by Marcus Mulkins
reviewed on PC
The game could be great, if it wasn't so annoying.
Three days. Not three game days; three days. Okay, NOT 24-hour days. More like an hour in the morning before going to work, and five hours after getting home and before hitting the sack. That's _18_ hours of simply trying to get to the summit of Drakensang Mountain. During that time, my party of four heroes racked up enough experience points to add about three levels each. Furthermore, the experience points ratcheted up their primary stats about 3 points for Strength, Agility, and Constitution. AND every one of those increases was necessary to barely manage to crawl those last few feet - where I had the snot pummeled out of my crew one last time.
And the truly maddening aspect of that slugfest was knowing that if the Bad Guys had had the good sense to mass their troops instead of sending them down in penny packets that I barely managed to beat back, I would NEVER have gotten past the foot of the mountain.
An epic game that reads like the Cliffnotes version
There is a LOT of game to be had in Drakensang. Compared to most other fantasy character creation systems, I have to say that the game has a lot going for it. The main quest is well fleshed out and easy to follow, with each chapter including many, many side quests to keep you occupied. The graphics are top notch, and the voice acting (what there is of it) is quite well done. For once, we have a game where every speaking character has a distinctly different voice, so there is never any confusion as to who is talking. (As you might experience in Oblivion and Fallout 3.)
The main storyline goes like this:
Friend writes, "Come help me!"
You arrive; friend has been murdered. Authorities stumped.
Naturally, Authorities turn to _you_ to solve friend's murder, as well as two others.
Murders lead to Something More Ominous.
You battle obstacles to thwart Evil Plan.
Bad Guys stay one step ahead.
Final Confrontation. Monumental battle.
You win (or the game wouldn't be over).
Dawn of New Age.
If you hew really, really close to the main quest, you could knock this game off in less than 20 hours - if it wasn't for the recurring skin-of-your-teeth battles. However, many of those battles are actually side quests, so maybe 20 hours would be a reasonable expectation. But if you seek out every available quest before moving onto the next chapter, you can easily triple your total playing time.
The one thing that adds play time to the total is the combat system. It's not *precisely* turn-based, with stop-action as an opportunity to redirect your heroes' actions, but that's the way it works out. You could simply sit back and let your party choose their own actions, but what fun (or tactical sense) would that be? Left to their own devices, your characters NEVER use their special attacks. So what you do is, Pause, one character at a time gets target assignment and attack type commands, un-Pause. Repeat often. As long as a character is conscious and under your control, you can Pause to change weapons or queue a potion to be imbibed or utilize some item such as bandages. (For some reason, a shield is viewed as a weapon. So you can sling it until the instant before an enemy's blow lands, thus allowing you to get the full shield benefit when you've hardly ever actually had it in play.) But you better have the correct armor on before combat starts, or else you're stuck. (You'd be amazed at how much effect having a metal helmet on is over using a leather version.) You'll find that you'll spend as much time Paused as un-Paused once combat starts. That all adds up.
About that annoying stuff...
Don't get me wrong: I generally enjoyed playing this game. It's just that the game could have been so much better than the final product that we got. The list of things that are simply _annoying_ (as opposed to things I truly hate) is llooonnnggg.
Let's start with the game's name: "Drakensang: The Dark Eye". If this were an AD&D game (which "The Dark Eye" is essentially the German version of AD&D), a game title would read, "AD&D: Some Terrific Scenario". Instead, in this approach, the title reads, "Some Terrific Scenario: AD&D". Granted, this is _really_ trivial, but the underlying cause for the stylistic approach carries over in the German-to-English translation. If you speak both languages, you will immediately see the potential for problems. The main ones are grammar and the genders of many nouns. Such as, an English sentence might read like, "He went over there." But a literal German-to-English translation would give you something like "There went he over." The gender consideration has to do with the fact that many, many, many inanimate objects have been assigned either a male or female aspect. Such as, that neuter table in English just became female in German. Now, the way this affects the game is that there is a TON of dialog that was translated from German. Now, probably 95+% of those translations were done correctly, but every time some native English-speaking gamer encounters one of those literal translations, it's like the game hiccuped. And that comes up "often" more than "rarely".
No Pros and Cons at this time