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Good Try Gone Bad
Dragoon's battle system is less than stellar. Magic is heavily limited and, though there are items that cast spells when used, inventory is too small to allow them to be used often. Dragoon powers charge slowly and are generally best saved for boss fights. That leaves physical attacks as the primary method of offense. Physical attacks are performed through a series of timed hits. The combo a character has equipped will determine power, number of hits needed, and the amount of the dragoon meter it will recharge. As later combos require five or more hits and many enemies can survive one or two complete combos, a good deal of fights can take several minutes to complete and appear dragged out unnecessarily. Timed hits are usually a good thing, but it seems they've gone overboard with them. Dragoon powers generally involve the ability to use spells as that and immunity to status effects are the only real reasons to become a Dragoon, aside from a small stat boost. As time passes in Dragoon form, the character's meter will slowly drain and they will revert when it runs out. Though it had some good ideas, the battle system can quickly become annoying, especially due to the high encounter rate, though it is partially made up for by the few times the player can use Dragoon powers.
Despite it being occasionally difficult to perform combos and only being able to carry a few healing items, Dragoon is an easy game. Bosses can be easily defeated with Dragoon powers, especially late in the game when magic-healing items aren't as scarce. Even the optional bosses are easily defeated, though they can take a while to defeat.
Dragoon's interface is very poor. Not only are most menus a pain to traverse, there is also a great reliance on timed hits in battle. This wouldn't normally be a problem if the help wasn't so poorly designed. In normal attacks, blurry squares converge on the enemy and when they do the player is expected to push a button to get a timed hit and continue the combo. Sadly, in a large number of combos, these blurry squares move at different rates for some reason without warning negating their helpful effect. This makes it difficult to learn combos as times hits are very demanding in terms of accuracy. Dragoon attack timed hits are little better as some strange wheel has been chosen to "assist" the player. While these aren't major problems early on, they become much worse later in the game when most combos are five or more hits. On the other hand, Dragoon's localization is only slightly lacking and is fairly well done. There are only a few errors and they don't get in the way. There's even some voice acting that they were kind enough to translate.
Timed hits aren't anything new, but the way Dragoon implements timed combos is. The battle system alone features several fairly original ideas. The story is only slightly original overall, though there are several chapters that have been done many times before in other games. All things considered, Dragoon is slightly above average in original ideas, despite their often poor implementation.
The storyline of Dragoon is slightly above average in general, though poor pacing hurts it a lot as there are often dozens of long battles between plot advancements. Though that may not seem like a lot, battles are usually very slow, frequent, and ruin the pacing. There is a rather large cast, yet there is a good amount of character development and backstory for each of them. The main plot has a few twists that make it interesting and it even creates its own mythology that the player can read about should they wish to.
Most of Dragoon's music is well done. There is a lot of variety to keep most tracks from becoming repetitive and some of the tracks even enhance the mood a little. Sound effect, on the other hand, aren't as good since the player will be listening to the same sounds over and over in battle, especially when performing combos. Luckily, there is some voice acting, but there isn't enough to make a major difference.
Dragoon's visuals are the most impressive part of the game. Environments are well drawn, character meshes are detailed, and there are plenty of FMVs too. Ordinary spell effects are nothing special, but Dragoon spells generally look very good. In fact, a surprising amount of detail was given to each character's Dragoon form for something that can be used so infrequently.
It's always a shame when games fail to live up to their potential. Though Dragoon has a good storyline, music, and visuals, they aren't enough to make up for the poor battle system and interface. The high encounter rate certainly didn't help. Sadly, Dragoon ends up being fairly average in the end and is proof that graphics don't make the game. While it isn't horrible, it falls in the category of average.
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