Even with the PlayStation 4 well etched into the industry and making its way to over 6 million homes, it’s nice that the PlayStation 3 continues to get some love in the West, with publishers still bringing over niche releases that aren’t sure-fire commercial hits. When Drag-On Dragoon 3 was first announced, I was absolutely certain that the game was too little too late to ever be considered for a fully localized North American release, but was pleasantly surprised when the game became destined for a local release this year as Drakengard 3.
The original Drakengard appeared on the PlayStation 2 nearly ten years ago back in 2004. Back then it was actually a game that many were highly anticipating, primarily because it was dubbed as an epic action RPG with its gameplay described as a cross between Dynasty Warriors and Panzer Dragoon. Just the mere similarity with Panzer Dragoon was enough to place the game on everyone’s radar. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself here, because it was most certainly my most anticipated game of that year.
From a purely gameplay and design standpoint, Drakengard was a terribly bland and shallow video game. The repetition got so grating that it felt like you were mowing the lawn. However, what truly and profoundly stood out about the original Drakengard was its plot. The story, characters, and writing, all were perhaps that most mature and twisted to have ever come out of Square-Enix at that time.
The themes explored were downright depraved and shockingly taboo for a contemporary video game. Now this was 2004, long before Game of Thrones, along with all its twisted and taboo themes, became a staple norm of pop-culture. A lot of the dark elements in Drakengard were daring and controversial at the time, exploring things like… you know what this is a family site so I’ll let you guys figure it out. Point is, the mature writing of Drakengard wasn’t just shock value for the sake of it, as it was truly excellent with the controversial and taboo elements put to compelling use. If anything, the only reason why I completed the game 100% back in the day was simply because I wanted to experience every inch of its gripping story, enough to subject myself to sheer mediocrity of the gameplay and design.
Two years later Drakengard 2 was released for PS2 in 2006. It was essentially the opposite of the first game, because this time the game itself was mildly fun and playable but the plot and writing took a major hit. It had none of the dark and daring elements of the first game, instead offering an uninspired tale that takes a very predictable route. Now between that and Drakengard 3 came Nier, a cult classic of the last console generation for sure, but how does it fit into the Drakengard lore? Well finding that out for yourself is part of the fun.
Now comes Drakengard 3 in 2014, a game that is actually set before the events of the first game, which is a smart move considering the boring but conclusive finale of Drakengard 2 couldn’t be followed up in a meaningful manner. Caim from the original Drakengard is easily among my favorite anti-heroes in gaming, a bloodthirsty and self-indulgent maniac whose rage knows no bounds. Drakengard 3 offers a female variant of Caim, named Zero, who is out to draw the blood of her own family while relishing in the carnage of the battlefield. Like all protagonists in the series, she has a dragon companion to aid her in laying waste to thousands upon thousands of sacrificial soldiers. There’s a ton of blood, gore and violence here, not to mention strong sexual undertones. This is a Drakengard game after all.
The game looks to play like any other Drakengard game, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While the first game felt shallow and bare-bones — even for its time — the second game added more playability and depth which made the experience enjoyable despite the relatively weaker story. It’s worth noting that the first two Drakengard titles and Nier came from the now defunct Cavia, but the key individuals moved on to Access Games. With the key founders, along with a fresh new team and perspective, it seems they had all the time and talent to make Drakengard 3 the biggest and most diverse entry in the series.
Drakengard always had solid ideas which were wasted by really lousy execution. Drakengard 3 looks to take those cool ideas and do them justice. For example, the combo system resembles a true action game rather than a watered down Dynasty Warriors clone. The dragon-riding aspect looks to be more entertaining too, giving players more freedom and control while offering a wider arsenal of attacks, a huge far cry from the limited and restricted dragon-usage in prior games. The high degree of violence isn’t all visuals and presentation as Zero literally soaks and relishes in the blood of her victims, which gets her more psyched up and stronger during battle. Oh Drakengard, you sick depraved little creature, you.
If you’re like me and played every game in the series, then Drakengard 3 is perhaps the game you always hoped for. Being the prequel to the Drakengard saga, newcomers won’t need to subject themselves to the boredom offered by the PS2 entries, and they can jump straight to the upcoming release. If you’re honestly curious about the overall lore, then I suggest watching the story segments of Drakengard and Drakengard 2 on YouTube.
Drakengard 3 comes out in North America on May 20, 2014.