Drakengard PS2 Review

Square Enix are renowned for their strong narratives and at least on that count, Drakengard does in no way disappoint with its powerfully, imaginative storyline which sees main character Caim fatally wounded and discovering a similarly injured dragon. The two somewhat reluctantly agree to make a soul joining pact and in doing so save one another’s lives, unfortunately at the cost of Caim’s vocal capabilities however. Well we suppose every good thing comes at a ludicrous price, right?

Leisurely is the last word we would use to describe this dramatic and seriously fast paced tale of vengeance, love and betrayal. Without doubt this is one of the games greatest qualities and worthy of note are the more than competent voice-actors who deliver their lines with a rare and tremendous passion. But, what of the gameplay?

With its large-scale battles and intense dragon flying sections Drakengard is pretty much like an amalgamation of Koei’s Dynasty Warriors and Sega’s Panzer Dragoon series accompanied by light RPG elements such as magic and levelling up to possibly appease fans of Square-Enix’s own Final Fantasy games.

The on foot sections have you battling an entire army of troops, but unfortunately much like Dynasty Warriors significant fogging often gives you the feeling, that you are running around a barren field rather than a troop crammed battlefield with enemies that appear a mere few feet in front of you really ruining the illusion. However, even with these technical limitations, hacking through troops is still fantastic fun.

With not many means of attack and Dynasty Warriors being the primary influence, it’s hardly a surprise that Drakengard’s on foot sequences are pure simplicity. Besides the regular attacks, pressing triangle when Caim’s weapon glows results in an attack that sends enemy groups tumbling. Magic is also a possibility, being another effective (and also one of the most attractive) method of taking down masses of troops and then there is of course Caim’s prodigious dragon.

Pressing select in wide-open spaces, summons the mighty dragon for Caim to mount and rain down raging flames on his hapless enemies. A good alternative if you’re growing tired of perpetually whacking people across the head with lethal objects (and vice versa). There are also some sections reminiscent of Panzer Dragoon, where you soar through the sky blasting enemies with your raging flames, there’s even a tremendously beautiful smart bomb like attack that deals with just about every opponent around you. These sections are not only exceptionally pretty; they’re also some of the highlights of the game.

The dragon is considerably mightier than the man, so that means there’s little point to battling on the ground, right? Actually there are places that a big lumbering dragon won’t quite fit such as indoor locations, leaving Caim as the only means of attack. Besides this, both man and dragon receive RPG like experience, so it makes perfect sense to alternate between the two throughout the game, so as not to risk making any of the two excessively puny for later conflicts.

Even if you do foolishly rely on only one of the two, you can always play the “free expedition” missions to make up for lost experience and at the same time obtain additional armaments. These come available after completion of missions and can be played when you like from then on.

The game will take you some time to complete, especially if you seek out every weapon. Witnessing the end credits rolling, doesn’t necessary mean that it’s the end for you with a possible five endings to view, triggered by getting the additional characters and by fulfilling certain criteria on already cleared missions.

The visuals are for lack of a better example akin to a pizza with a sick-inducing topping, but with a great base, so a mix of good and bad then. The on foot sections are frankly for the most part hideously ugly with appalling fogging and a draw in distance that should have been left behind in the 32-bit generation. It’s quite honestly inferior looking to the latest Dynasty Warriors game, but to be fair even that displays the current generation of consoles isn’t ready to create a convincing battlefield just yet. On the other hand, the Panzer Dragoon-esque sections are amazingly pretty with beautiful flames and an adequately detailed dragon that flies about as believably as such a fantastical creature possibly could.

Drakengard is a well executed mix of genres with a superb storyline that may very well be the games strongest point. Unfortunately some technical failings let things down a bit. Still if you’re looking for Dynasty Warriors and Panzer Dragoon in the same package, then you shouldn’t delay in picking up Drakengard, because there simply isn’t anything closer than this.