It has been awhile since we last caught up with the Drakengard franchise, as the last game released back in 2006 for the PS2. In steps Drakengard 3 for the PlayStation 3, a game that for better or worse is firmly trenched in the past. The gameplay mechanics feel a bit dated and it feels odd that the game doesn’t provide better use of the 8 year old PS3, but there is still plenty of fun to be had in this package. The game also features a new developer, as Access Games has taken the helm over Cavia. Read on below to find out my full impressions of the game and whether it is worth it to venture forward into this world.
Drakengard 3 is a prequel to the original game, taking place roughly 100 years before the events of the original game. With the world going crazy with war, five Intoners have come down from the Heavens, defeated the Warlords, and created peace among the lands. Now that these five Intoner sisters have taken out the Warlords, they have become worshiped by the people and that is where you step in as Intoner Zero. You are on a mission, with the help of the dragon Mikhail, to destroy your five sisters and stop them from uniting the lands.
The story is one you might think would be rather serious from hearing the above paragraph, but it is actually the opposite. Things are never taken very serious, as evident when your reborn dragon gets yelled at by Zero, causing him to basically piss himself. It is a very teen humor type of story, with a lot of cuss words thrown about and various insults thrown about by Zero during battle, like the classic bit “Go home and suck on your mom’s teets.” The immaturity in the story actually works pretty well and the characters provide some good moments of humor, though sometimes it can go a bit too far as the disciples only seem to want to talk about their members and ways to get into the Intoner’s pants.
Beyond the crazy story line and characters of the game, the rest of it is fairly straight forward and at times basic. The game is broken up into different chapters that you must fight your way through, with each chapter ending in a battle against on the five Intoners. During each chapter, you will find yourself running through completely Linear levels and fighting through groups of minions. The combat rarely becomes as crazy as say Dynasty Warriors, with usually only around 10 enemies on the screen at one time. This is actually a good thing, because the game quite simply cannot handle anymore than that, as there is a ton of slowdown when you are fighting enemies on screen while your dragon is firing down fire on the battlefield.
In the beginning of the game, you will start out with only a sword to use. As you progress through the different chapters, you will gain a new type of weapon to use. There are four different types that you will have at your disposal; Swords, Spears, Combat Bracers, and Chakrams. Each weapon provides a unique reason for you to use it, whether it is breaking strong defenses with the spear or getting in close and personal with the bracers. Switching between the weapons during battle is incredibly simple and time is slow down during your selection. It can be a lot of fun to switch weapons mid combo and continue the hit streak with a new weapon.
Each weapon you find throughout the level or buy at the beginning of missions can be upgraded up to level 4, increasing the damage done with the weapon. The big problem here is the money aspect, as you barely scrape up enough cash after each level to upgrade a single weapon or buy a new one. You are left then to upgrade one weapon after each mission and it can be really slow going. Add in the fact that you will also need to purchase health potions and possible power/defense potions, and money always seems to be in short supply. You can collect items throughout each level that gain you money in the end, but it just never feels like it is enough until the later levels, but that is also when the price of upgrading or buy new weapons gets higher as well.
The game does offer quests that you unlock as you play through the game and you can reply these quests as many times as you want to gather gold and experience. The quests don’t offer a lot and are actually harder than the core of the game, as you are tasked with collecting a certain amount of items before the time runs out. You are usually doing this with only access to a specific weapon type and with no potions of help from your allies. It is an utter pain to try and collect 7 crests, while fighting off archers and such, with your Chakrams, which are more long range weapons and rather weak. The quests are fairly basic and for their difficulty, the reward never seems to fit the effort.
Speaking on difficulty, Drakengard 3 seems to have an issues keeping it consistent or at least building it up from beginning of the chapter to later on. Boss battles are insanely easy and a complete let down, as there is really no hard boss battle in the game. Instead, you seem to face stiffer competition during the levels from just regular enemies, which is odd when you consider the bosses of each chapter are just mammoth. These end battles are very easy to read, as the bosses usually have 2-3 attacks that are fairly easy to anticipate and if all else fails, you can just enter Intoner mode to do massive damage. This mode uses blood you have collected during the level and fight to go into a berserk mode, doing massive damage for far too long until the blood gauge empties.
In fact, the hardest part I ever had during any fight in the game has nothing to do with the actual combat, but the camera angle. Try fighting a mammoth enemy and having the camera do a close up of his crotch, which does wonders to your ability to escape damage. Kind of hard to anticipate the enemies next move when you are knee deep into his personal space, with nothing on the screen except his legs. There is an ability to lock the camera onto an enemy, but this doesn’t help the issue any. Making matters worse are the battles in tight spaces, like the end battle, where you are flying around on a dragon in the smallest cathedral possible. It is frustrating to have a false sense of difficulty thrown on you by wonky camera angles.
Even though Drakengard 3 is insanely linear, the game does provide a fair amount of story with your purchase. After you complete the game, you unlock an alternate timeline about the middle of the game, where things are a little bit different. It is a nice way to extend the game and the alternate routes are interesting. However, while the story may be different, you are recycled through the same boring and bland environments that you just sledged your way through. Seriously, for a game so late in the PS3 life cycle, it is ridiculous how ugly the world is. A saving grace to a certain extent is the character models, which are interesting but not overly spectacular graphically.
Sound work in the game is good, with enemies spouting jabs at you while in combat and the voice work is actually better than I thought it would be. The voices for Zero and Cent are well done, as are the voices for the rest of the disciples and the Intoners. The one character whose voice does grate on your nerves is Mikhail, who sounds like a kid they plucked off Xbox Live. The menu music is simple yet clean, providing a good tune that actually kind of gets in your head. The rest of the score throughout the game is solid and does well to aide the game along.
All things considered, Drakengard 3 is a serviceable game that despite its shortcomings, provides enough thrills to warrant checking out. Sure, there are graphical issues, slowdown, and the game is rather easy in areas where it should provide more challenge. However, the story is goofy enough for some laughs, the ability to switch between 4 weapons in battle is fun, and despite its repetitive nature, the combat does enough to keep you interested. A little bit of tweaking to the boss battles and camera, and this game could have been a lot more. As it is, the game will keep you interested but has some big time issues that hold it back.