Some of us remember a world of wonder and excitement, a world of Goblins, Elves, Knights and Dragons. Either from books, TV or role-playing games you must have seen this world millions of times over and know what to expect from it by now. Draconus plunges you into this world once again; where the strong rule and the weak die. Hordes of monsters plague the countryside, bloodthirsty dogs feed on the dead and wicked giants reign lord and master. You must be quick with the sword in order to fight off these villains and win back your father’s land.
Most of you have nodded to sleep by now…WAKE UP!!!!!! This is NOT your normal fantasy game that slaps you in the shoes of some over-built warrior or some busty sorceress (errr…well read on). This game takes the old hack and slack and refines it into an amazingly fun yet difficult romp through the battlefields. The game comes so close to being a perfect game, but let me get to the good before the bad.
This game is a sequel to the PC title, Die by the Sword, made by Trantrum (a division of Interplay), which was supposed to bring a unique sword combat system that would introduced almost-true physics into the game play. In DntS, you played as a brave swordsman whose girlfriend has just been kidnapped by a small group of kobolds (dog-like creatures). With sword in hand, you hack and slash everything and anything in your path. The greatest feature in DntS was your ability to slice your victims’ limbs and use the bloody stubs as weapons (and element not brought over to Draconus… how sad!). Sounds cool, huh? Well, the game was plagued with horrible game play, low frame rate and an oh-so-repetitive story. Shortly after release, it could have been found on the $10 shelf at most game stores.
Well Crave and Trantrum have teamed up to try again, and this time it seems like they’ve put a whole-hearted effort into the game. The game starts with you picking between two warriors: Cynric, the fifth son of a king, a warrior equipped with both blade and sarcastic mouth, or Aeowyn, a magically inclined sorceress. The two characters are a little too similar, giving you almost the same experience no matter which you choose to play with. For example, both can use magic, but the girl gets to use it right off the bat.
After picking your warrior, you’re given a quick overview as to the current state of the world. It turns out that a Giant has been plundering the world with his flying castle, and you must build an earth rune to ground his fortress. This quest will take you past the first five levels. Each level is divided into mini-quests; each mini-quest must be completed in order to finish the level. For example, in the second level you must destroy an immortal god-like beast that has been locked away by a noble knight, but in order to kill an immortal you must be blessed. Once you start the level, you pull out the map; on the map you'll see two green X’s, these X’s are places you must travel to in order to complete the level. You can complete these mini-quests in any order. To get the blessing, you must get a golden goblet and blessed water from the river. Once you have filled your goblet, you go to a small temple where your pour the contents of the goblet over the main sacrifice slab. A grateful spirit will thank you for restoring her shrine, and she will bless you. All levels are centered around the mini-quest, which makes the game quite enjoyable.
After the first five levels, the game begins to pick up the pace. With one major kill under your belt, you’re ready to do battle with new beasts. The higher levels and bosses are simply amazing! From Insect Queen to the Zephon Observatory, you will ultimately battle Dragon Knights and Dragon Warriors with their monstrous swords and fire breath… you’ll surely scream for your Mommy!!
This isn't going to be just a one-button masher like Zombie's Revenge or Dynamite Cop. You are going to have to get used to using the block button a lot. The blocking system is relatively simple. Every time you want your character to defend, you must press/repress your defend button. Hold the button down and your character will raise his/her shield. But once a hit is taken you must repress and hold the defend your again. This game requires that you take every battle as you would in real life. Stop and watch how the enemy lugs towards you, and look for a pattern. When you add three monsters trying to rip you head off at the same time, it become harder. Each enemy will take 60-400 hit points off of you in just one hit! So you’re going to have to take out one of the little shits really fast (just attack full force), leaving you with two. Try to use the top buttons to side-step left and right, while holding the block button down. Once you see a clean hit, take it and don't let up until another beast lies dead at your feet. Once you're down to one scrub, you can just block and hit until he is dead and buried as well.
At the end of each level you can upgrade your character’s status by finding five or more blue fairies in the stages. The upgrades for Cynric bring it home with the flaming sword and berzerk. Oh, and how could I forget the magical spell that this knight can manifest in order to wipe out any foe in his path. The game's save system is nice because after completing a level you can save your game. This can only be done at the end of each level, but during the level you can create a marker. Markers will establish the point where you'll restart should you happen to die. This comes in handy since most of the levels are long, your missions are multi-tiered and the bosses are consistently tough.
Graphically the game is crisp. The game has slight pop-up, and a little bit of camera nuttiness. It does have problems with slow-down and loss of frame-rate when there are three or more enemies attacking or lurking nearby, but in no way does it detract from the overall sensation of joy and fun that the game brings. The sound effects, triumphant musical scores, cool magic and the intense fighting engine, more than make up for the small fault in the game. Hey, what can I say, forget the crap, it all boils down to the fact that Draconus is just a fun and hilarious game waiting for you to join the action!
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