Drakan: Order of the Flame(PC)
Drakan has everything a great fantasy adventure needs: dragons, a rather large selection of great weapons, a great control system, incredible environments, awesome AI, and a great looking female heroine with a great set of breasts always clothed in skimpy outfits. Chain mail never looked so good!
The game revolves around a simple "village got invaded by bad guys, lone escapee finds out that her brother was kidnapped by monsters and must get revenge while performing little quests and solving puzzles along the way. She goes by the name of Rynn, and she could kick your ass.
You control Rynn with a standard 3D shooter interface, which works amazingly well. You are also able to rebind all of the controls, a feature that far too many games still lack for some reason. Being able to freelook at all times is great, and makes control much easier than third person games using Tomb Raider style control do. Running and jumping is accomplished easily and done on the fly, and once you get the hang of it you will rarely need to stop Rynn and line up for a jump. Rynn can jump and roll in every direction, which will often get you out of nasty scrapes in a jiffy. Need to get out of a fight? Flip sideways onto the nearest crate! Yes, Drakan has crates lying around too. Sound familiar?
Rynn isn't the only character you control in Drakan. You also get to fly around on Arokh, a massive dragon with multiple breath attacks. He flies like you would expect a Dragon to- quickly, gracefully, and he can fight just fine while he does it. When on the ground Arokh folds his wings and runs around on all fours, while still able to breathe fire on anything in sight. Controlling Arokh in this mode isn't much fun, but you don't have to do it very often, and when you do, it fits into game, usually invloving Arokh being moved around indoors.
Combat is both easy and intuitive, allowing you to dive in and out, duck, sidestep, etc. with ease. This is quite important in Drakan, because the enemies fight just as well as you do, many employing great combat tactics so well that it will outright surprise you at how good they really are until you get used to the game. The enemies can defend as well, and some of them carry shields that force you to be much more cautious when attacking them, because missing a hit and getting hit yourself can get deadly pretty fast.
The enemy AI also helps to make the game so great outside of combat as well. The enemies will follow you, they will sneak up on you, and they will call in reinforcements to kill you. I just about peed in my pants the first time a saw a monster resembling Chewbacca on steroids jumping up and down while shouting at his comrades to get their attention before attacking me. Little touches like this make the game incredibly believable, which adds to the overall enjoyment of the game.
And speaking of believable, the environments in Drakan take believable to a whole new level. Surreal's Riot engine renders the game in a glory that outshines anything other game available right now. Both indoor and outdoor areas are stunning. The snow capped mountains look damned near real, and the waterfalls and rivers spilling out of them are the best ever seen in a 3D game. Trees look great, albeit not all that real, even up close, which has always been a problem in 3D games. The lighting in Drakan adds to the mood of the game on a level far exceeding that of most 3D games. Gone are the excessive colored lighting and pointless lensflares that are spreading out through the game world like cancer, Drakan features realistic lighting in colors that you might acutally SEE in the real world, namely the colors of sunlight and torches. The lighting casts some of the nicest shadows you will ever find in a game, although enabling them all can impact the framrate on slower systems.
The sound in Drakan is great, with the exception of crappy voice-overs, but avid gamers should be used to that. The sound effects themselves are all great, especially the satisfying sounds you get when you score a hit on a monster. Drakan has A3D support right up there with Half-Life, especially in caverns, which adds even more to the believability factor. The music is good, but not excellent. It doesn't get annoying at the default setting, so I left it on.
Drakan's levels bring all this together with the simple plot that doesn't overshadow the game, and puzzles that aren't really puzzles, usually just requiring that you find a "key" of sorts to get by. This keeps the game flowing, so that you don't get stuck in any one spot to long. The levels are also large and easy to move around in, although many areas feature slopes too steep to climb back up to keep you from going back. Not that this is really bad, but I am starting to get sick of seeing this in games (Well, I was actually sick of it in the second level of Tomb Raider, but who wasn't?).
Drakan also has some nice looking multiplayer. Too bad playing it sucks. After a patch that fixed the multiplayer (or at least the networking code...) I spent a full day not playing Tribes in an attempt to find something good to say about the multiplayer. Best thing I can come up with: four players=8 boobs. Imagine running around trying to whack somebody with a sword/axe/etc., rarely being able to hit them, and trying to enjoy it. Bleah. Thank god the single player can anchor this baby.
Overall Drakan is likely to be the best third person adventure game of the year. Nothing about it is bad, and hopefully the control style in Drakan will become a standard for such games in the future (attention Tomb Raider 4 developers! Read that last sentence again!). Drakan is definitely worth the fifty bucks, so go buy it.
Overall: 8 out of 10.