Drakensang is a pen-and-paper style game, based on a German role-playing game that enjoys immense popularity in its home country. The world of Drakensang will immediately feel familiar to those who have played D&D games, read Tolkien’s work or seen film adaptations of his work with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. On a broad level, the races in this game are humans, elves and dwarves – the staple of any fantasy game. Taking inspiration from the real-world, ancient and modern day cultures, humans have sub-races. Similarly, elves and dwarves have sub-races too. During character creation at the start of the game, the choice available for your characters’ playing class depends on the race (or sub-race) and sometimes gender too.
The game does not offer a great deal of choice in character customization during creation – which is rather disappointing. Since this is a pen and paper style game, at its core are dice-rolls and it requires a lot of information crunching to truly understand the system. It took me an almost entire play through to get a grasp of the basic rules and then I played (and finished) the game a second time through with far greater understanding.
The combat is in real-time with a classic four-member party. However, as one would expect, there is an option to pause the game and queue up commands to your party members – a tactic that is highly recommended. To use crafting skills like alchemy, bowyer and weapons forging, the game requires you to have raw materials. These can either be purchased from merchants in the game or can be acquired by foraging plant life and gutting felled enemy creatures. The later method requires you to learn certain skills from trainers in the game (if your character class does not already give you access to those) and subsequently invest experience points in those skills. Although these form an important part of game play, the process is uninspiring and often tedious.
Many of the quests in Drakensang are set in and around the city of Ferdok. There is a good deal of variety in the environments, featuring the staple fare of any respectable RPG – sewers, old-ruins, underground dungeons, cemeteries, swamps and so on. These levels are well crafted, with good attention to detail and impressive sense of scale and grandeur.
The game has fairly short load-times. With the graphical effects cranked up to the maximum, there was never any instance of jittering or frame loss, even in the heat of battle with spells flying in from all directions. In spite of having an expansive and detailed environment, traversing in the game world quickly becomes tedious and tiring, simply because the running speed of the playing characters is just too slow compared to the scale of the maps.
So, Drakensang has a robust party system, looks good, and has decent combat with some well crafted environments. Sadly though, the game fails in an important cornerstone of any good RPG – it does not tell a compelling story. The story starts off with a letter and a plea for help from a friend, who lives in the city of Ferdock. After some travelling and sub-quests later, the main plot of the game has you pursuing the Dragon Quest. This uninspiring story is delivered by a less than intuitive conversation screen that will have you reading reams of text with a few bits of very dull voice acting. If you can get past the weak plotline and still enjoy the combat, the game has lots of it to offer.
Despite its flaws, Drakensang seems promising and with a lot of potential. Let’s hope they get the story telling right with the reportedly next installment in the series, titled The River of Time, due to release in early 2010.
Platforms : PC (Microsoft Windows)
Publisher : DTP Entertainment
Developer : Radon Labs
Price : $ 29.99 (Steam)
Score : 7/10