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Drakan: The Ancients' Gates (PlayStation 2)

78
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  D P (124)
Written on  :  Dec 21, 2006
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

One of the Best Adventures for the PS2

The Good

Players should immediately like this game. It looks good, sounds good, controls well, and is of a moderate difficulty. Furthermore it is interesting and a bit mysterious. The setting should be obvious to those who have the cover art available. The game is set in a swords and sorcery medieval-like age where dragons fly over rolling hills and mountains, and simple and humble villagers try to subsist by farming their modest crops. At the center of this world is castle with a queen - and she has a problem. The evil in this world has risen up and making a push for control of the world by enslaving the humans. To the rescue is Rynn and her dragon Arokh. They are charged by the queen to unlock a number of ancient portals to free the long-sleeping Dragon Mother so she can awaken her dragon brood and once again battle with the humans to save the world. The dragons are sleeping due to some catastrophe that happened centuries before.

The game boasts some impressive visuals for 2002. There is some draw-distance, but that should be expected out of just about any PS2 game. The music is a bit sparse, but there is a great theme that comes in just at the right spots, particularly at the end of the game - the music really raised the excitement level for the last few boss fights. The game controls like a third-person adventure game controls. Pushing up on the analog stick moves Rynn forward and pushing the analog stick left or right rotates her in that direction. Rynn can also mount her dragon, Arokh. He moves like Rynn does, but pressing the Y or X button will move him up and down, respectively. Controlling the dragon felt a bit like Zone of the Enders, but simplified. The dragon can attack land or air targets - this was allot of fun. Hovering above a group of enemies and torching them using the flame attack never got old. (The even scream and try to run away, hahahah!) Or if I was feeling a more noble mood I would land and take the enemies on sword to sword, or ax, or bow, or whatever they had.

What was most appealing about this adventure was the feeling that I was actually on an adventure. Moving about a huge world, travelling to different places, flying around on my dragon, all of this sounds simple, but this is what makes Drakan what it is. Simply put: fun.

The Bad

I think the primary complaint I have heard about this game is the overlong load times. There is no doubt about it, the load times are long. I estimate they are over a minute long. This may seem at first something quite terrible, however, the game does not load that often. Rynn can freely roam any area, enter just about any house or cave, and the game will only pause for a moment or two while it loads some information. I have played the game for over half-an-hour without encountering any loading.

Loading aside, there are some serious problems with this game, and all these problems go back to one source: rushed development. Firstly, the game was a bit on the short side. I was expecting a long, 40-hour experience, but I put in just a bit over 20 hours. (There is no in-game chronometer, I am just estimating). By first impressions there are a number of side-quests, and there are.... in the beginning of the game. Once you unlock the second or third portal the side quests all but stop. There is seemingly a large weapon selection. But by halfway through the game, you will have an idea of what few weapons you have left to get. And like the side-quests, the dialogue at the beginning of the game is quite good and quite frequent, but as you continue playing, it becomes less and less common. And don't expect to level-up like in an RPG. My melee skill was at level 8 and my bow skill was at level 4 when I beat the game, (I never leveled up my magic as it was not very helpful). I am not very into levelling-up my characters, but I would have liked a bit more in the way of rewards for killing the masses of enemies I was required to kill. Lastly, the combat a bit too oversimplified. You mash the square button to unleash a three hit combo, over, and over, and over, and over.... etc. By pressing the D-Pad in a direction while pressing the attack button, you can use a special attack, but Rynn can't move while doing this. You have to wait until the enemies come close enough then hit them with the attack. Very strange.

The Bottom Line

Flaws aside this game still receives a high rating. Why? Because this is a very fun game. I had tons of fun and will definitely revisit this title in the future. Perhaps it is because the game is a bit on the simple side, isn't very stressful, and doesn't require me to have a perfect memory of exactly what I did and where I was going the last time I played it, that makes it so much fun. Because there is a lack of loading screens I felt that this big huge world of Drakan was all connected. I didn't mind the load screens nearly as much as others and I think that the game benefited by taking this unorthodox path. I highly recommend this game to casual gamers and those who need a break from the overcomplicated and often times quite stressful games.