The story goes straight to the point : Zero, one of the singing maidens supposed to bring peace and prosperity, wants to kill. No one knows why, but she’s firmly decided to decimate all her sisters in the most brutal possible manner. She will be helped by her faithful Dragon Mikael in her wicked plan.
I don’t know why, before starting Drakengard 3 I was convinced that it would be an open-world RPG. I quickly realized it was the contrary : most of the stages go straight without junctions, although with treasure chests here and there to make the player search a little. Most of the job is to slay the armies of monsters and bosses that get in your way by chaining combos and dodging in style, all of this in real time. Yes, I just described a BTA. Because Drakengard 3 is much closer to a BTA than a JRPG or even an A-RPG like Kingdom Hearts given that no menu ever show up in battle. That said, it keeps a few elements of that lineage, mainly weapon customization and experience points. Those are still very important, because the difficulty increases gradually during the main story but very quickly in the postgame chapters. You will then have to grind in previous chapters so as to keep up with the adversity. In parallel, it will be crucial to improve your weapons because top gear is required too.
So if you take it as a BTA, Drakengard 3 ends up fairly good : the gameplay which relies on weapon-switching is pretty hooking, enemies are tough but the difficulty is very progressive as I already said. It’s actually up to you to establish your own attack strategy by choosing the weapon you see fit depending on the situation. You have the choice between 4 types of weapons : spears, swords, gauntlets and chakrams. Like in all good BTAs, you’ll have to carefully analyze the enemies’ moves if you want to survive, and it’s quite fast-paced too. Many sequences will have you ride the dragon. Those ones are far from gimmicky as there’s a whole gameplay behind it. I can fly and keep onto the ground, in both cases the dragon’s attacks vary. Surprisingly, when flying you have to manage your altitude with X. Every boss fight is done on the dragon’s back and each one involve a new strategy. You also have a bunch of sidequests that are actually mini-challenges that put you against the clock. Others consist in some series of colosseum fights in which you’ll need serious knowledge of the bestiary.
The general atmosphere of the game is terrific : chapter 0 begins very intensely and the game in general gives adrenaline rushes. Zero and Mikael are constantly making fun of each other, despite the massacre they do. It’s purely funny, there is nothing serious in the story. It looks like some long-running manzai in which Zero keeps complaining about everything and everyone while the others make fun of her. Drakengard 3 is equally efficient as an action game than as a comedy. It’s still extremely violent, as limbs fly and Zero is drenched in blood. It’s precisely after a sea of blood that she can unleash her fury.
Drakengard 3 has unfortunately two sad drawbacks, that are its technical and sound performance. Level-design is ultra poor the characters’ 3D models reminds you of 10 years ago. I almost wondered whether the Access Games re-used the 3D engine of Drakengard 2. I could understand if it was one of the first PS3 games, but it’s kinda one of the last… and the framerate sinks horribly on quite some occasions. The OST is good, no doubt. But you actually enjoy it more or less only outside battle because there is zero emphasis during the game in itself.
A quick word on DLC : those invite you to play as Zero’s sisters during one chapter focused on their own story/personality (there’s also one on Zero for some reason). There are not very important in regard of the story in general, and the gameplay is the same as Zero’s most of the time (only Three has the exclusivity of her scissors and associated skills). However, Two’s chapter felt a little more interesting and emotional than the others. Whether you buy these or not depends on your liking of the various characters or if you just can’t get enough of the game’s bizarre direction. Let’s stress that there are quite a few trophies to be earned here.
Although it’s nothing like a Ninja Gaiden or a Bayonetta, Drakengard 3 is a very good third way to enjoy an action game. The irresistible personality that springs from it makes it a fine choice for Japanese games fans.