Drakengard - Staff Review  

Blood Red Angel
by Billy "madhtr" Young

Easy to Moderate
15 to 40 hrs.


Rating definitions 

   A number of years ago, Enix hired a developer to create a dragon-based action roleplaying game. That developer was Cavia Inc., ex-members of Square, Capcom, and Namco, and that game was Drag-On Dragoon, also known as Drakengard. While many people look down on this game as a poorly put together title, the game does what it needs to do to be an enjoyable game.

   The premise behind the game is that dragons and people share the world, though both hate each other. There is a large-scale war raging on between two nations, the empire and the Union, all for control of one woman, the fourth seal. Legends speak of four seals that, when broken, bring the seeds of resurrection down on the lands. Some say it would bring about the salvation of all men, while others see this as the end of the world as they know it. The goddess herself is human, though the tortures she endures to the weight of the seals on her soul are quite supernatural. Her brother Caim has sworn to fight off the enemies in order to save his sister Furiae, who is the goddess. And, on the brink of death, he must choose a dragon to be his companion.

Using rites known as pacts, people in the game world can tie their soul to the soul another, tying their lives together. Caim's parents were killed by a dragon when he was small and, since that day, has harbored a hatred for them. Now, face-to-face with a quickly dying dragon that also obviously hates humans, a decision is made, one that will change the face of their world.

   The first thing that players will notice in this game is that battles are in real-time and sometimes takes place in the air, riding on the dragon, and other times on the ground, using upwards of 60 weapons to hack-and-slash their way through hordes of empiric forces. The battles in the air are fairly straight-forward, just following the red arrows towards the next batch of enemies. Battles that take place lower to the ground take a couple different forms though. Players can choose to ride the dragon around blowing fire at the troops gathering on the ground, and in some cases, shooting at the dragon or players can take the battle on to the ground. On the ground, Caim, and eventually his companions, take weapon in hand and magic at their disposal to battle through large numbers of enemies in order to complete many different missions. Most consist of taking out certain enemies, but some require you to be somewhere at a certain time. Battles that are fought inside of buildings, caves, forests, and other hard to reach places, players are sometimes left without dragon backup.

I see dead people. I see dead people.

   When the game made its surprising trek over from Japan, many people were wondering how well the game would translate in the North American market. Square Enix localized the title with very few mistakes or typos made. The game, which has an involving story, draws people in and immerses them in the world of Drakengard, which really makes the mistakes fairly forgivable. While the visuals of the game won't wow anyone, and the sounds of the world tend to be repetitive, the overall feel of the gameplay and story will keep many players engrossed for as long as they play.

   Speaking of the music, the soundtrack for this title was created by a few different composers. The music was partially composed by Takayuki Aihara and the rest by Nobuyoshi Sano. Both of these composers have done projects together in the past, this being mostly unlike their other works. They tried different sounds with this one and while the songs were quite dramatic, over time, these songs became repetitive. The sound effects in the game also shined. Clanks of weapons on armor could be heard, the scratching of a sword on a wall, the sound of a hammer hitting its mark were some of the many sounds one could hear from this title.

Not for the kiddies. Not for the kiddies.

   While the character models in this title are fairly well done and movements are quite fluid, the backgrounds and overall look of the world is rather dull. Many times there is a thick fog blocking the draw distance in the game and once players get to the edge of a certain mission map, they are ushered back in. Many people will find themselves quite a bit disappointed in the look of the world around them, though cutscenes, like most Square Enix titles, are beautifully done and quite epic in feel as well. Players will find themselves watching some of the movies over and over again due to the engrossing level of detail that is put forth in them. It was unfortunate that the world around the player wasn't as full of detail.

   Though many people might recognize the gameplay mechanics of this game from games such as Panzer Dragoon and Dynasty Warriors, the many additions to Drakengard really makes for fairly original gameplay. One thing that people won't really notice is them dying often. The game is pretty easy with plenty of room to level up in each area. Walking into boss battles unprepared can spell doom for the player and his companions. Players might find glowing orbs in treasure chests or receive them for getting a certain hit combo on enemies. This will heal the player and using these correctly can mean that there will be no Game Over screen to see.

   When players finally reach the end of the game, they will feel an attachment to Caim and the other characters in the game. Some will be sad that the game is over and others might find themselves relieved to be complete. The story of the empire versus the union is assuredly not for everyone. After beating the final boss and getting ending number one, don't turn back, continue to look forward. In the end, there are five endings for the player to enjoy, and, while this might be a tough task, the next person to pick up Caim's sword will be able to complete it. Over time, anything can be accomplished, sometimes even transcending time itself.

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