Zero's a badass. No, not Mega Man X's sidekick, I'm talking about Zero The Intoner. A foul-mouthed, rage-fueled killing machine. Drakengard 3 places you in her shoes with one instruction: kill her sisters. But can Zero overcome a stuttering frame rate and a sometimes irritating camera? Maybe.
As a newcomer to the series, I was worried I may be a little lost in Drakengard's lore. Fortunately, Drakengard 3 serves as a prequel to its predecessors, making this a great starting point.
A Badass Heroine
Zero is the type of heroine you don't see often enough in games. She's strong, quick and absolutely ruthless. Zero is a woman on a mission, hell-bent on cutting down any and all obstacles in her path, whether it's a man, a monster, or one of her own sisters.
Playing as Zero was a breath of fresh air and I hope to see many more characters like her; she is easily one of my favorite game characters in recent memory.
Drakengard 3 is one of the few games out there that truly succeeds at making you feel strong from the very beginning. Even at the lowest levels of the game, you can easily cut through hundreds of enemies on your way toward your objective.
Zero has an impressive repertoire of techniques, which vary based on which weapon she has equipped at the time. Fortunately, Zero can equip four weapons prior to heading out on a mission, which she can then switch between quickly during battle. Switching between weapons feels fast and fluid and makes stringing together combos endlessly fun.
To top it off, Zero can also activate Intoner Mode which slows her enemies down and speeds her up while also letting her rend her enemies asunder with her bare hands. Think Devil May Cry's Devil Trigger and you're on the right track.
Last October, Stephen described Drakengard 3 as a long-form sex joke. Turns out, he couldn't have been more right.
Zero is joined by her disciples: Dito, a psychopath who enjoys killing above all else in life; Decadus, a masochist who is aroused at the very thought of physical or emotional discomfort of any kind; Octa, an old man with an unquenchable lust for our heroine; and Cent, your typical JRPG hero, who just happens to be a complete idiot. All of whom are her sex objects, by the way.
Drakengard 3's script was clearly written to keep you shaking your head in disbelief, and it works. Zero's conversations with her disciples are absolutely hilarious in all the ways most of us don't want to admit we find things funny.
When the cast isn't asking Zero to hop on their "hobby horse" (yes, that's an actual penis reference used in the game) or Zero herself isn't telling one of her disciples to prepare himself "back and front", the dialog is similarly hilariously crude. Between Zero breaking the fourth wall when referring to fetch quests, or asking why she gains experience points for mundane tasks, you won't stop chuckling while playing Drakengard 3; it's just the right kind of crazy.
What would a Drakengard game be without dragons? At various points throughout your adventure, Zero will mount her trusty dragon Mikhail for some shooting sections that harken back to Panzer Dragoon, one of the best games of the 32-bit era.
During these stages, you'll take full control of Mikhail as you mop up waves of enemies using a standard shot or a lock-on attack which can take out several bad guys at once, gaining bonuses for leaving no survivors in your wake. It's not particularly new or innovative, but that's okay. What is there is so much fun, I wouldn't mind a standalone game being made of it.
You can't have an action-RPG without RPG elements, and your standard offerings are present here, as expected. Killing enemies will help Zero level up. Additionally, you can use money and items found during missions in a pre-mission menu to buy new weapons, upgrade existing weapons, or buy items to use during the next mission.
It's pretty standard fare, but makes for a fun reason to thoroughly explore each level.
Technical Issues Abound
There's no real easy way to say this: Drakengard 3 isn't a looker. It runs at 720p natively on PS3, but it looks a lot like an upscaled PS2 game. Alone, Drakengard 3's sub-par visuals aren't a big problem, but the game also has some pretty major frame rate issues that could hamper your enjoyment.
Drakengard 3's frame rate seems to hover around just about 30 frames per second much of the time, but rotate the camera too quickly, or summon your dragon, and things slow to what I can only assume is the single digits for brief periods. Those times are short, but they're frequent enough to be a major annoyance.
Couple this with the fact that the load times between areas are far longer than one would expect, and those annoyances can definitely begin to compound over time. Especially so when you can clear a room very quickly, only to have to wait three to five seconds for the next room to load at times.
Drakengard 3 is an absolutely off-the-wall insane game. Zero is the type of character that is so utterly crude it's almost charming in a Duke Nukem-esque kind of way; alone, she's almost enough to carry this game. Between the dialog, the action with just enough RPG elements to add to it and the superb shooter levels, there's enough good here to overcome the poor technical performance though some will find the frame rate, graphics and all too frequent loading times to be too much to bear. For that reason, we have to say proceed with caution. If you can look past the technical issues though, Drakengard 3 is a diamond in the rough.
Note: This review was prepared using a review copy of the title provided by Square Enix.