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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
PlayStation 2
Surreal Software
GENRE: Adventure
January 29, 2002
 Written by Matt Swider  on February 20, 2002

Full Review: Drakan is Backin' here on PS2! Yeah, that was lame.

A little more than two and a half years ago, Surreal Software premiered Drakan: Order of the Flame on the PC under the publisher Psygnosis. At first, many critics considered it nothing more than a possible Tomb Raider clone mainly because both starred female heroines. However, after traveling deeper into the title, its sword, sorcery, and ability to ride a dragon, helped Drakan depart from being so heavily compared to any of Lara Croft's adventures.

While there's not doubt that PlayStation 2 has every game genre covered, its adventure category hasn't been filled to the brim with prime titles until late. Just as we're seeing some new high profile adventure games such as Soul Reaver 2, Drakan makes a second appearance. Rather than sticking to the PC, Surreal developed the sequel with SCEA as its publisher on PlayStation 2. Though this is rather surprising, it ends up being rewarding at the same time. Now, owners of the console have a chance to take control of Drakan's lead heroine, Rynn, along with her trusted dragon partner, Arokh, just as PC owners did back in 1999.

After playing through the first bit of The Ancients' Gates as Rynn, you'll come across the last standing castle where the primary storyline takes place, explaining for overall objective. The story told takes place in the World of Drakan, which is filled with great danger and now threatened by new evil from forces known as the Desert Lords. There was once peace through the land, when both knights and dragons in this world joined in an alliance to fight evils under the Order of the Flame.

However the peace and the golden age came to an end from within the Order as all the knights perished and the remaining dragons were cast into a deep slumber. Rynn came to revive a single dragon, Arokh, who at one time fought in the Dark Wars. As a knight of the Order, both must free the Spirit of the Dragon by unlocking the Rune Gates. This way, the dragons can once again protect the World of Drakan and defeat these Desert Lords. Activating each of the Ancient Gates' will encircle your adventure with great challenge, and along the, many side tasks similar to games like Zelda.

In playing Drakan for a mere five minutes, players will realize that this is going to be one long adventure. With this, its hard not to become engrossed in its gameplay and feel the need to complete it just a little more even though in reality it may take them into the wee hours of the night sometimes. While Drakan happens to be very expansive, one fault that still exists in the game is the fact that there are too many areas with nothing as a result of exploring. Places where there should be a reward of hidden treasure for coming across won't necessarily be anything and feel more like wasted space. Still, every environment is beautiful with several touches like smoke, sunlight and mist.

The audio sound effects tie in nicely to the environments as well. As Ryan jogs over snow, a sound echoing from it compacting underneath her feet is evident and a realistic splash of water sounds when swimming in the many bodies found through the game. There are a number of examples of fine sound effects I can talk about, but in short, be assured it's all you need here.

Probably the most significant aspect of the sound department comes from the spoken dialogue. Cut scenes, although poorly directed, feature voices that are crisp and clear, and a number of conversations with people will add to the fine voice acting along the way. The music sets the tone of the game with medieval tunes abroad. While it's not the most spectacular soundtrack to listen to, it suits the game from the beginning to the end of the adventure.

One of the more serious gripes that players will encounter when playing Drakan will be faulty control. Every game takes a while to get used, and the scheme to Drakan is no exception. However, even after becoming familiar with the buttons, pulling of what you want may still seem odd. Scrolling through menus and trying switch weapons or magic in an instance could prove fatal from and the fact that opening the menu doesn't pause the game adds more frustration towards the clunky controls.

Pulling off spells can be done using the right analog stick. While performing them this way may seem easy, when it comes down to quickly activating the spells, the menu might be easier as it isn't exactly responsive right away. Same deal with the combat in the game. Just be thankful that the AI isn't so bright and considerably weak.

There are often times where Rynn can become stuck in the game, or clipping comes into play. While the graphics are spectacular, there's a good deal of noticeable flaws involved. Also, Rynn seems to be too sensitive when jumping from points. Sure, the game should be realistic, but then again, this type of realism limited the adventure that gamers should experience and the overall freedom of jumping. Finally, the load times seem a bit unreasonable when entering a new building each time. However, in the game's defense it's due to the incredibly massive size of the world of Drakan.

Receiving the chance to ride on Arokh will be a treat and allow players to forget any flaws seen before. And, thankfully, the game doesn't consist on traveling on foot a majority of the time. Riding Arokh is actually a core part of Drakan. Depending on the situation, defeating enemies and bosses may come easier by riding Arokh, or taking the action with Rynn alone. Either way really, the AI once again isn't extremely superb with simple ways to get around enemies poorly planned battle tactics.

Although the variety of air, ground, and ungrounded environments make a good effort to keep the action from going stale, it's not exactly full proof after slaying enemies over and over. In collecting money from barrels and completing side missions for people, Rynn can pick up new items, weapons, and spells from shops. As your skill level rises and the cash increases, new items can be bought and old ones can even be sold. Another interesting aspect of the shop is that you can have weapons repaired after being used in battle. This is still a decent attempt to keep things fresh, yet the inclusion of more RPG elements and puzzle solving could have spiced things up quite a bit.

Bottom Line
Even though there may be a few technical issues where Drakan: The Ancients' Gates overwhelm us, it ends up being a worthy game for any PS2 owner on the surface. With elements that can become rather addicting and plenty of side quests to keep busy, the fun will last you quite a while. The large environments and amount of detail put into the graphics are almost incomparable on PlayStation 2, not to mention the chance to ride Arokh. Adventures titles like Drakan have been needed on the system, and with its arrival, you can't go wrong.

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