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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
GENRE: Action
June 06, 2000
 Written by Ryan Smotherman  on August 30, 2001

Review: All you D&D dorks? I mean fans, take notice.

If you're a Dreamcast fan patiently awaiting the release of the Xbox or the Gamecube, then your probably looking for some new games to tide you over till that magical month of November. And lucky for you, I have one of those games for you right here. Draconus, which was released back at the beginning of 2000, is Crave's take on the beat-em-up genre brought into 3-D world. So what exactly makes this old game so great? Well, a lot of things actually. And I'm here to tell you why this is one of the best beat-em-ups money can buy.

First the story, well? to be perfectly honest, it's really hard to follow. All I know is you transport (yes, just like in Star Trek) down to a location and either foil some evil incarnate's plans or collect a much-needed item. I did follow one part though, you're collecting a variety of items to complete the reconstruction of an ancient Juggernaut, that I assume is to be used to destroy things, I won't spoil this part for you though. But then again the story really isn't all that important in Draconus, this is pure hack ?n slash action.

You play the role of either the warrior, Cynric, who is deadly with weapon's based combat, or the sorceress, Aeowyn, who basically tears apart her opponents with some fatal spells. You gotta love Crave's gender happy take on this game, but no matter which character you pick, get ready to kick some goblin booty. The fundamentals of the game are simple enough, the game contains 15 massive levels, each of which are in an enclosed environment, which might explain why you have to teleport there. Each of the levels is actually sort of mission based, take a gander at your trusty map and it'll show red and yellow X's. The yellow ones are task you have already completed, and the red ones indicate where you need to be going, seeing as that's your next assignment. Most of these missions include finding keys/items, killing something (that's my favorite), or just an ole oddball task, like filling a cup with water for example.

Okay, enough explaining how the progression system works. Let's get to the good stuff, combat. Thankfully, the combat system is fun and doesn't grow old too quickly, that's good considering you'll be doing it 99.99999999% of the time. And this is usually the downfall of games in this genre, people grow tired of the monotony, run into an enemy, kill him, move on, repeat? I'm not saying Draconus isn't repetitive, because it's quite the opposite, it's very repetitive, but it has a certain charm that locks on to your attention and keeps it. Not only is it exciting, but it's simple too. Fighting takes the form of two buttons, an attack and a block, but pushing different directions on the analog stick while you attack results in different attacks, plus it allows you to link together some lethal combos. Since there is no lock on button (such as in Legacy of Kain or Zelda), ?L? and ?R? come in handy as strafe buttons, tap them twice and you'll do a spin-a-roonie, umm? I mean you'll do a roll (damn, I watch too much wrestling). There is also buttons for switching between spells and casting them too.

Draconus probably pulls off hand-to-hand combat better than any game before it. It involves a lot a parry and thrusting that results in a very realistic type feel, then of course you have your bashing attacks that accounts for mucho damage. The enemy A.I. is well programmed too, meaning you must possess a little skill? wait a second, did I just say skill? That's right, a game that actually takes some gaming talents to complete, which sadly is a rarity in the gaming world today. Then again, if you play the role of Aeowyn, you'll be spending most of your time casting spells before your enemies can even touch you. And spells Draconus does have. Separated into four different categories, fire, water, earth, and air, the spells are fairly impressive and do some major damage.

This leads us to the question of, how do you actually advance those mad skillz of yours anyways? Just as in any game of this caliber, you start as a weak and feeble man (or woman) who is in dire need of some new powers and abilities. Instead of incorporating an active experience or leveling up system, the developers opted to take a much simpler approach. After the completion of each level you are given one point to add to your abilities, you can add it too either your rank, offense, defense, or any of the four spell categories. With each point you are granted new abilities, like armor, weapons, and brand new, more powerful spells. I know one point might not seem like a lot, but each of the seven categories only have like 4 or 5 slots, plus, scattered throughout each level are these little fairies, called Blessing Wisps, that will give you an extra point once 5 are collected. This system works out well, plus it gives you extra incentive to search for all the Blessing Wisps in every level.

I absolutely love the design and graphics in Cult of the Wyrm. The medieval world is just so immersive; if you cut out the lights and jack up the sound you are in that world, trust me. But if you do this, be warned, even though it's not a survival horror game it can be quite frightening. This probably has to do with the freaky enemies you'll encounter, aside from the goblins I mentioned earlier, there is also tons of others, including skeletons, lizardmen, minotaurs, giants, and many more. Okay, now back to the visual description. Everything in the game moves very smooth, including all the characters and enemies. The environments are to be accused for the game's immersion factor, each level is littered with huge castles, underground caverns, and beautiful landscapes, and just about everything is done with top notch texture work, resulting in a very detailed look. The game is certainly a sight to behold. There's nothing quite like running down a long, torch lit corridor never knowing when a evil being is going to pop out at you. Intense stuff.

However, the graphics aren't what you would call perfect. There is the occasional polygon seam sticking out, poor lighting effects, and some minor slow down/jerkiness when fighting more than two enemies at a time, thankfully though, this rarely happens.

The sound in the game is a mixed bag. In game voices, such as the screams and grunts of you're enemies are nice, but once you get into the cutscenes it quickly turns bad. The voices are down right horrible, or a more accurate term would be hysterical. Which is disappointing because it takes away from the seriousness of the game, those mean looking skeletons all of a sudden don't seem so bad when they sound like Screech from that lame teen show (I don't even want to mention the name if it). But the other sounds in the game more than make up for it. There are some nice combat effects, like the clank of weapons and armor together, and some loud, bone crunching spell effects. The music is downright enthralling, as your making your way through dank caverns you'll hear an eerie tune that keeps you on your toes, and when thrown into battle it becomes fast paced and action oriented. Occasionally though, the music seems to be jumpy and breaks up a lot, but then again it could just be my DC acting funny, I've had it since launch. Overall, the sounds are very nice indeed.

Draconus also has a few other features I worth mentioning. One that I enjoyed the most is that the developers used streaming technology (ala Legacy of Kain), meaning the game streams off the disk constantly, eliminating the need for continuous loading. After it loads the level up, you're good to go. As I mentioned before, the levels in the game are absolutely huge, but unfortunately you can't save anywhere you want, instead you are given markers. They work like a save game, but go away once you cut the game off. Trust me, they come in handy for the longer levels, you don't want to play a level for over an hour and then have to start over cause a stupid dwarf pushed off a bridge (damn them!). Just be sure to use them on a regular basis.

Bottom Line
I'm really surprised more people didn't give this game a chance when it was released; if you haven't noticed I've really taken a liking to it, even with it being well over a year old. Titles like Square's The Bouncer don't play near as good or last half as long. This game comes highly recommended for all you Dreamcast gamers looking for something new to play, especially since you can usually find it between $10 and $20.

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