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Drakan: The Ancients' Gates
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc.
Developer: Surreal Software, Inc.
Style(s): Third-Person 3D Action
Synopsis: In Drakan: The Ancients' Gates, players are cast as a beautiful female warrior named Rynn, who, along with her dragon companion, Arokh must prevent the last remaining humans from being cast into slavery. To do so, they must seek out the power of the great dragons -- the only beings capable of saving their world. The sequel to Drakan: The Order of the Flame, this adventure takes place from the familiar third-person perspective as the duo fight their way through 15 levels of ground- and aerial-based combat. Armed with a multitude of ranged and melee weapons, as well as magical spells, Rynn must overcome the enemy hordes, should she wish to complete her noble quest. Though she possesses a wealth of offensive moves, Rynn will need to make use of the aforementioned magic to escape some tight spots. Magic can be used with a simple button press, or if the player so desires, can be invoked by performing the corresponding movement with the right analog trigger. Arokh, as you might have guessed, handles the aerial engagements. Aside from his two primary means of attack, of which one is the customary fireball, Rynn's large cohort can also make use of five "dragon weapons," such as sonic, ice, and darkness. While combat plays an integral role in the title, as our heroine journeys across the four environments she will also need to converse with numerous non-playing characters in order to acquire new spells and information, among other things. ~ Gavin Frankle, All Game Guide
Package Contents: 40-page Instruction Manual
Nicely illustrated and well designed. ~ Gavin Frankle, All Game Guide
Little of note here. Lackluster textures, weak effects, and basic animation are made even worse by sloppy programming. ~ Gavin Frankle, All Game Guide
Maintaining the status quo is often seen as the most viable way to profitability in the video game industry. As a result, few companies are willing to take a risk that will see the creation of an innovative, intriguing concept for fear that it'll only appeal to a niche audience. The result of this, however, sees hordes of cookie-cutter titles appear on any given platform. Drakan: The Ancients' Gates is one such creation, yet another addition to the PlayStation 2's ever-expanding library of action-adventure titles, and sadly, about as generic as games get. Under the watchful eye of the Order of the Flame, the land of Drakan endured a time of peace and prosperity. The world flourished under the guardianship of the dragons and riders that made up the Order. However, a grab for power by traitors to the Order plunged the land into a dark conflict. When the war finally came to an end, the dragons retreated into a deep sleep, leaving the world of Drakan to flounder and perish. Now, a clan of evil sorcerers known only as the Desert Lords threatens to enslave all of humanity. The warrior Rynn and her dragon-companion Arokh are the only two beings capable of awaking the Spirit Dragons -- immortal defenders of the once proud Drakan empire, and the only hope for the few humans that remain. And so, with the introductory back story out of the way, you're at last able to control Rynn, the game's female protagonist. Rynn will encounter pockets of humanity scattered throughout the land and will more often than not be required to perform some task or service for the people she meets. These side-quests serve no purpose other than to provide an opportunity for Rynn to slash her way through the menagerie of creatures that populate each region of Drakan. By doing so, Rynn gains combat experience. An onscreen meter keeps track of her current level of experience and, when filled, it will grant Rynn an additional skill point that can be assigned to one of three attributes: melee, archery, or magic. This improves her proficiency in hand-to-hand combat, ranged combat, or spell casting, respectively. Needless to say, more powerful weapons and spells require higher experience levels, so choosing which attributes to improve will greatly affect how Rynn can approach combat in the future, ultimately shaping her into a genre-standard warrior, archer, or mage character. The plethora of weapons and items on hand provide the player with plenty of customization options, but regardless of what you equip yourself with, combat boils down to little more than repeatedly pressing the attack button, and occasionally pressing the block button between hits. The ability to cast spells by using the analog stick to make Rynn gesticulate a particular spell into effect is intriguing, but clumsy. And in the heat of a frenzied battle, a sure-fire recipe to get killed. In fact, the game does not pause when accessing Rynn's inventory, making it nigh on impossible to select a particular item if needed in battle. Granted, you are given the ability to "hotslot" an item or weapon, but even then it can be cumbersome to scroll through the list of hotslotted items, even more so when a horde of Grull is bearing down on you. Combat can at times be rather enjoyable, but the continual hacking and slashing gets repetitive very quickly, resulting in the majority of the gameplay becoming monotonous. The flying combat portions of the game are highly enjoyable, and though they too degenerate into mindless smashfests, they prove a source of continued enjoyment throughout the title. Drakan: The Ancients' Gates conveys itself as rather run-of-the-mill in virtually every aspect. You have the ability to sell or purchase new items, equipment, and weapons; acquire new spells and abilities, and perform a variety of combination attacks depending on the weapon Rynn wields. Short of that, you do nothing more than flit from region to region, killing enemies and acquiring/returning important items to people, subsequently uncovering a bit more of the plotline before repeating the entire process again. The presentation, which ties directly into the graphical prowess of the title, leaves much to be desired. The draw distance is fair, and the textures average. Animation is stilted, and graphical oddities such as clipping and poor collision detection rear their misshapen heads more often than should be acceptable. Cut-scenes will often be triggered, only to have the screen fade completely to black while the segment loads, and then abruptly appearing once again as though nothing happened. It's jarring, to say the least, and something that should certainly have been addressed prior to the game's release. That said, the voice acting, especially that pertaining to the two protagonists, Rynn and Arokh, is very good, though certainly not exceptional. The story is perhaps the best part of the entire title, and thankfully the solid voice acting helps maintain its integrity. Despite its best efforts, Drakan: The Ancients' Gates is little more than an average action-adventure title, with nothing to differentiate itself from the throngs of similar titles in the PlayStation 2 library. It's an ambitious title, of that there can be no doubt. Ambition, sadly, does not a good game make. It simply lacks the necessary polish in almost every single aspect -- from presentation to gameplay -- to make any kind of impact. The end result is a title that can at best be described as mediocre. ~ Gavin Frankle, All Game Guide
The adventure will last a good 15-20 hours for most gamers. You're not likely to play through it more than once, however. ~ Gavin Frankle, All Game Guide
The voice-acting is surprisingly good. The soundtrack is fitting, if hardly memorable. ~ Gavin Frankle, All Game Guide
A generic adventure to be sure, but if you can overlook its significant flaws, there is some enjoyment to be gleaned. ~ Gavin Frankle, All Game Guide
the game requires Joystick/Gamepad.