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Drakan: Order of the Flame (Windows)

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Written by  :  ududy (59)
Written on  :  Oct 17, 2001
Rating  :  3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars

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A relatively overlooked action gem

The Good

Even playing this game 2 years on, the expansive environments are enough to impress - especially the way interior and exterior space is combined. The maps are huge, somewhat non-linear, and filled with interesting nooks and crannies, many times holding bonus items, and sometimes special items or encounters. The RPG element, where the different kinds of weapons and armor degrade over time and you have to keep an eye out for replacements, adds to the tension and makes exploration meaningful beyond just experiencing the environment. With some simple puzzles and traps, and well-staged set pieces, Drakan manages to keep you curious and entertained through quite a long quest. The enemy's AI, while easy to mislead in some instances, has some interesting behaviors - running away, picking up and using nearby allies as projectiles (in the case of the giants), switching between long and short range weapons - the sort of detail that distinguishes between colorful and vanilla enemies. The voice acting (for the admittedly trite dialogue) is mostly good, better than average for games. And let's not forget that feeling of power when you let out a stream of intense fire and fry a group of creatures that on foot would have meant mucho trouble.

The Bad

Dragonflight is generally exciting, but should have been more. Arokh's collision detection is flawed and makes him bump into invisible barriers. And bump is the right word here, because you get no impression of the force that should have been released by the huge mass of a dragon crashing into rock at a good rate of miles per hour. In the sequel, which is now in production for the PS2, i hope the results of a brush with the terrain take into account the points of contact, the mass and the vector of flight. In the same vein, the aerodynamics for the dragon not only feel wrong, but he is also too easy to maneouver to be as interesting as he should. Arokh is best described as a very nimble helicopter - he can hover, turn on the spot, maintain height even in extreme turns without effort (okay, so maybe he's a flying saucer, not a heli), and go from full speed to reverse flight in a second. As a result of the shallowness of the flight model, there is no challenge in flying, even in constricted spaces. It also affects dragonback combat, which degenerates into the dreaded FPS circle strafe. Story is passable, barely (only because we have very low standards for story telling in games)

The Bottom Line

An action hack & slash game with two-tiered gameplay - on foot and dragon-riding - that works well. The player that likes to explore will find that Drakan can emphasize exploration not less than combat, and provide a lot of entertaining moments.