Drakan - The Ancients Gates
Review of Drakan - The Ancients Gates
Thousands of years ago, man and dragon had shared a unique bond. Working together, they forged a remarkable relationship that enabled them to build a prosperous and flourishing world, while also keeping evil at bay. As the years passed people grew more independent and relied less and less on the dragons aid. Reluctantly the dragons left, choosing to go into a hibernation of sorts until they are once again needed.
As time passed, a dark and powerful evil began to grow. The once flourishing world of Drakan is soon overrun and civilization begins to crumble. The bond between man and dragon has long since been forgotten and people are at a loss as to how to fight and regain control of their world.
Enter Rynn…a female warrior. She’s hot, she’s tough and she just happens to be soul mated to one of the ancient great dragons – Arokh. Together they embark on a journey to release the rest of the great dragons in an effort to vanquish the world of Drakan from the evil that is currently embracing it.
Drakan: The Ancients’ Gates is the next chapter of the popular saga that previously could only be found on the PC. The transition to console is made surprisingly well and the title is definitely a solid effort in its own right and stands up well when compared to its PC sibling.
The game has a decidedly medieval English flare to it and the heroin at first glance may remind many gamers of another English lass named Lara. Both are sweet, tough little packages, but that’s about where the similarities end. Instead of going through almost endless amounts of puzzles and lever pulling, Drakan is more of a story-driven hack & slash adventure game…which I greatly preferred.
The game starts the player off at a nice easy pace, allowing you to learn the various character controls and weapon attacks by practicing on a dummy in a little camp outside of town. Once you have your licks down, head off towards the castle and begin the journey in earnest.
Right away you will notice the massive environments with grassy meadows spreading up against huge mountains. Off in the distance, down a slight ravine, the castle can be seen. It also doesn’t take very long before Rynn gets ambushed and her first real fight begins.
Controlling Rynn is extremely simple with the left thumbstick being used for movement and the right thumbstick for limited camera control (look up/down, right/left). Wielding the sword takes only one button press (the Square), but other attack moves can be incorporated by also utilizing the directional buttons at the same time as pressing the button. Multiple swings can also be done by pressing repeatedly on the Square button. Rynn can also crouch, jump, roll, lock onto targets and strafe left or right. Besides using a sword, Rynn can equip other weapons like clubs and a bow & arrows. When using the bow, pressing the “O” button will enable Rynn to zoom in on her targets…similar to using a sniper rifle…just not quite as magnified.
There are many people that Rynn and Arokh will encounter throughout the game. Most of these people will present Rynn with a side quest. These quests can be taken or ditched, but normally they will follow the overall flow of the game so there isn’t really too much sidetracking necessary to complete them…for the most part. There is a nice little entry log that keeps track of all your missions and quests so if you forget any, just pull up the screen for a refresher.
Experience points are earned by dispatching enemies and completing quests. A little blue meter fills up in the lower left corner of the screen and when it is full you have one experience point to apply to either magic, bow accuracy or sword fighting. Be aware, this is no trivial feat…The meter takes forever to fill up and getting only one point each time it does finally fill is a little frustrating. At least Rynn’s entry-level skills are quite sufficient to take her far through the game.
Combat alternates between ground-based missions that have Rynn looking for key items or aerial battles where gamers get to control Arokh. I found the ground missions to be quite challenging and enjoyable. It was amazing the watch the environments change so often on each mission…they are absolutely enormous. But I mostly enjoyed the aerial battles with Arokh. Controlling the dragon is a little daunting at first, but once I got the controls down the system working like a charm and the sheer beauty of the battles were truly awesome…I just wished there were more of them.
The creatures the Rynn encounters are nice and varied and are set in their own special environment. Just going through a single quest will have gamers traversing multiple regions like swamps, caves, outdoor meadows, etc. The variety in settings is truly refreshing and long overdue in games of this type.
Graphically, Drakan can certainly hold its own and then some. The image quality is nice and crisp with fine little details strewn throughout the game. The fractal-generated landscapes are a marvelous addition and make me hope that this method of rendering is used and further improved upon in future titles. It gives a nice random appearance to the textures in the game and overall presents a rather fresh approach to the visuals…even though fractal procedures have been around for a long time.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the strong points in Drakan is the size and scope of the environments. The landscape appears to stretch out forever and when you are flying on Arokh the view is almost jaw-dropping. Yes, there are some minor pop-up issues but nothing blatantly apparent…you have to really look for it. The frame rate is also rock solid with no blips or slowdown. There are also no aliasing issues in the game, which I found to be quite refreshing J.
The only thing taking a minor hit is the textures, which appear to be somewhat washed out…you can tell there is very little multi-layering going on here. Even though the textures are less than vibrant they are really put to good use. They are varied and well conceived. The other nice thing was that even when close up (like to a wall), they do not blur out…they are still nice and solid looking.
Overall the graphics in Drakan work really well and do their part in portraying the world that Rynn and Arokh journey through.
Finally we arrive in the sound department and all is well that ends well. The voice acting in Drakan is superb. Every character that you encounter features full voice acting or in the case of some creatures, their own unique sounds.
The sound effects are also amazing. Not only will players get the obligatory sword clangs, fighting sounds, etc. but there are also a huge variety of ambient noises that fill up the game. Creatures are heard off in the distance growling, bugs are reciting, water can be heard trickling far off. All of these sounds and many others contribute greatly to enhance the experience and make the gameplay in Drakan much more realistic and engrossing.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Drakan - The Ancients Gates' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
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