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Drakensang: The Dark Eye

23:5909/04/2009Posted by D+PAD Staff7 Comments

When you think of role-playing games, what’s the first franchise that springs to mind? Final Fantasy? Elder Scrolls? Or maybe, if you don’t have your videogame hat on for a moment, it’s Dungeons and Dragons; that leviathan of pen-and-paper RPGs that since 1974 has, despite its social stigma, been the granddaddy of all RPGs. In Germany, on the other hand, there’s a different franchise – The Dark Eye – that leads the pack. It’s never quite caught on here (even though the first book was published in 1984, it wasn’t until 2002 that we saw the first English publication), but that hasn’t stopped the release of a series of PC RPGs. Drakensang is the fourth title in the series, following on from 1996’s Shadows over Riva. If all these names are going over your head then don’t worry, we had pretty much the same reaction.

drakensang1Radon Labs, developer of Drakensang, clearly takes its Dark Eye commitment seriously. For the game, four official Dark Eye authors have been drafted in to write the plot and back story, while the game mechanics remain utterly faithful to the pen and paper system, so we’re told. It’s hard to compare Drakensang’s number-crunching with that of its namesake having not experienced the tabletop phenomenon, but unless you’re a die-hard Dark Eye aficionado the system works so well that you won’t sit there wondering just how accurately the game recreates the ruleset.

As with most RPGs, you begin at a character creation screen. Unlike many recent entries into the genre, Drakensang doesn’t allow you to alter your appearance; rather you’re asked to pick between twenty different character classes (eighteen of which come in male or female varieties), each with a unique character model. The classes offer more of a variety than the average RPG, with something there for everyone. On top of that, the Advanced mode allows you to tailor your character’s stats to suit your playing style, which is a welcome, albeit initially overwhelming option.

drakensang2Once the game begins, your newly-created character finds his- or herself in Avestrue on the way to visit an old friend. This tutorial area serves to ease you into the game with a few simple quests as well as introducing you to the various crafting, combat and stat-management options the game presents you with. By ‘ease you into the game’, we actually mean ‘hurl you in head first, then kick you in the face as you land’. Drakensang is not the most welcoming of games to a newcomer. The initial control setup feels somewhat wrong, but being fully customisable this isn’t an issue.

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  • Dan said:

    From what I’ve played so far – this is probably the most accurate analysis of the game I’ve seen so far. Good job. It actually does capture the feel of the party based RPGs from 10+ years ago.

    After playing the demo, I bought the full game, (one of only two copies), at the local “big box” electronics store, of this truly excellent game. Unfortunately the lack of awareness that this game exists, due to the lack of hype no doubt, may not bode well for sales. Hopefully – I’m wrong about this – this is the type of shot in the arm that the PC gaming world needs right about now..

  • UK_John said:

    Could not have said it better Dan….!

  • Rodger AU said:

    Dan is right, I join john in supporting Dan’s comment.

    sad to see the market of these games fall from the Gaming world, some sites have limited thier thoughts to the PC, but lets face it, most gamers have more than one platform and none of them have had much in the REAL RPG games, (Diablo is not an RPG and I do not care who says otherwise, I will be 300 years in the grave before I call those Action Games an RPG)

    it seems only Bethsoft has been working to give us real RPG’s until we find other rare gems like this.

    I do hope the upcoming titles remain true to the RPG spirit.

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