In Drakengard, the first game, you get to play as a bloodthirsty warrior whose companions are a cannibalistic woman and a pedophile priest.
And with that bit of delightful background, let’s talk about Drakengard 3.
I had no idea what to expect with this game. It’s my first foray into the world of Drakengard, the brainchild of Yoko Taro’s lunacy. In the immediate aftermath if finishing this game, I binged on LP of the first game, the second game and scouring for more expanded universe material. The games eschew so much of the conventional Japanese tropes that it cannot be graded on a normal scale. I could just end the review right here and now but I’ll try my best to sort through this clusterfudge.
You have to experience Drakengard to believe it…
--THERE’S A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK--
In Drakengard 3, the world had been saved by the appearance of five beautiful Goddesses who had ended war, famine and ushered an age of peace. Immediately, after this tidbit of info, you get to see blood spatter as you begin butchering enemies.
You play as Zero, the missing sixth sister of those aforementioned Goddesses. For reasons known only to herself, Zero embarks on a bloody journey to brutally murder her sisters with the help of her dragon, no matter how many innocent people stand in her way.
Right at the beginning, you get a sudden case of whiplash. You are slaughtering countless soldiers, each begging for their mommy and daddy, as you work your way to unravel this golden age of peace and destroy the world. Essentially, you’re playing the villain. It’s a refreshing, if jarring, approach to a narrative. I’ll say this, there is a unique thrilling sensation to be had from being playing the bad guy in these stories. As with most stories, there is more to it than meets to the eye and while I did get to understand Zero’s motivation, I never rooted for her.
Zero is a monster and I say this not out of hate, which is what strikes me as such an odd experience, nor out of an emotional response. It is simply a fact. As she herself put it best “Killing is like breathing, it comes naturally.” She’s not a bad character, she’s simply an irredeemable one. Neither a hero nor an anti-hero, she’s a villain at worst and an anti-villain at best.
But that’s what makes Yoko Taro have such a huge following. He deconstructs and spits on traditional RPG tropes. His heroes are murderers but they get their comeuppance in the end. It’s brilliant.
Following Zero on her journey are the male disciples of the fallen sisters she slay. Zero kills her sisters and beds their men. It’s important to note that you do not get to see or hear anything but the rich dialogue leaves nothing to the imagination as everything is spelled out for you.
By far, the greatest character in this story would be Mikhail, Zero’s dragon. In the presence of a butcher and a band of animals, Mikhail’s constant maintaining of the moral high ground comes as a welcome respite to the player. Considering that Mikhail tops the character popularity charts, other people seem inclined to agree.
I’d like to empathize once again that I do not hate the cast. I’ve grown attached to them. They are unique, funny and come with terrific voice work but they are so morally reprehensible that Mikhail’s presence serves as a life raft of sorts.
All in all, Drakengard 3’s storyline is engaging, absorbing and worth your time.
--DO NOT PURSUE LU BU--
The Drakengard series is created literally out of the fusion of Dynasty Warriors and Ace Combat. During the ground sections, you get to play as Zero and hack’n’slash your way through countless grunts. The combat is fast, bloody and visceral and hampered by the frame rate and stuttering. Like in Dynasty Warriors, you can build up your rage gauge and unleash a super state where you can wreck havoc on your enemies. Unlike DW, however, you can instantly switch on between four weapons at any given moment. This lends to some interesting customization as you find yourself instantly switching weapons on the fly to vary your approach. Sadly, the enemy’s difficulty spikes up comes in the form of damage increase to an insulting cheap levels. I would have preferred more pattern based enemies than the same old dumb grunts who’ve had their DMG output cranked up to elevent.
The Ace Combat section involves piloting your dragon. These come in two flavors, on-rail shooting ala Panzer Dragoon and boss fights where you are trapped inside an arena with invisible walls and get to play a slightly awkward version of Virtual-On. In essence, the Dragon sections are incredibly boring, repetitive and seem more like an afterthought.
--SING A SONG, SING OUT PROUD--
Drakengard 3’s voice work is competent and, at times, downright stellar. As a person who prefers his subs to his dubs, I often sneer my nose at dubbed voice but this is one of the few instances where it actually clicks. The cast banters, they give it their all and you don’t find that twinge of embarrassment you often hear when some actors shout embarrassing lines.
Musical tracks are nice and memorable, although there are few and far so they often end up being repetitive. It’s still a very well-put collection of songs.
--SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY--
I recommend Drakengard 3 and would have rated it higher were it not for three problems. One, there is an absurdly unnecessary bit of grinding near the end in order to proceed further. You literally have to grind for hours to gather enough gold to unlock the final stage. There is no narrative reason for this, absolutely none, it’s simply a way to get you to buy the DLC missions which I’m told come with stages for easy gold farming. It is embarrassing to hide the game’s final ending behind a wall of gold grinding when there is no in-game plot explanation for it. Experience grinding? Sure, but grinding for gold? Come on.
The second problem is the abysmal framerate. At times, the game comes to a stuttering halt and the frames move at such a snail pace that you end up watching a slide show. I am not exaggerating this. As of now, there is no word of an optimization patch and judging from one lone patch meant to fix a game-breaking bug, I highly doubt this issue will ever be fixed.
The final problem is, quite fitting, the final boss fight.
I’m putting this out there. It is my belief that you should play this game unsullied and unspoiled, both for the story and for that final boss fight. This is on the level of ‘The Cake is a Lie’ and ‘That Wizard came from the Moon’, you. Simply. Must. Experience. It. For yourself.
I implore you not to spoil yourself via Youtube or other forms of media. It simply must be experienced as it was intended. There is simply no replicating the impact if you watch it now on Youtube.
So go~ buy this game. Grind for gold, sharpen your skills. Experience this strong narrative and let that final, preposterous boss fight wash over you. It’s a life changing experience.