of archers with bad aim.  As players make their way through the game they will collect dozens of different weapons that can be used on the field, each able to be leveled up.  The variety of weapons is the one bright point of Drakengardís melee combat. Weapons range from huge axes, to a variety of swords, to spears, to longbows, each requiring a different approach to battle that best takes advantage of their strengths.  There are so many weapons in the game that it will keep players very busy fiddling with each one and trying to level them up so to allow longer combos and more powerful magic attacks.





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In terms of the full-fledged dragon riding levels of the game, the fighting is once again entirely too repetitive.  There are times where players can get into dogfights, but the problem is that most of the time aerial combat is reduced to airborne jousting as you charge at enemies, fire a few volleys, pass each other, then turn around to repeat the process over again.  There are some super attacks while riding your dragon that are handy for clearing the immediate area of enemies if players are taking on a swarm of lesser enemies 


that looks pretty with a stylized blur covering the screen and huge streams of fire hitting the enemies, but by and large the dragon riding aspects of Drakengard are hardly different from an arcade flight sim that disintegrates into brain dead air jousting.


What was particularly surprising was that the visuals in the game are of a lower quality than what weíve come to expect from a Square title.  Granted Drakengard was developed by Cavia, an outside studio, but the overall graphical presentation is of such a sub-par level that theyíre nothing short of a disappointment.  The lack of detail becomes even more of a disappointment when you consider that it should have helped prevent on-screen slowdown, but the graphical gaffe still reared its ugly head from time to time throughout the game.  The only thing that was easy on the eyes here was the occasional CG cut scene.


On the audio side of things it really is a mixed bag.  The sound effects get the job done with the appropriate roars of the dragon, clangs of weapons, and clatter of armor.  As far as music is concerned, it was refreshing to hear instrumentation of such high quality with its symphonic musical score.  The only problem was that the pieces were too short, causing them to become repetitive very quickly.  Also, as mentioned earlier, the voice acting is just terrible here.  Besides the pseudo-philosophical tripe being spat out during battle, members of Caimís army are always crying for help, which really begins to wear on oneís nerves after a time.  You start to get the sense that your army is nothing but a bunch of ineffectual wimps that should never have been conscripted in the first place.  


drakengard-3.jpg (19621 bytes)          drakengard-4.jpg (19863 bytes)


What weíre left with is a game that combines genres and canít even manage to be the sum of its parts, let alone better than that.  Just because you slap together a couple of genres that have proven popular in previous franchises, doesnít mean itís going to somehow magically be a slam dunk using them in a new hybridized game.  Thatís what we get in Drakengard: two genres thrown together that donít really try to be better than the games that theyíre based on, descending into a mundane exercise in repetition.


Mr. Nash

(April 18, 2004)

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