Square Enix, the studio behind legendary franchises Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, is renowned for games that deliver great storytelling and gorgeous graphics. It’s a wonder, then, that one of the biggest and most capable Japanese gaming studios in existence could have put its name as publisher on a title like Drakengard 3 (developed by Access Games this time around, instead of Cavia, who developed the previous two entries).
The main character in the hack 'n slash action game Drakengard 3 is Zero. She is one of six siblings, all sisters, who bring peace to the world as Intoners. Zero, however, has decided that she wants to kill her sisters, (and pretty much everything in sight). Though easy on the eyes, she is violent, bad-tempered, and reeks of bitterness, yelling “DIE! DIE! DIE!” frequently at the very people who, the game alludes, were once her allies.
At this point, you’re probably wondering, “Well why does Zero want to kill her sisters? Why is she so angry and so violent when she’s supposed to be bringing peace to the world? What’s the context around all of this?” So was I. The game doesn’t tell you until late in the thirty-five to forty hours you’ll be playing. Until then, you must put up with Zero’s mother-of-all-mood-swings with no answers and no context. In fact, you spend a lot of time in the game doing things without understanding why, and the lack of information you get from Zero and her co-characters can get a little frustrating.
Playing Drakengard 3 feels like being lost and having someone dangle a map in front of your nose, just out of your reach, and having them finally give it to you after you’ve already decided to just hail a cab.
Gamers who have played other Drakengard games will still probably have an unsatisfying feeling, as Drakengard 3 expects them to remember events in previous games. That’s a tough demand, considering that Drakengard 2 came out in North America more than eight years ago on the PlayStation 2. Even if you do remember the events of the previous games, Drakengard 3 is a prequel to them, and so the hesitation the game has to explain itself to you will likely frustrate you just the same.
Zero is not alone in her violent deeds. Her naive partner in crime, Mikhail, is a child dragon who seems to be Zero’s only soft spot after the loss of her much older, much larger dragon companion, Michael (and by soft spot I mean she hasn’t killed him yet). Mikhail brings some much-needed lightheartedness to an otherwise dark, dreary game. He questions Zero’s actions and motives with childlike innocence, despite carrying out her dark demands. My only problem with Mikhail is his voice. He sounds as though he was voiced by a seven-year-old boy, yet even as a child, he’s about three times Zero’s size. Don’t ask me what kind of voice a 20-foot-tall child dragon should have, but the difference between Mikhail’s size and voice is definitely jarring.