The story to Drakengard 3, much like its predecessors, is broken down into smaller chapters and skirmishes, each early chapter focusing one one of Zero’s Intoner sisters and the path through their domain before culminating in at least one boss fight. Hidden throughout most levels (referred to as Verses, in keeping up the lyrical theme of the game), are treasure chests that are often in obscured or hard-to-access areas, typically containing a myriad of gold, crafting materials, or weapons. Once these chests are all found in a given Verse, there’s little reason to replay these levels as any of the notable cutscenes and story moments can easily be accessed through the main menu.
Fans that recall Cavia’s unique style of storytelling, through the weapon backstories in Drakengard, to the heart-wrenching tales in NieR, will not be disappointed with their latest game. The tale of Zero is far darker than most of the other stories they’ve told, and if the multiple endings to Drakengard 3 are anything like its predecessors, they’re bound to turn the whole narrative on its head.
In combat, Zero has a number of tools at her disposal. She has access to four weapons at a time, accessed through the R2 button and selecting from the four different types while time slows down to a crawl, leaving her open to attacks while you’re swapping weapons. Attacks are primarily done with the square and triangle buttons, the latter being her stronger and more flashy attacks. Defense is equally important, with gangs of enemies frequently able to reduce your life to almost nothing in a matter of seconds. Blocking’s useful for many of the weaker attacks, but dodging and taking advantage of the game’s parry system is crucial for many of the later encounters (especially boss fights).
Powered by the Unreal Engine, Drakengard 3 tries to make use of some techniques involving particle effects, flame, and blood splatter. However, many of these techniques end up working as a big negative in Drakengard 3‘s case. There are many times when the game slows down to a crawl when the action gets too intense, or down to the single-digit frame rates when riding atop Mikhail and using his continuous flame spray. A typical mark of the Unreal engine, texture pop-in affects a number of characters, both in-engine and during certain cutscenes. Loading times also tend to drag on, sometimes upwards of ten seconds between checkpoints or cinematic cutscenes that pop up mid-battle.
As a development studio, Cavia/Access Games has never made the most technically proficient games. Putting the technical hiccups and visual imperfections aside, Drakengard 3 stands out as a unique action RPG. Zero, while not much of a role model or virtuous woman, still stands as one of the more unique heroines of recent years. It’s my honest opinion that what Drakengard 3 lacks, it makes up for with personality and style.
[Editor’s Note: Drakengard 3 was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 platform. A digital code was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]