'Vale of Gadagar' by Sam (Dragoroth)
|Review machine: P4 3.4Ghz, 1024Mb RAM, Geforce FX5900XT 128Mb @ 1280x1024 Reviewed 23rd April 2005||Download (UK) (Russia)|
Vale of Gadagar stars off with Arokh flying with Rynn through a open barrier gateway into an unknown valley. He stops for a moment to get his bearings and to take in the new surroundings when suddenly another dragon approaches and a mage upon its back casts a spell on Arokh before he has time to retaliate. Both Rynn and Arokh fall to the ground unconscious and awake in separate prison cells.
This is Dragorth's second Drakan level which is set after the PC game (or even The Ancient's Gates) as the storyline is pretty basic. There is no introductory story but it has a cut scene depicting the above event where Rynn and Arokh are knocked unconscious. The rest of the level involves breaking out of prison and finding Arokh, well the rest Ill leave for you to find out for yourself as I don't want to spoil it for you. Like his previous level and most other recent ones, the story is revealed through text messages that appear on the screen when you near an NPC etc. Thoughtfully, Dragoroth has added 'press spacebar to continue' at the end of the texts; a great idea as many players think the game locks up when text is displayed because the game halts until you have read it.
Gameplay wise, its pretty entertaining and the difficulty is probably just about right for the majority of players. There aren't many health potions but this is made up for by powerful weapons that are available to use, some of which are pretty cool, custom weapons rather than the standard game ones. Air combat is very easy as Arokh has all of his breath weapons he had at the end of Order of The Flame but seem as the game is set after the aforementioned game, this would make sense. However, there is no Runeblade or Mournbringer for Rynn though. A few more dragons would have made the game a little more challenging in the air. Also there are plenty of interesting, well designed puzzles thrown in which all work without cheating but it may require a few tries to get them right if you are not used to this kind of thing. The first puzzle you come across may seem like you have to do a lot of going backwards and forwards but the level is pretty well designed to keep this to a minimum.
On to level architecture and design; its average with some straight and boxy lines, but the texturing seems to be better than I have seen in some other levels. Lighting in caves and the dungeons is OK but not outstanding; its not too dark or too light but there are one or two places where it just doesn't look right i.e. way too bright and no torches nearby etc and house interiors are as bright as day. The one non retail level I always use for comparison is 'The Breaking of The World' as the creator of that level certainly can make excellent landscapes and caves with great lighting. Nevertheless, the landscape is OK and does not in any way interfere with the gameplay but there isn't anything that makes you sit back and think 'wow, look at that'. However, a lot of thought has gone into other things such as the puzzles and traps you encounter; these are very good and do make you think 'that looks really cool, I wonder how he did that' etc and add to the gameplay a lot. I won't reveal too much about these but a screenshot of one of the puzzles can be found at the top right of this page.
Enemy placement is another thing that can make or break a level and the enemy placement in this level is well done and some of the enemies present a challenge in some spots which may seem overwhelming but Dragoroth has cleverly placed items to use to your advantage such as explosive barrels if you are player who thinks rather than just diving in and attacking. There is a crushing machine at one point which can be used to overcome a potentially tough spot depending on your heath / weapon status, you just have to keep your eyes open. If played with thought and care, you can get through this level without too much trouble.
Finally, the music chosen for the game is the standard Wartock Canyons theme which is OK for outdoor areas but unsuitable for the more sinister parts of the level such as battling the undead. It would have been better if the music changed to suit the area; I would have chosen something a little more moody such as the Succubi lair music for the undead bits etc. This would have helped to make the atmosphere of these parts more tense.
Anyway, to sum up, this is a fun and challenging level with some cool puzzles and traps and should keep you entertained for a few hours as most of the game is on foot and some parts can be a long walk but there is always something to prevent you from becoming bored.
Rating; Architecture / landscape: 6 Texturing: 8 Item / enemy placement: 8
Atmosphere: 6.5 Gameplay / new ideas / enhancements: 7 bugs: none that I found
- Click the images to enlarge.