Drakengard 3 PS3 Review

Publisher: Square Enix  Developer: Access Games  Genre: Action RPG  Players: 1  

Age Rating: 18+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

The Drakengard series was created by Yoko Taro, the man behind the flawed but memorable Nier. It has always been a combination of Dynasty Warriors like hack and slash and Panzer Dragoon like flying, an interesting union that is made all the more so with a bizarre storyline added into the mix. The latest entry in the series, Drakengard 3 has all these elements, as well as some that we could really all do without.

The story is centred around Zero, a foul mouthed goddess with a flower growing from one of her eyes who, alongside her dragon Mikhail, is on a journey to slay her five sisters. Zero isn’t a likable character at all, she’s incredibly violent, profane and very nasty to all her comrades but is also funny and interesting enough to not be essentially a female Kratos. Mikhail is the opposite, a young dragon that doesn’t like all the bloodshed and often admonishes Zero for her love of violence. The relationship between the two is a constant source of amusement throughout.

The rest of Zero’s companions are memorable and made up of the twisted Dito, the sex obsessed Octa, Cent who likes to make up things, and Decadus who is turned on by anything involving pain, including getting sand in his eyes . The dialogue is often funny and well written and acted, and adds so much colour over the course of the game, though the obsession with sex will grate for some.

The game is an embarrassment on a technical level for a 2014 release, not really a surprise considering that Access Games, the developer behind the ugly but very fascinating Deadly Premonition was involved. There’s popup, an unsteady framerate, glitches that see your companions running against walls and just a general ugliness that means the game is neither nice nor interesting to look at. At least the enemies can be sliced apart in amusing ways, and Zero becoming increasingly drenched in blood throughout a stage is a rare nice little visual effect.

The popup and slowdown is an annoyance but only occasionally has an impact on the playability of the game. Of more concern is the camera that all too often struggles to frame the action and a targeting system which can be unreliable, locking on to more distant enemies rather than those that are standing right in front of you.

The majority of Drakengard 3 is spent on foot, slicing people into pieces with a variety of weapons. The combat is a mostly brainless affair, with two attack buttons that can be used in combinations to mix up your fighting. Intoner mode is the games take on Warriors Musou mode, and it sends Zero into a frenzied state making you nearly invulnerable and allowing you to swiftly move from enemy to enemy. As shallow as the fighting is, it’s still a pleasure to carve through enemies, and there’s certainly a place for less demanding combat systems, just as long as you don’t expect any substance whatsoever.

There are four different types of weapons of which can be easily switched between during combat. There’s swords, spears, chakras and gauntlets and these all have their own role to play in combat, spears for instance can be used to shatter the defence of enemies, whilst chakras can be used from long range. Weapons can be upgraded with base materials and gold found throughout and rewarded at the completion of levels and side missions, and doing so will not only enhance them, but the process will also reveal a portion of story related to the weapon for every upgrade.

In certain areas Mikhail can be called in to assist you, whilst you’ll also get to ride him at certain points, which functions somewhat like Panzer Dragoon, albeit without the polish. These sections are blighted by camera and targeting issues even more so than the rest of the game, and are actually executed in a worse fashion than the very first game in the series.

In terms of length, the game can be completed in 10 or so hours, which is slight for what is essentially an action RPG, though like previous games in the series there are additional branches that adds several hours of worth to the game as well as allowing you to make more sense of the weird and engaging story. Though Branch D, the final branch, can only be unlocked by first obtaining all of the weapons, which can be a grind and is easily one of the worst things that could have been carried over from the previous games in the series and then comes a horribly cheap and infuriating final boss at the end of it all.

Drakengard 3 is too messy, awkward and ugly to truly recommend, but in spite of all this it’s also enjoyable to play and interesting and amusing enough from a narrative perspective. All of which leaves it as a game that isn’t great, but, like past entries in the series and Nier before it, one that is memorable enough to leave a lasting impression on those that are able to get past its technical deficiencies and revel in its Japanese quirkiness.