Drakengard 3 is the prequel to the first two Drakengard games, and yet it’s somewhat of a sequel to Nier in terms of aesthetics. All of the aforementioned games are the masterwork of Taro Yoko, the driving force behind all of the games that are loosely connected to each other. Previously, we saw the now defunct Cavia put out the first two games, but after the developer shuttered back in 2010, most of the staff joined Access Games and began working on Drakengard 3.
Instead of leaving newcomers out with a direct sequel to Nier or Drakengard 2, they opted for a prequel that is easily even more insane than their previous outings. I’ll begin this review with a guarantee that I will not be revealing any spoilers, and although this will make discussing some of the more specific parts of the game more difficult, the story within Drakengard 3 should be experienced firsthand, and it most definitely should be experienced – period.
How about a brief overview for Drakengard 3’s story for a warm up? The world within the game is essentially a medieval one, both in technology and in aesthetics. Most of your enemies will be adult men in full suits of armor, wielding various weapons, and there will be magic, of course, as the key figures within Drakengard 3 are the Intoners. The Intoners are a group of goddess like sisters who can control magic through song. Following a period of peace that they established, the first Intoner, Zero, decides she wants it all – to do so she has to kill all of her sisters.
The characters that eventually make up Zero’s troupe are essentially a collection of completely insane and or demented individuals – and that can also be said of the other characters within the game. They all have their own backstories, and they all have their own secrets, desires, and even fetishes (they have lots of those).
It all just kind of makes sense when you play along through the story as it just gets crazier and crazier. It’s almost as if the game is attempting to top its own absurdity by piling on even more batshit insane dialogue. I really wish I could quote some stuff here, but let me just say that there are lots of subtle (and blatant) dick jokes, sex jokes, sadism and masochism jokes, and so on.
I played the game with English audio the entire time, as that was the only option for the game pre-release. the English dub is surprisingly good, as it was getting me a bit leery at first. Once the cast starts to get more into character, they really seem to have fun with it and the jokes just kept on coming.
All in all, I was very satisfied with the interaction between the main characters, whether it be the short exchanges you get while mulling over a campfire just before the next battle, or if it’s during a mission and you’re listening to Zero and her comrades have short exchanges on the fly. All of the dialogue kind of has an ebb and flow, and that flow is essentially a purely channeled stream of hate and insanity.
So one of the major things Drakengard 3 has going against it is the fact that most of the attention to detail was put into the characters, monsters, and dragons. Walking around in the game you’ll notice that some of the environments have low resolution textures, lots of the regions are not as open as the previous games were, and sometimes you’ll even see weird things like Zero’s model floating above the ground (like an inch or so) as she walks. These are worrying things, but the further you dig into Drakengard 3, the more you’ll be flabbergasted.
The environments seemed to get better as the game progressed, as the game’s first few levels are definitely not that impressive to the eyes. We’re not talking high end environments that’ll make your PS3 whine and wheeze as it attempts to chug through the processing, but they at least started to get a bit nicer as I progressed.
However, one of the things that I have to talk about in regards to the game’s performance is the fact that sometimes you’ll experience some very noticeable framerate drops. I’m talking slideshow level bad, although usually they just dip a bit during more hectic boss fights, or more busy areas where a dragon is laying waste to your enemies.
It was never bad or frequent enough to where I wanted to put my controller down, but it was bad enough to where I actually wondered how that could still be happening in a shipped game from such a talented team.
Whenever you see cutscenes featuring characters, they look really nice. However, the performance issues sometimes stem into the cutscenes as well, as I did notice slowdown during dialogue between characters. Another gripe I had was with the load times – the levels themselves load fairly quickly, but sometimes you’ll be confronted with a subtle loading screen within the levels themselves.
I noticed that this tends to happen between areas, before major dialogue, and sometimes even before boss fights. Obviously, these examples are some of the worst times to be waiting for the game to load the next scene.
So let’s talk about the game’s difficulty, as I’m sure this is a major part of the formula for most potential players of this game. Drakengard 3 doesn’t really have a difficulty, to put it lightly, as most of the time you’re just mowing through legions of nameless, faceless dudes in suits of armor.
Once you’ve gotten even a basic grasp of the various weapon combos, you’ll be completely annihilating literally anything that comes your way. The only time I personally had an issue was during fights with stupid dual mini-bosses, which I’ll get to later.
Since the game isn’t out yet (at the time of this being written), I’m only going off of what I’ve experienced as far as the difficulty goes. There isn’t an available option within your settings, and certain enemies still hit for cheap amounts of HP if you’re being careless.
I have read reports of importers saying that the game gets easier the more you die, and I personally haven’t noticed this to be honest. I have noticed, however, that enemies do seem to get a bit more HP as you progress, especially if you’re not investing in newer weapons and or look into upgrading your existing ones.
The combat within the game is generally a straight action game, and depending on what weapon you use, your attacks and combos will change. This is actually really cool as it kept me wanting to experiment with more weapons, just to see how they handled differently to others within the same weapon type.
I noticed certain swords that I loved, others that I wasn’t a fan of, and the same could be said of other weapons. Overall it felt like there was enough variety within the four different weapon types to give something for everyone to experience, and hopefully find a fighting style that they’re comfortable with.
One thing I’m not a fan of in games, generally speaking, is the reusing and or reskinning of enemies. I can understand if you have a massive game with lots of assets, some reskinning and or reusing of enemies is understandable then. However, when I see it in a game like Drakengard 3, it just upsets me.
I fought that miniboss a few levels ago, and now I have to fight it again, for some reason? Oh, now I have to fight two of them? Oh, now they’re undead versions of that miniboss? Oh, now that other miniboss is on fire, for some reason? You see where I’m going with this. The core enemy human soldiers at least get different styled/colored armor when you go into different regions, but the monster designs leave something to be desired.
There are segments within Drakengard 3 that hearken back to what Nier did very well in my opinion – those being the bits of gameplay that have you doing something other than murdering everyone and everything in your path to power. Some of them feature simple platforming, puzzle solving, and so on, but others have some really awesome (and extended) experiences, one level in particular easily being my favorite in the entire game.
The soundtrack for Drakengard 3, as per Keiichi Okabe’s previous work on Nier, is naturally a spectacular one. I think this game’s soundtrack may not wholeheartedly surpass Nier’s (as that game is way more out there in terms of source material), I think it is comparable and quite an awesome selection of melodies. I frequently found myself sitting at the campfire with the rest of the crew, listening to the new piece that was playing.
Overall I think Drakengard 3 is somewhat of a parody of itself, and the games that it represents. There are frequent moments when characters break the fourth wall, complain about reused gameplay mechanics, and so on. It’s kind of hilarious, and from what I could tell there is still a surprising amount of blood, swearing, and so on still within the game. There were moments where the ultra violence was censored, although I’m pretty sure the entire thing was done in a humorous kind of way.
The game just seems to have fun with itself, and you can tell by how the team threw in lots of fanservice moments within the game. I never really grew tired of them, much like I never really grew tired of the issues I had with the game.
I think the story that is told within the game is worth seeing, and despite the flaws that Drakengard 3 has, it is worth the purchase if you’re a fan of Nier, although I’ve never played the original two Drakengard games. However, it may be hard to recommend this game to a newcomer.
I feel like Drakengard 3 really gave me a similar experience to Nier, mostly in that it features a tragic world with horribly flawed characters. You never really meet anyone good in the game, and even if you do, they probably die. Everyone has issues in Drakengard 3, and so long as you’re ok with that, you’re in for quite a wild ride.
Drakengard 3 was reviewed using a retail copy provided by Square Enix. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.