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Gabriel’s Weekly Report # 4

Drakengard, Duke Nukem, and a few games.

drakengard3The first piece of big news is that a new entry in the Drag-on Dragoon series has been announced. Known as Drakengard in the west, these games feature a combination of Dynasty Warriors-styled action, and aerial dragon battles. What people remember most about Drakengard however, is their insane story-lines, bizarre design-decisions, and Cavia’s trolling. Unfortunately, Cavia was disbanded not long after Nier. This time around, Access Games (Deadly Premonition, Lord of Arcana) will be handling development. Word is, Yoko Taro will be the creative director. He directed Drakengard 1 as well as Nier. The music will be composed by Keiichi Okabe, who’s last well-known work was also Nier. Needless to say, I’m not too worried about the talent behind this game.

drakengard2The most interesting aspect of Drakengard, is that it’s not a particularly good game. In fact, at times it should be an absolute chore to play, due to its repetitive level-design and awful mechanics. I say “should be” because despite being a fairly harsh critic, I could not put the game down for a second. There’s just something completely brilliant about how the music, the game-play, and all the other elements come together. Drakengard is as fascinating as it is terrible. Even when the game flat-out proves that it hates gamers, I continued playing. If you’re still curious about the first game and don’t mind some spoilers, I posted more detailed thoughts some time ago. The sequel was an improvement, but mostly in terms of game-design. That’s nice and all, but it lacked the aspects that make the original game so memorable.

drakengard1Anyway, Drag-on Dragoon 3 follows two girls named Zero and One (yeah). Apparently they’re known as Utautai. Songstresses with special powers? Sure, let’s roll with that. Also let’s give Zero an artificial arm and a flower growing out of her eye. Fans of violence will be happy to learn that blood is expected to be a central game mechanic. Getting covered in blood, will cause the player to gain powers. Pretty sure I already saw this before in Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad but whatever. Unfortunately, that’s all anyone knows about this game. I’ll be sure to mention any new information in future weekly reports. To be honest, I’m surprised this sequel is even happening.

Update: The official (Japanese) site is now live.

Looking back on Duke Nukem Forever.

With Duke Nukem 3D making its way to Steam, I have to express some thoughts on its sequel. Everyone’s familiar with this story. Duke Nukem Forever was in development for over a decade, and it turned out to be a pile of crap. But how bad was it really? After all, it’s not like Duke Nukem should be held to high standards. He’s just a guy who shoots aliens and quotes his favorite movies, also strippers. Anyone should be able to slap together a game about that easy concept. This makes Duke Nukem Forever a tremendous failure. If you can’t get alien shooting right, you have no business in game-development.

Typically, games made in certain genres tend to lift aspects from popular titles. Think of all the games that were influenced by Street Fighter, Super Mario Brothers, and Doom. While Duke Nukem 3D was under development, there wasn’t exactly a large pool of titles 3D Realms could look towards for inspiration. It was far easier to not only design a game that could set itself apart from the pack, but to also avoid using ideas and failing to follow-through on what made them work in their respective games. In comparison, let’s take a quick glance at the games that were released, in the time it took Duke Nukem Forever to finally hit shelves. Half-Life, Unreal, Quake, Halo, Bioshock, Call of Duty, and…well you get the idea right? That was just off the top of my head. While not all of these games can take credit for influencing Duke Nukem Forever, they show just how far the genre has changed and progressed.

Filling gas tanks. What a thrill.
Filling gas tanks. What a thrill.

Where Duke Nukem Forever chiefly fails is in the execution. Like its contemporaries, this game uses vehicles, regenerating health, and physics puzzles. First of all, if a Duke Nukem game is going to have vehicles, they’d better be awesome. Instead it’s stupid crap like an RC car, a monster truck that runs out of gas at predetermined points, a forklift, and so on. Who the hell wants to drive forklifts and move boxes around? Regenerating health could have worked out, but Duke Nukem is such a pussy that a few hits are enough to kill him. His health is tied directly to his ego, and that requires finding objects to interact with. So by flipping through a calender or looking at topless pics on a computer, Duke raises his maximum ego/health. Who thought this was a good idea? A lot of the time, these interactive objects serve as minigames. Which is fine to a certain extent, because the main game is garbage. Still, it’s fluffing that’s there to make the player feel good. It’s like “Congrats on touching that object! Here’s +1 to something!” Also since Duke takes so much damage, he spends a lot of time behind cover. He’s such an embarrassment. Oh and physics puzzles have never been fun. I guess it’s just as well they’re in this game.

dnf1
Air hockey is exactly what I want in a Duke Nukem game.

The second greatest failing of this game, is that it lost it’s own identity. When I think of Duke Nukem 3D, I think of the non-linear levels that can be explored to find all sorts of secrets. For such an early game, a lot of work was done on giving every level distinct aspects that make them memorable. If this wretched sequel had the first game’s great level design, it would have really stood out from all the linear corridor shooters we’ve become accustomed to. Instead Duke Nukem Forever plays like any other shooter released these days. There are arena-type areas where enemies swarm in, once they’re killed, the player moves on. The only thing memorable about the levels in this game, is whatever moronic ideas the designers threw in, like a vehicle section, a terrible boss-fight, and so on.

That’s all I’m ever going to say about Duke Nukem Forever. It’s an intriguing game if you’re the type of person with an interest for game-design. At least after a play-through you’ll understand what not to do when making a game. On the bright side, the upcoming Steam version of Duke Nukem 3D looks pretty good. Sure I already own the game, but it’ll be nice to have a version with achievements and all the graphical bells & whistles. Hopefully it’ll have co-op as well, I got a lot of mileage out of the XBLA port just because of that mode.

What I’ve been playing.

Dungeon Defenders – Whoa..hold up. Is this a tower-defense game? Yup, I can’t believe I’m playing this either. I’ll admit, I’ve enjoyed some Tower Defensesque games like Soulcaster and Protect Me Knight. I guess if enough things are done differently, I start to forget that I’m playing a game in a genre I usually don’t touch. Anyway, this game has multiple unique aspects, like collecting phat loot to outfit your hero, multiple classes, and cooperative play. It’s pretty fun but the UI is busy as hell. There are numbers, descriptions, and names all of the place. It gets almost as chaotic as the waves of goblins, orcs, ogres, and trolls that are out for my crystal.

Major Mayhem – From what I’ve read, this game is quite popular on cell-phones. After playing a few hours of the PC version, I can see why. This game is reminiscent of Time Crisis, where the hero takes cover to dodge enemy bullets. The scoring system is pretty cool, as skillful play serves as a multiplier bonus for the havoc the player wreaks. Fun and rewarding touches, like being able to juggle enemy corpses, really add to the game. For those types of gamers who only have a few minutes, Major Mayhem is a perfect choice.

What you should be playing.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana – I played through the PSP version of this game sometime ago. While I miss the exclusive features and bonuses, I prefer playing this game on the PC for the improved frame-rate. . Also I’d say that this edition is a bit more difficult, with its more intense boss patterns. In any case, this is a fantastic action-RPG that offers plenty of challenge, great boss-battles, and furious action. It’s a shame the story is really grating. Also, cut-scenes can’t be skipped on the PC version.