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After playing so many D&D variants, it’s easy to forget what a beast its game systems really are. We just found ourselves typing something about what a complex, very, very German RPG Drakensang is, but, really, it’s not. What it reminded us of most was our first time playing The Witcher. Both feature worlds that seem generic until you dive in a bit deeper, both open with a couple of chapters so boring that they could replace diamond as the drilling industry’s tool of choice, and both improve right about the time you’re ready to uninstall.
In the case of Drakensang, it’s not the big dramatic moments that make the difference, so much as a lot of the smaller details coming together. You finally start getting fights that demand more than just having everyone steam in, swords clanking. The fiddly, frustrating character development system never stops being fiddly, but you start to realise the benefit of the extra control – especially with a full party. With a full party, the initially horrific camera and control system actually makes sense. The list goes on. You have to force yourself to get to this stage, and RPG designers need to realise that ‘get into the town where the game starts’ isn’t an acceptable opening objective, but at least your patience is rewarded with something more satisfying than just bigger numbers and heftier whacking-sticks with which to slay evil.
Sadly, some of the problems remain, not least a few badly phrased quests that either totally fail to tell you where to go, or are way too vague about it. That, and combat AI that forces you to constantly page through your whole party to get proper use of their spells and special abilities. If there’s a crime on the docket, however, it’s that even at its best, Drakensang is amiable rather than legendary. If you can tolerate its quirks and overly familiar world, you can definitely do worse in the current RPG void.
Feb 25, 2009
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