“Zero? Can I go find a bush? I have to pee.”
That’s the first thing you hear when you turn Drakengard 3 on for the first time, playing over a black background with the words” Square Enix Presents” in the middle of the screen. Two questions are immediately raised: why is that line the introduction to the game, and if that’s how the game starts, what am I getting myself into?
The first question was never answered, as I don’t recall ever hearing the line used in the game again, but the second one...well, for lack of a better description, Drakengard 3 is one hot mess.
I prefer to begin reviews with something positive, so here goes: I really like the character development of the dragon Mikhail. His progression from little whelp to powerful dragon is a joy to watch, even if he’s a bit naïve. It’s also interesting that of the entire main cast, it’s the dragon that’s the idealistic pacifist looking to talk before fighting. He may be the most human of the entire lot, and he’s the only non-human. Mikhail is the only redeeming quality of Drakengard 3; the rest of the game is one unanswered question after another. Let’s go through a few of them:
Am I the hero?
I haven’t the first idea what side I was supposed to be on. Is Zero the hero, and is her quest for sororicide a heroic act? What have her sisters done to deserve such a fate? Are they inherently evil? Have they committed mass atrocities? If that’s the case, Zero and her followers are the most villainous group of heroes I’ve ever seen.
The only person I saw killing hordes of soldiers was Zero, and outside of wanting to be the only goddess and ruling the world alone she has no reason for it. She’s abrasive, crass and cruel to those who should be helping her, and what good hero does that? Furthermore, Zero’s disciples, whom Zero gains by defeating her sisters, don’t help the argument, as they all have some kind of personality trait that would make them more villain than hero. Oddly enough, all of them have to do with carnal action.
What’s with the sex talk?
There’s a ton of innuendo in Drakengard 3, and none of it is subtle. Every chapter, every battle, almost every interaction, has some allusion to coitus, and most of it is wildly uncomfortable. Decadus, one of Zero’s gained disciples, has such an extreme case of masochism that he spends half the game grunting in delight after Zero threatens to hurt him. As Zero pursues the first of her sisters, Lady Five, one of the defending soldiers shouts, “If we hold the line, we may get an audience with Lady Five… and then we’ll get to see those beautiful boobs!” Every line is more out-of-place and inappropriate than the last, making most of the in-game dialogue completely pointless.
Worst of all is Octa, another disciple Zero gains, who takes every single opportunity to ask Zero to lay with him, and he does it in the worst ways possible. Phrases like “precious trouser trout,” “plunder the feedbox,” and “the sight of her love pantry” all come out of his mouth during those inane in-battle conversations. Oh, that reminds me…
Why won’t these characters shut the hell up?
If you thought the pawn conversations in Dragon’s Dogma were annoying, you have no idea what you’re in store for here in Drakengard 3. Every single battle in every single chapter has some kind of mindless conversation going on in the middle of it, with the words placed on screen so you can read them as you try to tune them out. You wouldn’t want to miss Octa talking about what makes his “snake spring from the can,” would you?
This incessant jabbering only adds to how much I don’t like any of these characters. Whether Dito is laughing about how much blood is everywhere, Decadus is getting off on some kind of threat from Zero, or Octa is being Octa, it just makes me want to strangle every character I’m supposed to be rooting for. As annoying as all of these ramblings are, the solid gameplay makes it worth sitting through… right?
Is the game technically sound, at least?
Unfortunately, Drakengard is a technical mess, too. The frame rate can’t decide where it wants to be, slowing down every time an enemy approaches. The third-person hack-and-slash combat keeps the Square and Triangle buttons busy, but rarely do any other buttons see action. Of course, it’s not like the A.I. needs things to be complicated, as enemy soldiers are perfectly content to line up single-file and get what’s coming to them.
There are a few cool ideas in the battle system, like the ability to switch weapons on the fly for extended combos. There are four weapon types: swords, spears, chakrams, and combat bracers worn as gloves. Each one offers something in the way of speed or power, and as they are upgraded their power grows. Pressing L2 or R2 mid-battle allows Zero to switch between them at will, creating combos that use all four weapons in her arsenal if done correctly. Pulling one off is pretty satisfying, one of the few things the game does well.
There are times where the game takes a Star Fox-esque on-rails shooter form, and they are actually pretty fun. Riding Mikhail and flying around the screen shooting enemies with fireballs is a lot of fun, and if it happened more than two or three times I may have enjoyed the game more. Once again, Mikhail is the only redeeming quality of this disaster.
One other thing: this is supposed to be an RPG, right? Where are the RPG elements? Zero levels up, but there are no stats to monitor or manage. I can buy and upgrade weapons, but the upgrade system is merely paying money for better attack power. It’s as if Access Games thought, “Well it needs to be an RPG, so let’s put the minimum amount of RPG in it just for the classification.” It’s sad, because an interesting character building system might have been a saving grace.
I try to give each game a chance as I power through it, but every time I started to turn a corner with Drakengard 3, I’d hear Octa asking Zero if he could “clear some sand out of the lion’s den,” and I’d go right back to having an awful taste in my mouth. The game’s obsession with referencing sex is maddening, even more so than the lackluster battle system or bare-bones RPG elements. If I wanted to hear some of those lines, I’d go walk the halls at my old high school for a while.
From the minute Mikhail asked if he could find a bush I knew something was amiss, and all of those fears came to a head every minute I spent playing Drakengard 3. I thought I was getting a grand RPG adventure with dragon riding and heavy action...but what I got is a monotonous, overly-perverted slashfest with unlikable characters and a boring story. This is one dragon ride I don’t want to take again.
This review was completed with a copy of Drakengard 3 provided by the publisher for PlayStation 3.