The story of Drakengard 3 is about sibling rivalry taken to an extreme level. This is no petty argument in the kitchen after what someone said about our Susan. No, this is about swords and fighting and blood and fighting and dragons and hatred and fighting. And swearing. Did I say there’s fighting?
It’s been ten years since we last dipped into the Drakengard world, though to be fair, having no knowledge of the previous games will not be a disadvantage (though there was quite the demand for this to be given a release over here in the West). This game is set one hundred years before the previous Drakengard games, so acts as a prequel. The story follows Zero, one of six sisters who are “intoners”. Intoners were songstresses who battled evil and brought peace to the world, and because of this and a flower, Zero wants her sisters dead. Confused?
It’s never really made clear from the outset why Zero wants to slaughter her relatives. In fact, you have to journey quite far into the game before it’s even revealed to you. She is joined by a juvenile Dragon, Mikhail, who she actively despises. During the game you encounter several NPCs who will join your group to assist you. Zero isn’t exactly fond of them either. Zero doesn’t seem to be fond of anyone at all. She spends most of her time telling everyone else how much she doesn’t like them, but usually with much harsher language.
You travel between lands to hunt down your sisters, who are based everywhere from a temple on the sea to the harsh sands of a desert, to the forests and the snowy mountains. This is primarily to allow a change in scenery, though even with such extreme environments, the arenas and areas you battle in are fairly uninspiring.
This game is so frustrating because it has the potential to be a lot of fun, but for most of it, it just doesn’t quite hit the spot. You run down (or up) a large “corridor” killing people as you go. You’ll get to an arena, where the doors will close behind you and you’ll be forced to face a larger collection of enemies, who you kill before you move on. On occasion there will be a huge enemy to tackle. You sometimes take to the skies on the dragon Mikhail to fight as well, again usually a fairly large sized boss of some description. There are different weapons that allow varying methods of attack and for certain enemies only a certain weapon will do, and you can upgrade or buy more powerful weapons as you progress. There’s also a special power you can activate once you kill enough enemies which really is quite spectacular and fun to use.
I found that the in-game camera couldn’t cope with the frenetic action a lot of the time, an automatic zoom out would have made the fights more manageable but most of the time you’re reduced to simply hitting and hoping. Even using the lock-on (which uses the strangest logic to select the most viable target) doesn’t help with the camera. Most of the time, a simple combination of hitting and dodging will clear away the largest group of enemies. There is no balletic skill or grace to the game; for me, it came down to button mashing at the right time.
While there are NPCs in the game to help you, their job seems to be to provide atmosphere and fill in the back story. Their dialogue gets pretty risqué and is occasionally amusing, but they are next to useless as fighting companions. Mikhail’s handling is very choppy and not easy to control, and ended up being a frustrating lowlight of the game instead of an easy win for gameplay. Flying a dragon and hurling fire should be awesome, not as clumsy and unfulfilling as it is here.
There are sub-quests to play in order to gain the ability to hold more potions and other bonuses, and they can be a welcome distraction to the main game, but it’s really just more arena combat. The gameplay had the potential to be extremely fun and, when combined with the dialogue, extremely entertaining. There are just are too many parts where it feels rushed, and more time and thought would have produced a far better game.
The graphics are another area where some more care and attention could have improved the experience and immersion. It’s such a missed opportunity considering the character of the game itself, that the environments in which the battles take place are just so uninspired that you don’t really care too much about seeing what the other lands look like. The frame rates dip, the graphics clip each other, the enemies are so samey after a while – and compared to the beauty we’ve seen recently on the ps3 and what it can do, this does a disservice to fans of the series. It will do little to attract those who are new to Drakengard and have played any of the recent additions to the ps3 catalogue. The cut scenes are interesting and well done, but overall, there are so many older games that are graphically superior to Drakengard 3.
One thing that does stand out in the game is the constant dialogue, not only between the characters but between the soldiers you’re attacking. The soldiers will shout at each other or exclaim their loyalty to who they are defending, and it does add an extra dimension to the usual cannon fodder you will find in a game of this ilk. Zero has colourful dialogue to say the least, and she can be heard to constantly chastise those around her while her NPC companions give as good as they get. Conversation seems to primarily concern sex, which is a regular topic of conversation. You won’t find anything deep or meaningful in the dialogue, but it does help to explain the story and motivation for Zeros murderous obsessions.
The voice acting and dialogue are extremely well done and are regularly funny if not constantly risqué. If the same effort and passion had been expended on the rest of the game, then it might have been something different and special. The issue here is there are already games in the PS3’s catalogue that look and play better than Drakengard 3 and will be cheaper to get your hands on. It is a shame to see something that had so much potential not given the development time it truly deserved.
VERDICT: Drakengard 3 will join the collections of many series fans, as it certainly has buckets of character and no doubt stays true to the previous games. For anyone else looking for an interesting action-RPG, it misses the target far too often to recommend it as an essential purchase.
AVERAGE. The epitome of a 50/50 game, this title will be unspectacular but inoffensive, charmless but amiable. We aren’t condemning a game by scoring it a 5, but we certainly aren’t championing it, either.
Review code provided by publisher.