Serving as a prequel to the earlier games in the series, Drakengard 3 is an action RPG developed by Access Games and then published by Square Enix. The PlayStation 3 exclusive has combat like that of a hack and slash game with elements of RPGs such as leveling up and sidequests. You take control of Zero, a feisty intoner on a quest to kill her sisters. Her sisters (named One, Two, Three, Four, and Five) are also intoners who each rule over part of the world with their own subjects. As the game progresses, players learn why this is Zero’s goal as she is accompanied by her dragon, Mikhail, and other disciples over time. The end result is a mixed bag which manages to get some things right and quite a bit wrong. Drakengard 3 definitely could have used a bit more polish.
Drakengard 3’s combat is broken up into two main types. One of which is when Zero is on the ground, and this is where the game plays like a hack and slash. There are several types of weapons available at your disposal as you progress, of which you only start with swords. You’ll unlock the other three weapon types (Spears, Combat Bracers, and Chakrams, each of which play pretty differently from eachother) fairly early on however, and you’re able to freely switch between them mid-combat. You can assign a weapon to each type between missions that you can either purchase, obtain via chests in gameplay, or from completing sidequests, and then upgrade them with money. Zero’s default sword is an exception to the upgrading norm; rather than using money and resources it upgrades on its own when the story sees fit. As you upgrade your weapons the amount of hits you can string in a combo with them increases. Combos themselves are performed with a normal attack button and a stamina attack button. The latter, while being more powerful, uses some of your stamina meter. Given that blocking also uses this meter, it’s important to keep an eye on it at all times. As you kill enemies, you’ll fill a special Blood Meter, which enables you to enter the invincible and powerful Intoner mode. Intoner mode gives you all new attacks capable of lunging in at enemies from large distances and clawing your opponents with high intensity. It doesn’t last very long, but it’s not too big of an issue to refill it.
The ground combat itself is actually pretty enjoyable, and is probably the game’s strongest point. The dub is also pretty good for the game, as vulgar as it is. It’s very much crude, but in terms of the actual quality it’s well done. With lots of swearing and talks of adult content, it’s definitely meant for an older audience. The game isn’t afraid to make a joke about this though, as a few fake censor segments do exist for comedic value.
Drakengard 3 does have quite a bit of nasty faults holding it back. First, sidequests are honestly pretty darn terrible. They have a very similar structure to them overall, either kill enough enemies to farm drops or break open several chests in the time limit. It’s also worth noting that the chests are in the same locations for those missions for the corresponding environments, which doesn’t help in them growing stale very very fast. The only major differences between them sometimes is locations you play in and whether or not you’re locked to a specific type of weapon for the mission, and even that doesn’t do a whole lot in making them any better. There are survival mode missions to break up the monotony, however.
There is a second aspect to combat where Zero rides her dragon Mikhail, and this is nowhere near as enjoyable as Zero’s ground combat. Dragon combat often trivializes a lot of the fights it’s utilized in, removing almost all sense of challenge to them. Controls when mounted on Mikhail are also very finicky, and sometimes you can be briefly stuck when in enclosed areas. It’s also worth noting that most boss fights are played in dragon combat, so a lot of them end up being extremely underwhelming (hell, some of the sub-bosses you fight in ground combat serve more of a threat than a majority of the bosses in this game). To help transition from the dragon combat problems to performance issues, there’s also been a few times when on Mikhail when the camera isn’t entirely willing to cooperate as well as you’d like it to. On top of that, the game itself is very prone to choking up in combat. The framerate will drop very easily if a decent amount of action is happening on screen at once. There’s no slight drops either, it’s always very bad when it happens. At times it will be very crippling to the overall experience as a result, and it’s best to expect quite a bit of screen tearing on top of that. It’s also disappointing for a game so late in the PlayStation 3’s lifespan to look as rough as this game does. Finally, the game itself just feels like it goes on for too long by the time it’s all over. The game and plot just sort of drag on a bit near the later parts.
Drakengard 3 is a bizarre case. It has some solid ground combat and a pretty well done dub in it’s favor, but it has quite a few issues holding it back. The game’s a visual and technical mess with the frequent framerate hiccups, the sidequests are almost all repetitive and boring, dragon combat is too easy to be fun, and by the later parts in the game it’s easy to just want it to end already. This game honestly could have benefited from a little more time in development to fix those framerate snafus since that drops a very large amount of the time. The ground combat may be fun as previously mentioned, but with the game lasting longer than it probably should it feels counter-productive. The fun combat only helps a little bit in continuing through this somewhat lengthy quest.