Game Over Online ~ Drakengard 2

GameOver Game Reviews - Drakengard 2 (c) Ubisoft, Reviewed by - David Brothers

Game & Publisher Drakengard 2 (c) Ubisoft
System Requirements PlayStation 2
Overall Rating 80%
Date Published Saturday, April 1st, 2006 at 01:24 AM

Divider Left By: David Brothers Divider Right

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Young, kind-hearted and valiant young man with special abilities and/or a mysterious past is forced to rebel against and/or save the law of the land. If you've played an RPG in the last, oh, twenty years, or even read a novel in the past one hundred years, this should sound plenty familiar to you. It's a tried and true tale, and it's one that Drakengard 2 employs to decent effect. It's set eighteen years after the first game, so it's new-player friendly, though gamers who've been around may recognize more than a few of the story beats.

You play Nowe (yes, "no way"), a young Knight with a dragon for a buddy. He is the kind-hearted and valiant young man I mentioned earlier, but this in no way means that he is smart. In fact, he makes a number of shockingly poor choices throughout the game, which is a nice change for an RPG. He isn't even remotely the picture-perfect hero that you'd expect him to be.

Since you have a large friend named Legna who just happens to be able to breathe fire, you're something of an asset to the army, and Drakengard 2 makes sure that you know it. There's a number of missions which consist of someone ordering you into battle alone, usually with a morale booster like "Thin the herd!" or "Clear the way for us!" This isn't so bad, though, because there are essentially three different types of gameplay to keep it all fresh. There's the standard on-foot mode, which bears some resemblence to Dynasty Warriors, the low-altitude dragon fighting mode, and then a high-altitude mode.

Drakengard 2 includes an in-battle menu that lets you apply potions and change characters or weapons. Before the battle, you can equip the different weapons and items to the menu, as well as view weapon stats. This will come in handy, since the different weapons you find during battles all have different stats, bonuses, and special attacks.

You'll spend quite a bit of time on your own two feet in this game, and its made it as easy as possible for you to enjoy yourself. Each of the characters has weapon-specific combo attacks and special attacks, as well as other skills. Some are powerful against undead creatures, while others will wilt at the sight of them. You can hot-swap characters with no loading times, which is definitely welcome, particularly if one character is extremely low on HP or if you need a specialist to solve a problem.

The low-altitude mode is both one of the coolest things in the game and one of the most hamstrung. Nowe can, with the press of a button, leap into the air and board his snarky dragon buddy and rain down flaming death on his enemies. The problem is, only Nowe can do this. Let's say that you're playing as Eris, a spear-user, because you like the strength and speed of her attacks. Nowe is low on HP, but Eris has a good bit of it left. Suddenly, you're faced with a monster that could use a flame-broiled makeover, so you decide to switch to Legna. Oops, you remember that you have to switch to Nowe first, then hit a button to call Legna, and hope and pray that you don't get hit in the delay between each action. This is shockingly uncool, though understandable. Nowe and his relationship with the dragon is an important plot point, and it just won't do to dilute that by having every character ever able to summon Legna. It still is pretty poor, though, and frustrating to boot.

The high-altitude mode takes a different tack and puts you into what amounts to a dogfighting mode. You cannot switch characters or go on the ground, so you have to take advantage of Legna's powers alone. This isn't a downside, necessarily, as Legna has everything from screen-filling special attacks to homing fireballs. It's fun, but expect to fight a bunch of flying bats and, er, cubes. Yes, "Gargoyle Cubes" that will occasionally fire at you, but mostly kind of sit there in their cuboid glory and wait to be blown up. They're a very 1995 PlayStation game sort of villain, if you can even call them that, and that ties into another problem.

Drakengard 2's biggest problem is that its reach exceeds its grasp. You're set to fight hundreds of enemies per stage... but don't expect to see much more than twenty, at best. The game simply won't render some of them until you're close, particularly if you're riding on Legna when you're trying to kill them. The draw distance is particularly poor, and it'll often feel like you're fighting ten men in big empty room, rather than dozens in a crowded battlefield. It feels less like a war against monsters and more like a small gang fight, high school drama theatre-style.

If you can look past the iffy graphics, Drakengard 2 has a lot to enjoy. The fighting is fun and has enough variety to avoid monotony, so give it at least a cursory look. You might find something you enjoy.


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