RPG juggernaut Square-Enix decided to take a risk and create something completely different from their standard formula. Drakengard is an action packed yet flawed concept piece that almost manages to remain an above average game.
Players will take control of a warrior named Caim. This solider is a leader of the Union army and does battle with the evil empire. During a colossal battle, Caim is wounded and is forced to make a pact with a dying dragon. As Caim and the Dragon switch hearts, their fates are bound as one. Now, both these characters are forced to fight endless swarms of enemies.
Drakengard can best be described as Dynasty Warriors with Panzer Dragoon thrown in for good measure. The player will fight in three different ways. In the first mode you control Caim on the ground. Just as in Dynasty Warriors the player is pitted against throngs of enemies at one time. Flight levels conjure images of Panzer Dragoon or Star Fox as you ride your trusty dragon through expansive skies. The final type of battle mixes ground with aerial combat. Caim can fight enemies on foot or quickly hop on his reptilian friend to bombard his foes on land.
Combat is pretty much a one button affair. Combos are made by hammering the button in succession. Magic spells can also be cast if enough mystic power has been stored. (It?fs a handy bar on the bottom of the display.) It?fs a button masher; that?fs for certain.
Caim can gain new weapons as the quest unfolds. Before each level, the player has the option to select which armaments to bring into the melee. Weapons can be changed quickly at anytime when in ground combat. To bring in an RPG element, weapons grow stronger with experience. The more you use a particular weapon, the stronger it becomes. In addition, each weapon has its own magic ability. The array of weapons brings quite a bit of variety into the game.
One aspect of the game play that I found to be quite useless was the jump feature. There really wasn?ft an instant where I needed to jump. Many times small objects like a pile or rocks would stand in my way. It would seem like you could easily jump over this obstacle, but no an invisible wall will always appear to prevent you from advancing. I truly hate how the game cheats players by creating huge environments that are blocked by imperceptible barriers.
No matter which mode you are playing in, the graphics are well done. The FMVs also scream Square-Enix quality. However, even thought the graphics are detailed, there is still plenty of room for improvement. There are only a few different types of enemies in the game that results in repetitive combat. Enemies tend to be simply palette swapped. Another thing that is extremely annoying is the popup syndrome. Enemies quite literally pop up out of nowhere. If you thought Dynasty Warriors had bad popup, you haven?ft seen anything yet. However, I am willing to forgive this cumbersome feature do the number of characters on screen at one time. Even though there are lots of sudden bursts of enemies from nowhere, the frame rate remains constant with only a rare occasion of slow down.
The sound is not of the highest quality, but it is enough to generate the feeling of battle. The voiceovers are cheesy at times, and characters will even say useless facts right in the middle of a huge fight. This can become quite annoying. Mercifully, the main character, Caim, bargains his tongue to the dragon and looses his power of speech. So at least for the bulk of the game you don?ft have to hear him whine.
Thanks to the three modes of play, Drakengard remains fairly fresh because the actions always seems to sway right when it should. On the other hand, these three modes are nothing that has not been done before. Square-Enix has managed to create some depth in the game through the use of new weapons and leveling up. With the RPG elements and detailed graphics, Drakengard is a simple, but unoriginal work. This game will provide plenty of fast paced action, but expect to have a run in with repetitiveness a few hours into the game; and if it?fs repetitive the first time?cit?fs not a game for repeat play value either. All in all Drankengard for the PS2 will stand as one of the first failed concept titles of 2004.