Drakengard 3 Review - Sister Hacked

Jim Sterling | 30 May 2014 13:00
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The action is somewhat messy, and I'm not just talking about all the spilled bodily fluids. Locking onto enemies is unreliable, the combat itself is so chaotic that it's often hard to follow, and the camera is prone to spasming wildly and making it impossible to see what's going on. Even so, there's a perverse joy to be had in slaughtering thousands of enemies, especially when those enemies keep yelling in fear about what a monster Zero is. It's made quite clear that what you're doing is far from heroic, and the sheer amorality of it only adds to how darkly humorous the whole affair is.

As with previous games, the hack n' slash combat is broken up by segments in which players control a dragon. At various points, Zero will ride her leathery companion Mikhail, who can fly around the map, hurl fireballs at opponents, and slam into them. These sections are not particularly enthralling, which is a shame because all the major boss battles revolve around dragon combat. Shooting fireballs is finger-numbingly repetitive, while the slam attack suffers from poor targeting where successfully hitting even a locked-on enemy feels random.

I can't emphasize enough what a mess this game is, because that makes how fun it winds up being all the more impressive. Collision detection is a problem. The enemy forces are littered with absolutely annoying opponents, such as spearmen who send Zero flying or cannons that constantly rain fire. The AI of both opponents and Zero's allied disciples - the aforementioned men she steals and then bangs - is a joke. Yet the more I played it, the more it grew on me, the more I laughed, and the more I "got" it. This game is anarchy. It knows this, it embraces it, and it has fun with it - fun that manages to be infectious.

One thing I really like about Drakengard 3 is how it turns the usual portrayal of sexuality in games on its head. With her skimpy dress and more than a few camera angles directed at boob-level, Zero is a highly sexualized character, but she is no mere object. Her sexuality is something she owns - quite aggressively in fact - and it's actually the male characters who are objectified and turned into sexual stereotypes. Whether it's the horny old man or the masochist who gets off on the slightest of discomforts, a lot of the humor is derived from the way Zero's disciples take and seek out abuse. It's rare to see a female character in games display any sexual agency of her own, and even rarer to see a female protagonist actively seeking men for sex. It is a refreshing turn of events, at any rate, and one of the many subversions perpetuated by this consistently oddball title.

As well as the main campaign, there are challenge missions to be undertaken, though between the aggravating combination of annoying enemies and strict arbitrary time limits, I found myself getting too annoyed with them to play for very long. At launch, optional costumes can be purchased as DLC, which I find rather gauche, though nowhere near as bad as the fact that a Japanese voice option costs $4.99. Come on, Square Enix!

If one were to view this objectively, one could not call it a good game by any stretch of logic. Fortunately, despite what some proles think, an objective review is a silly thing, and I can therefore take exactly how this game made me feel into account. Yes, at times it made me feel flustered and pissed off with how near-broken it can sometimes be. A lot of the time, however, it made me feel exhilarated as I slaughtered waves of panicking soldiers, and it made me feel hugely entertained by its endless stream of jokes and nonsense.

Boy, but that dragon can be annoyingly whiny. No wonder Zero hates him.

Bottom Line: A hot mess of gibberish that still manages to be vastly amusing, Drakengard 3 is as close to Deadly Premonition as a hack n' slash game gets. It's bizarre and it's disheveled to the point of downright idiocy, but it knows what it is and it goes the whole hog. I laughed, anyway.

Recommendation: Hard to recommend to most people, really, but if you can forgive a lot of problems and have a love for the bizarre, you may just fall in love with it.

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