Review by WishingTikal
Reviewed: 05/30/14 | Updated: 06/06/14
You've not seen "it" until you've played Drakengard 3
The Drakengard series is known for its twisted world and characters, which unlike other games of the same genre, is dark and blunt. It's violent and delectable. It's not known for graphics, nor for gameplay, although the appeal of flying and fighting off countless enemies on the back of a ruthless dragon is certainly there. It's a strange series, a love it or hate it, and the PS3 sequel (actually, the prequel) is just the same in many aspects. I loved the game, but it wasn't exactly the case at first.
Let's be honest, the presentation is pretty subpar, aside from the cutscenes, which look really nice, and the amazing soundtrack from Nier's composer Keiichi Okabe. The graphics scream early PS3, not to say late PS2 (with an HD coating), the character models don't look so hot up-close, the framerate sometimes drops really low, and the gameplay is very repetitive, but if you can get past that, you could really end up loving the game too.
At first, I stopped myself at the flaws and I wasn't really enjoying it. What really immersed me into Drakengard's merciless world in the end was its story and characters. It's nothing spectacular, but the game's world and the characters within it have a certain charm to them, that not everyone will appreciate. A certain understanding of dark humor is required.
In the game you play as Zero, an Intoner who for some reason wishes to kill her five sisters. You're not told why at first, and I won't spoil it for you as finding out why is the main reason to keep playing the game through its four different endings.
Unlike the past Drakengard games, which were very dark and gritty, sometimes downright twisted and made you feel uncomfortable, the prequel has a strong comedic aspect to it, although it keeps the dark uneasy atmosphere. It's still weird and twisted, but there's a lot of funny, unconventional stuff going on too, and the mix of the two is delightful.
Zero is an antihero; she's strong and always ready with a reply, you're never sure if she's out there to save the world or destroy it, but she becomes very likeable as the game progresses, thanks to the colorful characters that accompany her on the journey through madness.
Your party members are sex-obsessed freaks who like to joke about "it" constantly, and it's made very clear in the game that Zero and them have lots of sex in between each mission, but the whole thing is presented in a comical manner that definitely at least makes you smile. It's refreshing to have a game joking about crude stuff upfront without being ashamed of it. All the characters in the game are sick, and it's fun.
The game also has a cute side thanks to Mikhail, Zero's baby dragon, who is just so clueless and adorable, that you just can't not like him. Mikhail is all the opposite of the other characters, and together with Zero, they make a really lovable, unusual pair. In fact, all the characters are pretty memorable thanks to solid voice-acting from known names like Yuri Lowenthal and Liam O'Brien, and the jokes are perfectly delivered.
There's a dramatic and sad side to the game as well, as you progress further, so altogether I found the plot really engaging, fun and original. Sure, the characters aren't exactly deep, but they made me laugh and I still got attached to them.
And that's the game's strength, because I still have to talk about the not so good stuff. In truth, everything else is just so-so. The framerate tends to drop when too many enemies are on the screen, and it contrasts with the fast-paced battles, so it's a little annoying, but it doesn't happen that often, and doesn't take away the fun.
Like I said, the graphics are far from top-notch, they're colorless and boring to look at, with simplistic, drab environments that repeat themselves over several missions, but it's sort of part of the game, making you feel like the world is afflicted and dead, so I'll let it slip this time, since Drakengard games have never been known for their graphics. The large, giant enemies are still impressive though.
Drakengard 3 is mostly a hack 'n slash game, where you kill hordes of enemies one after the other, and that's pretty much all you do, so you can see how it gets repetitive, combined with the lifeless and recycled environments. It's still kind of fun though, with the fast, bloody combat and the sense of power you have over the enemies. The fighting is not clunky like in the PS2 Drakengard games and you can switch your weapon on the go with no delay and keep on attacking, which is pretty cool, although the game misses the magical attacks that were really awesome in the two first games. You can also fill up a bar and unleash Zero's special attack, which looks nice and is even faster. It's just too bad she only has one.
Two of your four party members can also follow you into the missions, but they're pretty much useless and will spend most of their time running into walls and circling around the enemies, probably making fun of them for being sheep, so let's just pretend their only purpose is to say funny stuff, and they do that well, if anything.
There are a few flying missions as well, much like in the original Drakengard games, but not really anything quite like it. The levels are totally linear, there is no exploration save for a few hidden chests along the way, and the flying levels are just the same. It's mission-based, so no open-world like in Nier, or even large maps like Drakengard 1 & 2. You just follow the path and slash the enemies on the way, and in the flying missions' case, you shoot them with Mikhail instead, without the freedom of flying around.
Unlike the first games, you can't ride the dragon anytime you please, which is pretty disappointing. You can summon him at certain spots (maybe only a few times throughout the game) to help defeat enemies, but you have no control over him. You only get to ride him in the very few shooting missions and some bosses. That was my biggest letdown, since in the first games the dragon was a large part of the gameplay and what made them different from other action games, and here, apart from being cute and making Zero's soft side come out, he's not actually doing much.
Unfortunately, riding the dragon is not as fun as it sounds, as the environments in boss battles are way too tight for such a big boy and you constantly find yourself ramming into pillars and walls, with a camera that just doesn't do anything to help, making the flying controls more frustrating than they should.
So, in the end, it's sort of a crappy game with low production values and repetitive gameplay, but somehow it stuck with me after the game was over, and I was sad that I wouldn't get to travel around anymore with Mikhail, Zero and her strange troop. The game is not particularly long, it took me a few days to get all weapons and endings, but working towards achieving that goal felt fun thanks to the cast of crazy characters, their corrupted morals, and clever jokes in their depressing world brought to life thanks to the beautiful music and convincing english cast.
If you're not too picky on shortcomings and are open to sexual jokes, blood, swearing, and dragon pissing, then definitely give Drakengard 3 a try, it takes a little while and some patience to get there, but the fast combat and funny, engaging characters more than make up for the obvious flaws. I'll definitely miss them.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Drakengard 3 (US, 05/20/14)
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