Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Drakengard 3

A decade ago I played the original Drakengard. Released on the PlayStation 2, the game was an action RPG that blended gameplay which took place both on-foot and atop a mighty dragon. It didn't impress me much back then, so Drakengard 2 flew below my radar. However, cut to almost a decade after the release of Drakengard on the Playstation 2, and its developer Cavia released a game called Nier. Nier made me believe in Cavia, because Nier was one of the best games I have ever played. Not only did it have a rich story but also boasted gameplay that was varied and thrilling. Sadly though, Nier didn't sell well, and this resulted in Cavia closing its doors. But while a sequel to Nier (which itself was actually a spin-off to Drakengard) may never happen, the Drakengard series lives on! However, after winning me over with the truly outstanding Nier, can writer/designer Taro Yoko make lighting strike twice with Drakengard 3? Read on to find out...

Developed by Access Games and out now on PlayStation 3 comes Drakengard 3, the third entry in the Drakengard series, but a prequel to the first game. Compared to the previous Drakengard games, in terms of gameplay, presentation and narrative, Drakengard 3 seems to have learnt quite a bit from Nier. You play the role of Zero, a mysterious girl who, with help of a dragon called Mikhail, sets out on a quest to kill her five sisters. Her five sisters rule different regions of this world, but though her mission may seem simple at first, over the course of the game the player will find out the real reasons behind Zero's murderous intentions.

As mentioned before, Drakengard 3 continues the series' dual forms of combat. Firstly, on-foot combat is wonderfully achieved, and feels more like Nier than any previous Drakengard game. As Zero, players will find themselves going up against instances of both one-on-one battles as well as bigger, more involved battles against armies. Both types of on-foot battling are great fun, and the skill of utilising a healthy combination of ranged attacks, sweeping moves and upward strikes is key. Weapons get stronger as Zero herself levels up, and with Zero's advancement comes more in-depth and stronger moves to use. In fact, the attacks and moves Zero can use are even further expanded on, as different weapons produce different move-sets. This all comes together to create a satisfying and deep fighting system, and that's even before you take to skies on your dragon! Also, much like Neir, one stand out aspect of Drakengard 3 is the boss battles, which sometimes come in the form of Zero taking on large, and I mean huge, enemies.

Combat while atop your dragon, Mikhail, is far more linear, but just as fun as on-foot combat. From the air Mikhail can rain fire down upon his foes, but they don't only come in the form of infantry soldiers, but also structures and vehicles such as ships. Swooping down and spilling fire across the battlefield is exceptionally thrilling, especially when, in a matter of seconds and without a loading screen in sight, you can jump off Mikhail and get into some on-foot battling. While it has always been the series' strongest element, this multi-layered combat system is absolutely fantastic, and will please just about any gamers play-style.

Drakengard 3 looks lovely, and its presentation comes across like a visual merging of both the worlds of Drakengard and Nier. From the large armies you'll go up against while sitting on Mikhail's back, to the smaller, more up-close-and-personal battles you'll fight as Zero, the game is visually stunning. This visual excellence also extends to the wonderful world Access Games have created here. Though I would have loved an even balance of both role-playing and battling. Sadly the game is 80% battling, and while it works perfectly well, the idea of exploring the many towns and cities across the world is painfully tantalising.

Overall Drakengard 3 is a fantastic entry into the series. It has clearly learned quite a lot from the master-class that Cavia brought to the table with Nier, yet still stays true to its Drakengard origins. A must-buy for any RPG fans out there. Oh and hell, you might as well pick up Nier while you're at it. Trust me, you won't regret it!

Drakengard 3 swoops down and nabs a 5/5.


Denis Murphy

Drakengard 3 at CeX

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