Drakengard 3 Review
You know, there’s really only so much dark, twisty, blood-spattered atmosphere I cant take. Some may fond it compelling on some bizarre level, but I’ve never been all that enamored with gritty settings, even if they are fantastical. Drakengard 3 is one of those games that creates a love/hate relationship among gamers simply because of its unique artistic style. Technically, it feels and looks outdated, and the story is amateur-ish, so it’s important that you gravitate toward the game’s design.
Those who enjoy this presentation will be more lenient when judging the graphics, as one might expect. After all, despite the objective nature of visual analysis – detail, clarity, sharpness, authenticity, etc. – the participant still has to enjoy the experience. Hence, you might be willing to overlook the obvious and even glaring graphical hitches and if so, great. For my part, I always say gameplay takes precedence but good games compete favorably on all levels and Drakengard 3 just falls well shy. Some of the character and enemy design is good, and a few of the effects are slick, but that’s about it.
One can apply the “outdated” label to the audio as well, because the voices are hit or miss, the soundtrack isn’t exactly memorable, and the effects are mostly generic. Again, the subjective angle will play a significant role: If you make allowances for the fact that the game falls short in terms of technical achievement, you’ll be more satisfied with the result. A few of the sound effects during combat really amp up the intensity, and I liked several of the more insistent musical selections. Anything that adds to the foreboding ferocity of the world is a plus, even if it’s not necessarily my favorite thing in the world.
The setting consists of a dark, uninviting fantasy world where “Intoners” rule the world. They keep the masses in line with their songs (a strange enough setup to begin with) but things go terribly wrong when one of the veteran Intoners decides that her five sisters need to die. Why? It’s not immediately clear. At any rate, her attack fails miserably and she loses her dragon companion, which is a definite blow. But Zero is back on the warpath a year later, seeking to avenge her previous defeat with a new dragon partner. Unfortunately, this older dragon, Mikhail, is more annoying than anything, as he’s constantly calling for peaceful resolutions to conflict.
Yeah, Zero isn’t interested in any sort of “peaceful” resolution. The game is a hack-and-slash action extravaganza with a mostly linear structure, and Zero attacks with a variety of slice-‘n-dice combos and special abilities. She has access to four different weapons (swords, spears, chakrams and combat bracers) and her defensive maneuvers include guard and dodge. The more foes she dispatches, the more a certain meter fills and when it’s full, she can tap into her incredibly powerful Intoner skills. Actually, the meter doesn’t need to be full to enter Intoner mode, but it does dictate how long Zero can stay in that mode.
This combat is relatively entertaining but it’s nothing to write home about. Some of the bigger enemies pose a definite challenge, and you find yourself utilizing plenty of strategy to take ‘em down. General control is fine but the camera is iffy at best, and often gets in the way. This is really starting to feel like more of an old-fashioned flaw, as most third-party action games these days have ironed out the glaring camera issues of yesteryear. This is an example of Japanese games simply falling behind in terms of technological advancement, and there’s more evidence of that during the aerial gameplay segments when Zero mounts Mikhail.
I got used to the flying controls after a while, but they still could’ve been much better. Combine this with the seriously lacking visual presentation, and you get a game that’s occasionally downright comical: Characters, both friendly and otherwise, will get stuck in walls, collision detection concerning enemy’s interaction with the environment is poor, and that clumsy, irritating camera is ever-present. I hate to say this, but I only write about such flaws when I’m reviewing Japanese games. Everyone else seems to have moved forward at a faster clip; why am I talking about collision detection problems in 2014? I mean, come on.
I must reemphasize that subjectivity does play a significant role. For instance, the main character is just a horrid bi*** of a human being, as far as I’m concerned. She has few – if any – redeeming qualities and her entire shtick involves insulting everyone around her. This is another Japanese-centric character trait, it seems, because I remember encountering the same thing in The Witch and the Hundred Knight. I suppose someone somewhere might find such behavior funny, but I don’t. It’s even worse in Drakengard 3, though, because everyone is just…awful. There are no sympathetic characters, nobody you care one whit about, and no, it isn’t funny at all.
That’s my own reaction, however. I know there are others who have enjoyed this game and in truth, I can understand why. It does have a singular style and flair and as disgustingly offensive as I find it, some people obviously like it. Besides, there are multiple endings that add a great deal to the longevity of the adventure, and the more you learn about the world, the more interested you become. Granted, I never got to the point where I really wanted to learn everything about my environment or the characters, but I did reach a point where I began to appreciate the virtual world Access Games had created. That’s a plus, right?
The combat can be invigorating and even rewarding and if you commit to the quest, you will find plenty of fast-action content. There are some twists to the story that you might not see coming, and the backdrop is unlike anything you’ll see in other games. Despite the technical issues that cropped up when atop Mikhail, and despite that wildly frustrating camera, I still managed to have a good time. Blood spattering everywhere, enemies falling before my competent blade; sure, I can get behind that. I just can’t get behind the overarching theme, which is just plain unpleasant, as far as I’m concerned.
Drakengard 3 is sort of an enigma. You should either avoid it like the plague or, if your curiosity has been piqued by this review, you should give it a try. I’ve been quite candid so don’t say you don’t know what to expect. It’s riddled with what I perceive to be outdated shortcomings, it looks and feels outdated, and the characters aren’t even remotely entertaining. However, you may feel different about the characters, and because you become engaged in the relatively entertaining combat, you’ll be less likely to complain about the lackluster graphics and terrible camera. I can’t guarantee what you’ll think, but I can assign a score that makes sense to me.
The Good: Decent combat control and entertaining combat. Main character always feels powerful and effective. A unique love-it-or-hate-it atmosphere. Story has a few twists.
The Bad: Mediocre technical elements throughout. Terrible camera. Aerial control is a little iffy. Horribly unappealing protagonist and a bleak, oppressive world. Often feels very tedious.
The Ugly: “The whole damn thing is ugly…but maybe that’s your bag.”
6/3/2014 Ben Dutka