Drakan: Order of the Flame
Just a cursory glance at the screenshots on these pages will be reason enough for most people to write off Drakan as yet another Tomb Raider clone complete with obligatory bigbreasted female. Psygnosis are understandably keen to dismiss such comparisons from the outset, and point to Drakan's RPG-style exploratory elements as ample proof of the game's unique identity. The central characters are Rynn, the aforementioned bra-busting madame, and Arokh, a firebreathing dragon which Rynn uses to traverse the game's five enormous environments.
The use of two different main characters has given Drakan's developers the opportunity to implement two vastly different forms of combat: Rynn has over 50 different weapons at her disposal, such as swords, spears, crossbows and maces; Arokh uses fireballs, lava and ice to dispose of any undesirables who get in the duo's way. This combination of ground-based exploration and lengthy flying sequences has never been seen on PC before, although Sega's recently released Panzer Dragoon Saga on the Saturn echoes many of the gameplay elements inherent in Psygnosis' title. Having played Panzer, we can confidently say that this combination works admirably, and if anything Drakan will surpass Sega's accomplished tide in almost every way if the demo we saw is any indication of what we can expect from the finished game.
Psygnosis promise a rich and engrossing plot for Drakan which will hopefully provide a suitable incentive for you to make your way through the huge and complex environments.
Chief among the many adversaries you'll come across in Drakan is Kulrik, an evil sorcerer who has put the world under a spell of darkness. Rynn and Arokh must battle Kulrik's evil minions and finally the evil sorcerer himself in an attempt to right the wrongs foisted on earth's unsuspecting populace. The story of Rynn's epic battle against Kulrik will unfold as you get further into the game, and the developers are sensibly using their impressive game engine to provide the cut-scenes, so transition from in-game action to storytelling sequences will be seamless.
Surreal Software (the Californian development team working on Drakan for Psygnosis) have yet to decide on an exact mission structure, but 14 different levels are promised, each with several mission goals, and the whole thing will span five enormous worlds. Curiously, all the worlds will be fully accessible from the start of the game, giving you an unprecedented level of freedom to explore the Drakan universe to your heart's content. This is a rather unique approach, as most developers choose to restrict you to a certain extent in order to maintain a level of surprise when you enter new areas.
Perhaps the most striking element of Drakan at this early stage in its development is the level of detail in both the characters and the game environment. To say this is one of the bestlooking action games we've ever seen would be no overstatement. As ever, you can rely on PC to bring you more information on this highly promising title as soon as we get it.
Considering the phenomenal success of the Tomb Raider series, it's amazing that we haven't been swamped by legions of large-breasted explorers jumping around the screen. Who knows how well Heretic 2 would have done if it had featured a slender girl instead of a man with pointy ears. Psygnosis have made no such mistake. Not only does Drakan iall into the genre-of-the-moment that is 'action slash adventure' (there's a feature in those words somewhere), but the main character is also female and well endowed.
The story begins when Rynn returns to her village from a stroll in the woods to find it being pillaged by two-legged warthogs led by a dark knight. They kill half of the population and capture the other half, including Rynn's little brother, to work in some godforsaken mines. Cue a search for a dragon to help you fight evil hordes, complete sub-missions and find the kidnapped brat.
Live By The Sword
If Heretic II was Tomb Raider with spells, then Drakans Tomb Raider with dragons. Not that we enjoy pigeonholing games into strict and unimaginative categories.
In actual fact, a more accurate description would probably be Golden Axe 3D. Anyone who remembers the old coin-op will find the monsters and the way red potions pop out of their recently slain bodies instantly familiar. True, the dragons in that game were earthbound, but their balls of fire are not dissimilar. Having said that, there's no point denying that Rynn is Lara Croft with swords and axes, and given teenagers' enthusiasm for Xena The Warrior Princess, she should prove a big hit among the testosterone-driven population of gamers (ie 95 five per cent of it). Apart from the obvious similarities in the bosom and ponytail areas, Rynn also has her healthy share of acrobatic moves. The control method works brilliantly and is highly reminiscent of the one in Hidden & Dangerous, using a combination of mouse and keyboard that suits combat perfectly. As a result, the sword fighting is the best seen in any game yet, far better than in Deathtrap Dungeon or Die By The Sword, or even Redguard.
As you progress through the game you acquire different weapons, all of which handle slightly differently. For example, a long sword is faster and has a greater reach than a battle-axe, but it won't cause as much damage. When you pick up a bow and arrow you can go into a first-person perspective, zooming in for higher accuracy. However, this doesn't work as well as it did in Thief, since it takes too many arrows, no matter how accurately placed, to kill an enemy for it to be a viable alternative. Rynn borrows another page from the Thief book by being able to sneak undetected behind trolls. The game rewards this stealthy approach by making hits on unprepared monsters count double, thus discouraging running straight at the enemy like a mindless hacking machine. And then there's the dragon.
Riding Arokh isn't the wonderful experience you'd expect it to be. On the ground, the dragon's movements are rather ungainly, its bulky body bobbing from side to side like an oversized hen. Things get better in the air, where its majestic qualities and impressive wing span are on full display. However, the control method, so intuitive and effective on Rynn, turns each flight into an impending disaster. One moment AroKh is gliding gracefully through the sky, the next he's bashing into mountains like he's had one too many Special Brews. The problems start when you try to dodge fireballs from giant catapults and other dragons while at the same time trying to aim your own. Once the initial excitement of being airborne is over, the dragon sections become an annoying but necessary way of getting from one place to another.
And, as if flying the dragon wasn't hard enough, the ground game is far from easy. Every time you come out of a fight you need a bottle or two of health elixir. Enemies duck and jump out of the way, while some of them carry large shields to block your blows. Then you meet a fire-casting, two sword-wielding, heavy armour-wearing knight who has you somersaulting all over the place, dying very quickly indeed and wishing your pride had let you choose the easy setting at the start of the game.
Shallow And Amazons
The gameplay is linear, but open enough to have plenty of the 'annoying running around lost' scenarios Tomb Haider players will be so familiar with. There are some interesting features, such as trees that can be chopped down to cross pits, and boulders than can be pushed down hills in true Roadrunner fashion to squash unsuspecting ores. Occasionally, you come across traps, false floors and wobbly structures, and there are scripted moments where a monster breaks through a wall or tortures a villager. While these little surprises do break the monotony, they don't have you jumping from your seat in shock, anxious to find out what's round the next cave.
You can't help feeling that it could all have been so much better if more role-playing and adventure elements had been introduced. Every weapon you pick up has statistics on damage, range and durability, all of which make you hunger for stats on Rynn herself. There are cut-scenes where you talk to other characters, gain information and get sent on missions, but there is no interactivity involved.
Drakan is by no means a bad game. Fighting is fun and an effort has been made to draw you into the action. Ultimately, though, it's a shallow game that could have offered so much more.
Multiplaying With Fire
Cat fights! Just like Romford on a Saturday night!
Drakan features a multiplayer option which pitches woman against woman, dragon against dragon or a combination of both. The melee deathmatch is pretty straightforward hack 'n' slash, with players running around a small arena sword-fragging each other. The proximity required for combat doesn't quite turn the fights into an armed version of Tekken, but it's fun nonetheless. A greater variety of moves would have avoided the 'who can hack faster' that eventually ensues, and no, there is no naked mud wrestling option, so calm your little filthy minds down. The Dragon Duel suffers from the same shortcomings as the single-player game, and you'll soon tire of seeing the winged beasts spinning uncontrollably as they try to fry each other. In short, another wasted opportunity.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
Drakan: Order of the Flame Screenshots
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