Drakengard
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
Square Enix
Developer
Square Enix
Genre
Action/RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Square FMVs
• Great music
• Decent storyline

The Bad

• Repetition
• Horrid gameplay, in every sense of the word
• Uninspired level designs
• Average graphics
• Generic enemies

 
Grade
C+

Initially given the pun-intended title Drag-On Dragoon, Drakengard is a game which cancels itself out with utter repetition and uninspired gameplay in whole. Certain elements were lifted directly from other, much better titles and were dumbed down into a state of mayhem and frenzy that’s enjoyable for maybe about your first hour into the game. Then let all the head-splitting headaches settle in while you moan about how much of a disappointment this game turned out to be.

Drakengard tells the story of Caim, a fiery warrior with a constant thirst for blood and death who serves for the Union. In the beginning, he was overpowered by the forces put forth by the opposing Empire and was left to die. Trapped inside the castle, he encounters a dragon, also heavily wounded and was barely alive. The two had to make a pact in order to survive, for Caim’s journey has just begun. And with his newfound powers, he begins to unravel the mystery of the Empire, though the pact consequently made him lose his voice in return. He also sets out to protect Furiae, his sister who’s also a goddess-of-the-seals from incoming threats. Not to mention that Caim and the dragon seems content with the chore of eradicating hundreds of near-identical and generic enemies each level for the next 15 hours or so by the use of precisely one attack button. As far as the gameplay goes, it doesn’t get anywhere after you learn the basics. There are three ways of wandering about in Drakengard: on foot, above the battle and high above the clouds. The first two are usually interchangeable during open-air battles, while the third is specified for certain missions which pits you up against airborne fiends.

Ground – Regular :
To begin with, ground battles are just plain boring. Each and every time throughout the game, you are required to kill specific ‘Target’ enemies amidst the sea of never-ending groups of soldiers suddenly protruding from the thick fog before you. These ‘Target’ enemies are usually spread across the vast battlefields, often leaving you with no choice but to slay just about everyone else close to them in order to nail that one person. But the problem is, this concept eliminates the need to commit a full-blown genocide when the story only progresses by the killings of six or seven slightly tougher warriors. RPG elements such as accumulating EXPs and leveling up are lame excuses for you to engage in these battles. Supposedly, Caim receives the aid of Union ‘reinforcements’. This never happens, although occasionally they pop up on in-game dialogue screens to inform you about the current battle situation. It just bogs down to one man and his dragon single-handedly waging war against the world. Playable allies do become accessible, but they’re hardly any different from Caim and are even lamer. (Say, a guy who made a beast-pact with a faerie? Please.)

The indoor levels are a pain. For example, the first time you’re inside a castle, take a quick look at the ‘map’ and you’ll find that all available paths look completely symmetrical. To put it simply, there’s no exploration value here. The only treasure chests you’ll ever find would contain either health or magic points. To make matters worse, features such as stairs and doors are never marked anywhere, and getting from Point A to Point B will probably take about 20 minutes longer than it would due to dozens of enemies littered in narrow, identical corridors and effectively trapping you like a rat. Dead ends aplenty, you’ll be thoroughly annoyed before finding out clearly where you should head to in order to complete the mission.

Drakengard offers a multitude of different enemies. This ranges from soldiers, knights, archers and right up to goblins. Most of the enemy A.I. are clumsy and impotent, leaving them to die by the wrath of your sword/axe/kris. The only time you’ll be defeated would probably be by pure quantity and tougher guards that are more persistent in knocking you down with huge clubs. However, long-range enemy attacks are unavoidable. Archers and Wizards will continuously hit you from afar and you’ll lose vast amounts of health before even managing to get close to them. Assuming you don’t die first, of course.

Now on to the gameplay. For regular attacks, you’ll just need to press Square repeatedly. And if that’s anything to go by, it’ll probably remind you of those days in FFVIII when you endlessly press Square during ominously long Guardian Force sequences to boost power. And after killing off a few enemies, your weapon flashes, press Triangle to execute a magic attack. There, that’s it. There are absolutely no variety into your moves whatsoever. It’s just swing, slash, stab, magic attack, ad nauseam. Sure, you’re able to equip eight different weapons at a time but when it comes down to insipidly simple hack-and-slashing, there’s no real need to use the other seven, ever. The cameras are just as troublesome. You’ll have a hard time adjusting to your desirable view by rotating R3, though you can also use L2, which doubles up as the Defend button. However, the character movement becomes too awkward, leaving you vulnerable to the clusters of soldiers attacking you from all sides. The Roll button is no help either; you’ll be stuck with more Square-pressing and that’s about it. As a whole, the gameplay is too basic and dampens the fun factor close to nil.

Ground – Above The Battle:
This function allows you to hop on the dragon just above the ground to go destroy dozens of enemies at once with fireballs and a devastating firebreath special attack. The dragon allows you to travel faster across the land, and provides a good sense of scale since you can dismount at any time and jump straight into battle. But sometimes navigating through areas can be a huge annoyance. Even when you found the targeted location to go into, you’d be unable to get off a dragon and are forced into backtracking to open areas so you can finally walk to it. For battling purposes, a fireball or two usually kills off the generic clumps of baddies prowling below, though you’ll again wonder why you should even be bothered to destroy them in the first place.

Air - High Above the Clouds:
In a scarce attempt to alleviate boredom, the developers decided to alternate ground and air missions every so often. This time the dragon takes center-stage in annihilating enemies. Said enemies include airships, misplaced control towers, bats, griffons, something that seemingly resembles an Indian tent and flocks of small floating cubes (about 20 of it at a time) that shoot at you. Prepare to be more dumbfounded as most of the missions actually requires you to destroy every single target in air. It doesn’t help that most of them are incredibly small and agile, so much so that only a few special attacks of simultaneously released fire beams would take them out. As far as the ‘targeting system’ is concerned, they’re just cumbersome. With the lack of a lock-on feature, you’re left with the task of manually putting yourself in a position that faces the enemy and dispatching them individually with fireballs. Terrible.

The Rest of the Game:
The graphics in this game are below-average. The environments are all dark, greyish, generic and bland. The level of visibility is pretty low, and getting through the massive overworld requires the constant viewing of area maps and finding out distinctive landmarks to know that you’re actually in the correct place. Occasionally animation stutters and slowdown occurs when too many enemies are onscreen, although this rarely happens during ground battles but more to the dragon’s flying bits. Indoor levels are horribly textured and appears the same everywhere you go. To conclude, if you’ve seen one thing, you’ll have to get through more of the same for about the next hundred times.

Now for the few parts that’s not entirely bad. The storyline starts off weird but becomes more compelling as you progress. You’ll also be treated to a huge amount of trademark Square FMV sequences that are simply spectacular and a joy to watch. The music is the one department where the game truly shines. Magnificently conducted orchestral scores gives you a distinctive feeling of impending doom and sets up well with the tone of the entire game. Sorry, but that’s all you’re going to get. Drakengard is one of those games where the developers adopted too many different gameplay modes and fails to deliver in each and every one of them. It also suffers from the fact that they’re trying to impress you with mere quantity and this is a lasting effect which doesn’t develop into anything else for the rest of the game. If you prefer worthwhile hack-and-slashers, try Koei’s excellent Dynasty Warriors series. If you want to fly high above and put yourself into unique and highly intense battles that are actually fun, go try Sky Gunner or Panzer Dragoon Orta. In the meantime, you can probably look at this title and see how not to make a good game.

- - FREEQZ

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