Dragonmech (version1) by Zeoc

 

Review machine: AMD K6-2/450, 196Meg RAM, Voodoo2 SLI @ 1024,768 Download (UK) (Russia)
Please note that this review applies to Dragonmech version 1 and some negative points mentioned may not apply in later versions. The series is now up to version 3 so the updated review and new score can be found here.  

Note that version2 is basically version1 with the custom music removed and the bugs fixed so version 1 is not available for download here. You can download it by following the link to the right.

Brief description:

3 level adventure that follows on where the game left off which features a robotic dragon rather than Arokh as your bonded mount. Levels range from a desert to forest plains to a mountain which is where your final objective lies.

Main review

Right, first of all the story line; The plot behind Dragonmech is a bit strange, after falling through the rift, Rynn becomes unconscious and later awakens to find herself in a desert with all her gear and Arokh gone. This is OK but having a robot dragon in a world like Drakan seems a bit odd, surely they wonít have the technology? And where did Arokh go, he wasnít captured at the end why wasnít he there with Rynn? The dragonmech was also easily injured and I would have thought that if it were made of metal it would be more resistant to attacks. Anyway, the story line is the usual type of plot; destroy an end boss who is the last remains of Navarosís dark influence. Iím not sure how this would fit in with Drakan 2ís story line but itís no big deal if it doesnít, itís a good adventure.

The first thing I noticed when I played the desert level was the impressive landscape; Zeoc certainly knows how to create great landscapes and the fog blends in perfectly, you will notice this more in the later levels. Zeoc has done a good job of creating a level set at night, the fogging effects have been done properly so that when you fly high, the ground doesnít disappear etc like I have seen in other levels. The lighting is also well done, the night scenes look like an eerie moonlit landscape and the other levels set during the day and evening are just as good.

Overall the level architecture was OK, old ruins litter the ground which break up the landscape and make it seem more like an abandoned wilderness. The best bit was the valley with the river running through in the second level. Caves were along the sides, which contained treasure and keys that you needed to collect in order to progress. The thing I wasnít keen on was the caves in total darkness, you had to use the dragonmechís headlight and flares to see whilst simultaneously defending yourself. This brings me to something else I want to point out; why were they orcs and wartoks in these caves, surely they canít live in total darkness? Also the keys you had to collect were out in the open, wouldnít it be better if they were carried by a knight or hidden somewhere?

Talking of level architecture, in the forest and mountain, the invisible ceiling was too low and it would have been better if the mountains were higher in places. Examples of this were a barrier in the forest, it looked like you could fly over it but you couldnít, it would have been better if the barrier covered a tunnel leading to the next section (like in the Grotto in Drakan). Another example was the ruins, it looked like you could fly over some of them but you couldnít due to the invisible ceiling. You had to go through a doorway instead. Finally the biggest example of this was the path leading up the side of the mountain, Rynn could go all the way up, but the dragonmech could only fly quarter of the way, which seemed stupid.

Bugs were apparent in the levels; I know that Drakan has a collision detection bug but there were lots of places where you would get stuck and things would disappear into the walls and reappear elsewhere later. This happened with an orc and the death mage guarding a sword. The biggest example of all is the end boss in the mountain. It is supposed to stay in the lava pit, well it didn't, it flew through walls as if they werenít there and kept appearing throughout the mountain killing Rynn unexpectedly. Eventually, it got stuck halfway in a wall and somehow managed to kill itself, I think it must have burnt itself to death on a torch. It saved me from having to kill it but this would have been impossible anyway as it got stuck in a part inaccessible by the dragonmech. This obviously wasnít supposed to happen and it ruined the gameís atmosphere. The game also crashed my PC totally 6 times when I tried to kill the giants, this is mentioned in the readme but it made it awkward trying to avoid them.

Flickering textures were evident in the forest and mountain around the doors and some objects such as the balistas but this wasnít too much of a problem.

Other than these problems, the landscapes and caves were well done and it was well thought out in places some of which reminded me of wartock canyons and the islands. There was also day and night transitions which was a neat idea and as far as I can gather, it took Rynn 2 days to complete this mission.

The levels also had a few extra sound effects, one was the sandstorm effect in the desert which I didnít like, it was very monotonous and got on my nerves. The other extra sounds were OK such as the dragonmech sounds for example. I would have also liked a few more ambient sounds such as water dripping in the caves.

Enemy placement was spot on, they hid behind ruins taking you by surprise and they were placed in strategic places such as in dark corners so you donít notice them and whilst bashing one enemy, the others you didnít notice creep up from behind, it was brilliant. Item placement was good; the more powerful weapons were generally guarded by a knight in a cave somewhere instead of being out in the open. The weapons themselves were innovative with some neat ideas. The glowstaff could have been more powerful though as you needed it to see but it was practically useless as an actual weapon.

I found the level far too easy; I finished it with 34 health potions and 4 potion of life, It would have been better if there was less health potions, also the dragonmechís pulse bomb weapon was too powerful.

I liked the cutcenes that kept the game flowing, the flaming meteors were cool, I presume they were created by the crystal that you were intending to destroy. It was a shame that there was no cutcene at the end, I would have loved to see Rynn run up to Arokh and jump onto his back then the three of them fly away but oh well.

Overall this is a decent adventure, its well worth the 7 Meg download and you will spend a lot of time playing it. Obviously a lot of time and effort went into this series and it was certainly fun and involving to play but the bugs and some of the points mentioned above ruin the atmosphere and the gameplay to some extent.

Very good, but not truly great.

Rating; Architecture / landscape: 10  Texturing: 9  Item / enemy placement: 10

Atmosphere: 7.5  Coolness / new ideas / enhancements: 7  bugs: see above

Total: 87%

 

                        Dragonmech (version3) by Zeoc

Review machine: Athlon 950Mhz, 256Meg RAM, Matrox G400 MAX @ 1024,768

After playing other single player levels and then playing version 3 of Dragonmech I didn't really appreciate how good this level series is. There isn't many changes from version 1 but the landscapes and lighting are natural looking and complement the well thought out level design brilliantly. Gameplay is great too with lots of side quests and a good plot to go with it.

I'm not going to go into great detail as you can read the review of version 1 above, the main difference with version 3 is the dragonmech skin has been replaced with the standard black dragon skin which is a bit of a shame as I really liked the metal dragon. Other changes are that the annoying sandstorm sound effect has been removed and the music replaced with the standard Drakan music. I also noticed that the game did not crash once where it did with version1 and the collision bug with the end boss appears to have been fixed. The only thing that hasn't changed is the too low invisible ceiling on level3 that prevents the dragonmech from flying higher than halfway up the mountain, but to fix this, it would require a major level redesign.

So that's it really, the gameplay hasn't changed which is superb anyway, the changes appear to have been made to cut the download size and to fix a few bugs. So the new score then? Take a look below.

The best single player PCL yet. Play it now!

Rating; Architecture / landscape: 10  Texturing: 9  Item / enemy placement: 10

Atmosphere: Coolness / new ideas / enhancements: 7  bugs: Still a few clipping errors.

Total: 90%

Download Version 3

 

 

Click on the images to enlarge.

          Desert

 

           Forest 

 

       Mountain (day)

 

Screenshots are from Dragonmech Version1