In the past year, the RPG lineup for PS2 has been anything but appealing. Dark Cloud offered moderate enjoyment, and the headlining games for the system - including Eternal Ring and Evergrace, which won't even be commented on. A few titles came out in the aftermath of PS2's initial launch, carrying a strong emphasis on RPG-dom, but also bearing semblances in action/adventure platformers as well…but of course, these titles were dismissed as easily as the first wave. It wasn't until the craze over Final Fantasy X did RPGs finally meet the spotlight on PS2, and unfortunately the "attempts" made previously to Square's latest Final Fantasy installment were all easily forgotten.
Those lucky enough to have "pity" for these games, or even just carry a strong curiosity, would go on to discover Drakan - the sequel to a less then popular PC game that continued the adventures of Rynn and her dragon, Arohk. It is by no means a fantastic game, but if there weren't solid, enjoyable games such as Drakan, there wouldn't be a comparison to make for such "fantastic" games as FFX.
Drakan's story is simple and to the point, as well as effective. In a world where dragons and mankind lived in harmony, dark forces rose to power and waged a war on the inhabitants of the planet. Many of the dragonkind subverted to the allure of this power, and helped turn the tide of war so that humanity and those few dragons who carried light in their souls, members of the Order of the Flame, were swiftly and brutally laid to waste. In a world where beauty and magnificence were once found sprawling out to the horizon, desert wastelands and fragments of humanity and existence were left. Living became a day-to-day struggle, and many found giving up to perish their only solace from the torment. In some rare cases, however, heroes rose. Such is the case of Rynn, and her companion, Arohk, one of the last of the Order of the Flame.
The game plays like most typical adventure-platformers do, with free movement around dungeons and areas around the world and on-spot enemy encounters. As you are approached, you are able to control whether you dive forward in a roll and leap up to hack away at the goblin, or dive to the side and stab to your left. The controls are simple and easy to learn, and once mastered make the game an even more enjoyable experience as you begin to test yourself to see how many enemies you can stab behind your back, or how craftily you can evade taking damage. Magic, however, has a new and interesting take on being performed. Instead of simply allocating magic spells to one of the buttons controls, you must select the magic you wish to use, then "activate it" by making a certain motion with your hand. For instance, to activate the ability to use lightning magic, one must select that element, and then move Rynn's hand in the proper manner to draw out the zigzag "lightning bolt" design in the air. It's tricky, at first, but much like melee battling, it can be easily learned and mastered. Don't complain... there was a time when all games were as tricky and difficult as that.
And boy is this game difficult. Or at least, right off the bat, putting you to trial. The first major dungeon of the game is a bit long, and for those who find themselves lacking patience, it may be the last dungeon they play as well. Hordes of enemies assault you with close-range and long-range weaponry; magic attacks and sheer numbers. And of course, Rynn is alone on this mission. Her partner, Arohk, obviously cannot meander through caves without getting stuck on a stalagmite…or something. Once your task is completed, however, the game relinquishes its linear feel and gives you a fantastic award for the completion of the dungeon - Arohk, for you to control and aid yourself with.
Yes, this is how the Final Fantasy X airship should have been done. The world is divided into large zones, where you have free-reign over flying around mountains and forests, lakes and such, encountering enemies such as black wyverns for you to challenge. Arohk has two methods of attacking in his arsenal: a long-range fire blast, and a close-range fire spray. As the game progresses, you are able to equip new elements to these breath-attacks, such as lightning. Although you can't fly from one end of the world to the next without encountering a load screen, each of the zones are of great enough size to satisfy players and make the momentary load into another zone more than bearable. The ability to fly around freely on your own dragon, fighting aerial battles and sifting through clouds is probably one of the most enjoyable factors to the game, if not the most enjoyable.
The score to the game isn't anything impressive, but like the game itself, is solid and seamlessly integrated into the events of the game so that the accompaniment can be appreciated, not cause annoyance or disinterest (and yes, no matter what some may say, a bad song in a noteworthy moment can ruin the scene). Thankfully that's not the case with this game, and although I might not be rushing out to purchase the OST or download the mp3's, many may find it enjoyable if they have a taste for the sort of…semi-dramatic game music that attempts to be the score to a movie but is still within the realm of a VG OST.
All in all, Drakan was a nice play with a bit of a challenge to it - something that has been absent in the last few years of my gaming. It was a nice break from traditional RPGs and turn-based combat, and it was certainly great to have a world map that I could explore and fly over, not select locations from a map or any nonsense like that. The game sells for $29.99 new at Game Stop, so if you're looking for a game that will challenge you and leave you satisfied, then spend the thirty-bucks and have yourself a good time. Once again, don't look too far into the game or expect much out of it. Just appreciate it for what it is, and you'll have a good time. Besides…there's Dragons. You know you can't pass that up.