Almost everyone knows that when it comes to RPGs, Square-Enix comes out on top. But when Square tries to make a game that doesn't feel like an RPG, does it play well? Sadly, it doesn't.
Gameplay is one of the weaknesses of Drakengard. The story itself is pretty boring and doesn't progress much as you advance. The main character, Caim, wants revenge on his parents' deaths, which were killed by a black dragon. He joins the Union army to stop the Empire from kidnapping his sister, who is a goddess and a seal that keeps the world intact. After getting into the castle, Caim sees a wounded red dragon and prepares to kill it, but then changes his mind and makes a pact with the dragon. The pact makes the two of them stronger, but Caim loses his voice in the process. Throughout most of the game, the red dragon always seem to have a very low opinion on Caim's motives and the human race.
As for playing the game itself, it's simple. When moving your character on the ground, you hack and slash enemies with the square button and unleash magic with triangle. Jumping is done by X and you can change weapons on the go with R2. R1 and L1 is used to do a rolling dodge and L2 is to block. Attacking enemies with your weapons can be a bit frustrating since you cannot target enemies, so it is very likely that you'll be swinging your weapon blindly. It is pretty easy to make some big combo chains. Each weapon has a different magic spell and they all use MP. You regain MP by attacking enemies. HP is recovered by collecting energy spheres that enemies or treasure chests drop. There are other missions where you can ride the red dragon and it's one of the game's strong points. The controls are pretty similar to Caim's controls, so there isn't any awkwardness. Depending on the level, you can hit SELECT to jump on or off the dragon.
Every time you beat a mission, your stats for that playthrough are calculated. The more kills and combos you make, the more EXP you get at the end. When you level up, your HP goes up. Caim's weapons also level up. When a weapon reaches a certain amount of kills, the weapon levels up. Powering up weapons makes the weapons stronger and they can be swung more times to make bigger combos. The number of times you can use a weapon's spell will also increase. The dragon you use also grows stronger. The more kills the dragon makes, the stronger it gets. After the dragon reaches a certain amount of EXP, the dragon will change form. When the dragon "evolves," the only benefit it gets is just more MP.
Drakengard has two modes. Story mode is obvious; you play through the story. Expedition mode lets you replay any mission you completed. You still gain EXP through this mode, so it's a good way to level up.
The other weakness Drakengard has is the AI and the camera. When you fight on the ground, the enemy will swarm at you by the numbers. It is possible you fight them all by blindly hacking at them, the swarms may overwhelm you. You may be tempted to fly the dragon and attack from there, but the dragon is weak against magic and arrow attacks. If the dragon gets hit too many times, Caim will jump off and that gets really fustrating. The camera on the ground isn't that good. The camera automatically rotates itself to the back of Caim when you stand still and it can get stuck behind walls or enemies. Although you can move the camera, it doesn't stay the way you want it to.
The graphics in this game are fine, but they could be better. The environments look great, but the characters themselves look a bit blocky. The graphics also look dark and dull. Surprisingly enough, the music is bad. Although most pieces sound good in the beginning, you'll be looking for the mute button since the music loops again and again. The music gets tedious like the hack and slash you'll be doing.
Drakengard isn't as good as it looks. With mindless button mashing when it comes to attacking, it makes you wonder if the programmers made the game for people who think the only way you can beat a game is by mashing buttons. The story is too boring to even pay attention to since it barely changes at all. Along with simple-minded AI and bad camera, Drakengard is a game that made me wish that it would just go extinct like the dragons.