Drakengard 2 (PlayStation 2) review
"Despite the fact that Drakengard 2 has progressed a lot, it’s a boring experience that lurks in the shadow of the original. The gloomy atmosphere, the doomed and melancholic characters and the path of despair that game led you down were unforgettable. The experience of standing alone and staring an entire army straight in the eye was something that sent shivers down your spine and caused the hair on the back of your neck to stand to attention. The ability to leap into the sky and perch..."
Despite the fact that Drakengard 2 has progressed a lot, it’s a boring experience that lurks in the shadow of the original. The gloomy atmosphere, the doomed and melancholic characters and the path of despair that game led you down were unforgettable. The experience of standing alone and staring an entire army straight in the eye was something that sent shivers down your spine and caused the hair on the back of your neck to stand to attention. The ability to leap into the sky and perch upon the neck of an enormous dragon caused your stomach to fold over. It was an excellent blend of beauty and malice that matched the manga epic Berserk in quality.
However, its disappointing sequel is quite a complex puzzle to piece together. All of the game’s mechanics have been enhanced: swordplay, dragon riding, magic and control of allies have all gone under massive changes and improvements but there is something that Drakengard 2 clearly lacks which the original was rich with: atmosphere. The plot is boring. The main protagonist (who isn’t Caim, despite bearing quite a resemblance) is boring. The cold-hearted and powerful antagonist, General Gismor is as threatening as a head cold and his intentions and manipulative personality are easier to read than a child’s storybook.
Yes, you read right. You no longer play as Caim. The silent butcher with his oversized sword unfortunately slip out of the limelight and give way to the most generic hero I have played in a long time:
Nowe is a good guy. His heart is in the right place and in many occasions, he states his passion for justice and truth. He, like Caim, has a dragon; although, he has sacrificed nothing to be earn to be with him. Their relationship is more parental than the mandatory pact that Caim and Angelus made. However, unlike Angelus, Legna is a grand blue dragon who treats Nowe like his own son, lecturing him when he does wrong and bossing him around like any parent. However, pleasant and strong as this relationship may be, it really detracts away from the gloomy atmosphere that game seems to be trying so hard to maintain.
However, like Caim, Square Enix have also sacrificed something important to aid enhancement. With the removal of the awesome story and atmosphere, they’ve enhanced the combat and the flying. Those who played the last game may be relieved to hear that Nowe is far more agile and sublime than Caim. With a jump, he practically hits the roof! With a few taps of the square button, he unleashes a rapid combo with his trusty long sword. He’ll also lay to waste legions of enemies with his ability to sweep the enemy high in the air and then smash him to the ground with a quick caress of the green triangle.
As knights surround him, Nowe shows no fear or hesitation. He strikes down his former comrades with the grace and elegance of a swan. With an array of lighting fast combos, he can carve a path through the surrounding enemies. Unlike Caim, whose killing ability was a lot slower, Nowe can perform new combinations with the various weapons he obtains. He can leap out of sticky situations and bring his sword to the ground with an almighty clash, scattering any blood-hungry minions across the ground. With a raise of his blade, he can cause shockwaves to ripple along the floor, throwing any nearby creatures.
Nowe’s thin sword may not be as strong as a giant battle sword that his foes may use but his ability to block is quite impressive. If these swords clash, both parties will stumble but Nowe’s agility will allow him to take control. However, if he is deflected and cast into the air, he can avoid an awkward fall by correcting his position in mid-air and landing directly on his feet. Then, he can swiftly strike while the larger opponent is still fumbling.
Nowe can also mount Legna to destroy legions of foes. With an incredibly annoying cry of Legna!!, he leaps into the air and lands atop of the dragon’s sleek neck. Using Legna is for more accurate than Angelus from the original title. Instead of just mashing square and hoping to God that your fireballs will actually hit anything, you can target specific foes. Legna can also perform a handful of magic attacks which include flapping his wings to create a tornado, crashing down on top of a cluster of enemies. What’s even cooler about these attacks is that they are ridiculously easy to pull off. With one press of a button, Legna can practically clear a battlefield. Then, a blood-hungry Nowe can dismount and swiftly and lick up the burnt scraps with his blade.
However, Nowe and Legna are not alone in their crusade. Manah, who was a mere child in the first game and Ulrick, a strange (and annoying) masked man, who has more than his fair of secrets up his sleeve. Again, Cavia sacrificed something to make this work better than before. Previously, you could only use your allies for a small amount of time before losing them. Here, you can use any of your allies for as long as you like, provided that you don’t die. However, the pair of them have a few annoying problems, especially Urick. Using him is incredibly sloppy; his scythe sends him flying all over the place and starts to spin him in uncontrollable circles. His strength is better than the others, but actually targeting specific enemies is a pain in the neck. Manah isn’t as tough but she has a beautiful combination that spins a massive chain around her head, hitting heaps of foes and she has an awesome magic attack, which causes ice to shoot up from the ground. Her magic is unparalleled and can kill up to ten enemies at once! Too bad for Nowe and Ulrick, whose magic is lucky enough to kill two enemies!
Although the original game tended to stick to more airborne battles; this one tends to mix between aerial and grounded fights, occasionally mixing both together. Despite the majority of the bosses looking cool, they have incredibly boring and repetitive attack patterns. Yaha, a self-confessed narcissist who has made a pretty pathetic pact with GNOMES! When you “fight” him, all you have to do is kill heaps of the annoying little bastards. Then after you’ve slaughtered about seventy of them, you’ll have to fight a gigantic gnome. Hitting him, even with Ulrick, does virtually nothing to his health bar, making it a tremendously repetitive bore. Another interesting boss is Hanch, a misfit who sacrificed her charm to make a pact with a Kelpie. This promising boss was a fight between two similar beasts brought back a lot of memories from the original. However, the fact that you have to constantly dismount to battle with sorcerers, who deflect your hits on the Kelpie with magic, leads you down a road of mediocrity.
To be fair, Drakengard 2’s mechanics are far better than its predecessor’s. It’s just that the really poor allies, the poor bosses and rather generic main protagonist really drag the game down. The story too, has taken a severe kick in the balls. Granted, these do seem like rather small complaints but when they mix together, they really tarnish something that easily could’ve been brilliant. Even if you loved Drakengard to death, I wouldn’t recommend that you play this. If you do, be prepared to have your heart brutally crushed!
Community review by goldenvortex (August 28, 2006)
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