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Drakensang - Impression

Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica
Developer: Radon Labs
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: 02.24.2009

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Single Player PC RPGaming Returns

In this day and age, fewer single player PC exclusive RPGs are being made. Independent efforts aside, the number made last year can be counted on one hand. Piracy and diminishing profits have made it more and more difficult for companies to make money. So, when I heard that DTP Entertainment was working on Drakensang, I was excited to see what they had in store for us.

"What is here is a solid, deep and complex adventure that builds upon formulas laid down by a number of successful PC RPGs games before it."

Drakensang: The Evil Eye has core RPG mechanics based on the Dark Eye fantasy pen and paper game. This extremely detailed game world has been a huge hit in Germany (eclipsing the venerable D&D series). So, newcomers to the series will certainly want to spend some time studying the detailed rule book that comes with the game, as well as review the numerous game tips that are liberally available on every game menu.

The depth of this system becomes apparent right from the start. First, the player is asked to choose from over a dozen different classes. With a click of the mouse, an expert creation system begins, allowing tweaking of various statistics, abilities, talents and spells. It can initially be overwhelming, so choosing a basic class is best for the newcomer. While the gamer chooses the primary hero, others will soon join to party so just about all abilities will be accessible.

By completing quests and killing monsters, characters accumulate adventure points. Collecting enough results in leveling up. Leveling points are also accumulated at the same time. They can be spent on upgrading talents, skills, spells and attributes. Being able to upgrade such a high number of skills and talents outside of the typical leveling scheme adds a fresh dynamic that is certain to be appreciated by veteran RPGamers. Characters can even have gathering and creation skills. This allows them to find or buy an array of materials and turn them into useful potions, weapons and armor.

The interaction with the world around the player is reminiscent of World of Warcraft. NPCs with quests wait for you to talk to them. Once accepted, the quest objective is often highlighted on the map. After completion, the NPC is highlighted with a question mark on the map, so he or she are easy to find. There are quite a number of side quests to accompany the main quests. A round map in the upper corner helps to keep players oriented. Clicking on it brings up a larger city or world map which often shows where quest objectives are located. Abilities are assigned to hotkeys and a toolbar at the bottom for each character.

Along the way, various people will join your party allowing the player to have up to four party members total at any given time. They are diverse, and easily fill traditional roles as warrior, thief, etc. The player can take control of any character in the party at any time. This is important even when talking to NPCs, as different party members have various strengths and weaknesses when interacting with those around them. There is some spoken dialogue; however, most of the conversation with NPCs is text only.

Generally speaking, the graphics are well done. This is a fully 3-D game. Characters, towns and settings have a large degree of detail to them. There’s enough to see in some areas that players will want to just stop and look around. Characters also look well done and detailed. As new armor is equipped, it is reflected on the character. There are a few areas that have some low resolution textures, but they do not detract terribly from the game. Some of the spell effects take center stage filling the screen with color during casting.

Combat is carried out in real time; though, the player may pause the action at any time to assess the situation and assign commands to each party member as needed. Party members may also be set to attack or defend, eliminating micromanagement during easier battles. As casters advance in level, they can easily upgrade various magic spells. Even fighters are not left out as they have plenty of offensive and defensive skills they can use which can turn the tide of battle.

There’s an over-arcing plot to tie all of this together. With only a dozen hours into the game thus far, the surface of the main story has barely been scratched. If it parallels the character creation and development system in terms of depth, it should be very interesting. Drakensang: The Dark Eye does not seem to break new ground, nor is it the most technologically advanced RPG ever made. What is here is a solid, deep and complex adventure that builds upon formulas laid down by a number of successful PC RPGs games before it.

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