'Drakan: The End of the World' by Dark Master
|Review machine: Athlon 1200, 384Mb, ATI Radeon 64Mb DDR @ 1024,768 Reviewed 13/09/03||Download (UK) (USA)|
Drakan: The End of the World is a level series set after the PS2 game 'The Ancient's Gates' which is the sequel to the PC original, Order of the Flame. If you have not played The Ancient's Gates it does not matter as basically at the end of TAG, Rynn and Arokh manage to bring back the Spirit Dragon, Mala Shae who then awakens all of the dragons sleeping in stone and the Order of the Flame is reborn. The city of Surdana, the last remaining human city serves as Rynn and Arokh's new home and as the New Order's main stronghold. Within a week or so, the last remnants of the Desert Lords are eradicated from the world and their city of Stratos toppled from the sky. However lesser evils still lurk in the world and the New Order has a long way to go before it is restored to its former glory....
That summarizes the ending cut scene of The Ancient Gates and this level series takes place a few months afterwards when more humans have bonded with dragons and a second stronghold, Hardwall has been established. If there is ever an official Drakan3, this storyline will almost certainly contradict it.
The End of The World has a good, well written story and is unfolded as you play through the game very well and the various cut scenes give it a more 'cinematic feel'. Like other levels, there are various NPC's to talk to which are a must to progress in the level as they will often give you items to open doors etc. Speech is presented by text messages that appear on screen and pressing the space bar will make them go away and unpause the game.
The cut scenes are well thought out and are nicely done but they are not action packed rather just show you the introduction to a level or show you a boat docking... you get the idea - see the screenshot above. I always like levels with cut scenes and a good story as it gives you more incentive to play on through to the end and this is true in this series, Gameplay can be tedious to start with (more on this later) but once you get into the game, the story will drag you in and make you want to finish it.
Now, clearly the ideas behind the series are ambitious and this is Dark Master's first single player Drakan level (or maybe first ever Drakan level) and these are represented mainly in the storyline and the themes of the levels. The levels themselves are very, very large and can lead you to getting lost but large levels can also be looked upon as being more realistic. The overall level design is very average and the lighting is very poor; most of it is all the same brightness level and leads to atmosphere degradation. Graphically, you will also notice the texturing is very poor as well - the dreaded carpet tile effect is prevalent throughout all levels especially the mountains - see the screenshot below. Given that this is Dark Master's first level, this is to be expected but I feel that the series seems rushed and it has quickly been put together especially seem as I know how long it took to make.
Gameplay wise, it is fun to play and there are lots of things to kill both on the ground and in the air but there are some very, very tedious areas in the early levels. For example, you are told to go and retrieve Derokh's soul crystal from the dungeon out of town. Now, the dungeon consists of lots and lots of identical tunnels connected in a vast maze which may seem fun at first but after you have killed the 100th Grull, boredom sets in. I think that many players would give up at this point but I persevered with it (actually skipped bits with the floy cheat) and found later levels to be more enjoyable as the large levels were fun to fly about in.
There is another area like the dungeon where you have to open seemingly endless doors to progress through a tunnel. Again, I skipped some of this bit. The air levels are vast with plenty of things to kill but however there are lots of dead ends and finding your way around can be frustrating at times. If Dark Master makes more Drakan series, the levels need to be smaller or have more things to navigate by on the ground as getting lost and dying often in the wilderness is common. Other bits of the levels such as the village and the city of Hardwall are good but I would have liked to see things like crop fields and other amenities to make it more realistic. Sound wise, there are not many ambient sounds and your new dragon does not say much at all; more sounds would have been nice.
Item and enemy placement is okay but nothing special; enemies are scattered round the levels randomly as expected but in the dungeon levels, they are all stood in lines down the long tunnels as if they are just put there for the sake of it. Items such as weapons and health potions are relatively easy to come by, there isn't a problem here. Many come from fallen enemies or found in barrels plentiful in the tunnels. There are a few boss levels too where you will sometimes acquire a new weapon for yourself or your dragon. These are fairly average weapons but serve their purpose nevertheless.
Back to the storyline, the game has two endings; you are given a choice near the end of the game but you probably wouldn't find yourself playing the last level again to see the other ending as the end battle is very difficult. I won't say any more so not to spoil the ending so you will have to play it and find out.
To summarize, The End of The World is a average level series but incorporates some good ideas here and there and has a good well written storyline. Its enjoyable if you like killing endless supplies of Wartocks, Grull etc but I think the majority of Drakan players will find it tedious and frustrating. If you are one of these players, persevere with it and you will be rewarded by enjoyable gameplay in later levels.
Rating; Architecture & lighting: 5.5 Texturing: 4 Item & enemy placement: 5
Atmosphere: 7 Gameplay / new ideas / enhancements: 6.5 bugs: sometimes crashes
More screenshots - Click the images to enlarge.