Saturday, March 21, 2009

Played Lately: Drakensang

  • I don't play many single player computer role-playing games (CRPGs) anymore, partially because of World of Warcraft, partially because most CRPGs are pretty boring. I've actually liked very few CRPGs since Baldur's Gate bastardized the genre. It was a surprise to me, then, when I discovered Drakensang from Germany's Radon Labs. Thank goodness to Germany and Eastern Europe for fostering the types of games American publishers have largely abandoned.

  • Based on Das Schwarze Auge, a pen-and-paper RPG popular in Germany, Drakensang is similar in style to Neverwinter Nights 2. You create one template-based character that you can adjust to some extent, then you collect other teammates over the course of the game. The rules system is very esoteric to an outsider, though anyone taking the time can tease out what's going on under the hood. All the numbers and skill checks remind me of older RPGs like Rolemaster or Top Secret, games that fervently rejected the streamlining of later editions of Dungeons and Dragons. If that sounds like a complaint, it's not. I love how crunchy rules like that inform the playing experience, especially in a computer game where you don't have to do all the calculations yourself.

  • The game starts with one of the most intelligent design decisions I've seen. Radon Labs used the first loading screen to present a letter from an old friend asking for your help, dragging you into the story instead of showing off the concept art. It's an effective way to make you ignore the progress bar crawling across the bottom of your screen. From there, you launch directly into character creation and the first quests. There has been a lot of talk on the web about less than stellar graphics or poor voice acting, but I was immediately charmed by the game. Any rough edges I've found only give the game a unique character.

  • The wagging tongues also decry the cliched setting and plot. While I might bash a Bioware or Bethesda if they do not push the boundaries (especially Bethesda), Drakensang makes all those cliches feel like a warm blanket instead of a straitjacket. The world is very inviting, the characters are attractive, and the quests, though they don't rise above the norm, tell a fun story.

  • And that, more than anything, is what I've taken away from this game. It's just fun. An indefinible quantity, to be sure. I promise to come back to wail and bemone the game the moment I'm not having fun anymore. But for now, I'm glad to have a new world explore.


  1. I actually enjoyed the demo for this, and it is on my to buy list once games start to whittle down for me.
    The charm of the game helps. The controls seem more fluid than Baldurs Gate and has a better camera system than NWN (2).
    Keep us informed of how it progresses.


  2. Can do.

    Also, I didn't mention it in the review, but the $30 price tag does help. So far that feels like a real bargain.