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Drakan: The Ancients' Gates – Second Opinion

Once upon a time PC (personal computer) gamers had it much better than videogame console gamers. The PC was a more powerful machine, capable of giving users large 3-D game environments and a load of titles console gamers could only dream of having on their 16-bit systems. Times have changed. Now home consoles, like the PlayStation 2, contain power equal to that of the standard computer, if not more. PC-style adventure games like Drakan: The Ancients' Gate just aren't impressive anymore.

Brad's above comment, "If I didn't know that Drakan was specifically made for the PlayStation 2, I'd SWEAR it was a quickie PC port," sums up the general tone of the game. There isn't anything about Drakan that uses the PlayStation 2 graphics capability to full power. The developers seemed to work under the assumption the PlayStation 2 runs Windows '95. Set Drakan up against a game like Jak And Daxter: The Precursor Legacy and the shortcomings in graphics become apparent. Where Jak And Daxter creates a vibrant, moving and colorful landscape, Drakan presents rather bland environments with sparse features. Hills, rivers, caves and towns end up looking similar. Several years ago Drakan's minimalist approach to environments would have impressed console gamers, but today it looks like many other unmemorable PC adventures on sale in stores.

Where Drakan falls short on appearance, it exceeds with a good deal of quality gameplay. Players won't find any revolutionary features in the title. Anyone who has played video or PC games for a while has come across the adventure-style gameplay Drakan employs. The only added twist comes from riding Arokh the dragon, which makes travel much quicker across the vast landscapes. In essence, players will delve into caves, fight monsters with different weapons and collect items all along the way to achieving the ultimate goal of the game, which Brad outlined above. Drakan provides hour after hour of playtime, although the objectives do get a little boring and some of them take far too long to complete.

If Drakan has one major shortfall in game mechanics, then it has to come from the weapons and items menu screen. When a player brings up the menu the action in the game doesn't stop. Worse yet, the main character, Rynn, turns to face the player, turning her back on any potential, charging adversaries. If a player brings up the menu when any enemies are nearby, he or she will be forced to navigate back out of the menu in a panic, weapon readied or not. Fortunately, players can assign certain items to a slot that can be accessed quickly by pressing one of the controller's shoulder buttons. The feature does little to alieviate the problem, since players are still forced to avoid enemies while scrolling for the correct item. As part of Drakan's discretion to never stop the action, healing in the middle of battle also becomes a problem. In one of the early boss encounters, I spent most of the time running away from some troll shaman with a bottle of healing potion in my hand, trying to find a decent chance to take a swig in between dodging magic shots. Rynn look like a manic, compulsive alcoholic, which was comical but made the fight much more difficult than necessary.

Despite these few problems, Drakan: The Ancients' Gate is a decent game. It suffers most from the bane of mediocrity, as it really isn't anything more special than the standard adventure game. Not so long ago videogame consoles had some bragging room if they could run a PC-style adventure game. The newer systems have met and perhaps passed the gaming engines of PCs. Titles like Drakan might give gamers a fair share of fun, but in light of current gaming technology they hardly seem worth the time. Rating 6 out of 10.

Category Tags
Platform(s): PS2  
Developer(s): Surreal  
Publisher: Sony  
Genre(s): Adventure/Explore  
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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