Drakan: The Ancients' Gates
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
SCEA
Developer
Surreal Software
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Huge levels
• Voiceacting is pretty good
• Fair variety of combat options keeps the game from getting stale
• Fairly good length (30+ hours)

The Bad

• Long loading and saving times
• Rynn looks to be the worst designed character in the game
• Equiping items and weapons is not fluid
• Enemy AI is flawed

 
Grade
B-

Drakan: The Ancients' Gate is the story of Rynn, a female fighter who gains a personal attachment to the sentient dragon, Arokh. She in confronted with the task of facing the Desert Lords to free the Spirit Dragons ansd saving mankind as a whole. To do this, Rynn must travel to various locales, including swamps, deserts, mountains and frozen wastelands, to hack and slash her way through. In each area, there is a main goal, but often you will get smaller tasks to perform, which net useful items and equipment.

Graphics:
The first thing you'll notice when playing this game are the huge environments and the abundance of excellent texture maps used to give the levels a convincing look. In fact the large environments are one of the best features of the game. The character and monster models on the whole look pretty good, except for Rynn herself, who really looks like she needs to be spending less time in the "Clichéd Heroine" store. Visual effects, while not brilliantly impressive, do their job well enough to not be a detriment. Level designs are nicely done and certain areas look really impressive. The only thing that sticks in my mind here is that underneath all of the textures are some low-polygon built area. Certain areas of the game look less organic due to the low polygon counts and harsh edges.

Gameplay:
Drakan is your standard hack-and-slash fair with a few twists. Initially, you start off with a few weapons (which wear down over time and need to be repaired, a la Diablo) and some items which you have to equip. You work your way through areas pocketed with side areas that the player isn't required to dig through. During combat, the player can roam freely or lock-on to the enemy and hack it out. The player will get spells later on to break up the combat, but at the heart of the game, it still is a melee-based fighter. The aerial segments of the game where Rynn flies on Arokh also start out slow, but once you gain some draogn magic, turn out to be a nice addition, breaking up what could turn out to be a combat-heavy adventure. Those familiar with Diablo will notice the item/equipment menu set-up, as the player is limited in what they can carry by the item's size. So, while you may want to bring a lot of weapons along (as some of the areas are quite large and your initial weapon may wear down or break), you'll find yourself ditching some equipment mid-area to pick up required items for mini quests. One of the nicer aspects to the game is the quests. While you have main quests that are required to progress in the game, you can also pick up new mini-quests along the way for money or items. While the mini-quests are often not required, they are helpful in breaking up what might be a monotonous trip.

Audio:
Both the music and sound effects are fairly good. Both add well to the ambiance of the game. The voice acting, while not the best out there, is still fairly good and helps convey the story without a lot of cheesiness. My only gripe is one of personal preference: I really don't care for how much Rynn sounds like a medieval version of Lara Croft.

The Bad:
One of my major gripes in the game is mostly from personal taste. I found the character design and model of the lead character to be severly clichéd and the least interesting in the game. During cut-scenes, her mouth moves like a ventrioquist's dummy and she just looks less realistic than some of the better designed bit-players. Also, the enemy AI is flawed. If you can stand outside their range, you can often shoot enemies with the Bow and kill them where they stand. Most bosses can be defeated by either hiding in areas they can't reach or just using special items, like invisibility potions, and then proceeding to kill them where they stand. Equiping weapons and using items also seems to be a bit of a labor. You have to "hotspot" the item in the menu and then during combat, click on the R1 button to rotate through your hotspotted items. When you reach the item you want, you have to press the X button to use or equip. Even worse, you have to equip weapons and shield's at separate times and using a healing item in battle can be a dangerous adventure. Lastly, the game does suffer from some lengthy loading and saving times. In fact, you might need a bit of space on your memory card to do some saving.

What it boils down to is that Drakan is a good action game with some decent length (30+ hours). There's enough here to enjoy without much tedium, but the afore mentioned flaws do seem to hold the game back from being a stand-out must buy title. If you're interested, rent this game first. It's long enough that a rental may not give you enough time to finish it.

- - Vane

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