Drakensang: The Dark Eye – PC

Review by Johnus Maximus

Drakensang: The Dark Eye - box art - PCHold onto your helm of disintegration, there’s a new role-playing game in town and this one doesn’t require a monthly subscription! German developer Radon Labs have made a bold attempt to convert the paper based RPG Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye) into a huge single player computer game experience.

Released in March and published by Eidos the game offers an interesting blend of modern and traditional game play fused with great visuals, but is let down by an uninspiring story and overly complex character management.

The world that Drakensang takes place in is no different to the majority of role-playing games – it has a medieval style setting with rustic villages, gothic cathedrals, expansive mountains and claustrophobic caves. The world is populated with humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins and dragons and you begin your quest by selecting what type of warrior you will be. It’s an all too familiar setting, but it does allow you to quickly get started as you’re not being forced to learn anything new.

There are various classes to select from, traditional archetypes that suit different styles of gameplay – dwarven warriors, elven mages, amazon women and sneaky thieves – the majority of these are available with a selection of gender, but aside from that and choosing a name, that’s as far as character creation goes. Although you’re not going to spend a huge amount of time looking directly at your characters face, giving them a distinct look is part of what makes you feel attached to your character.

It might take you a few goes before you pick a character you’re happy with, but each of them starts their story in the same place and their story is the same regardless of the type you pick. There are various statistics that are used by the game mechanic and learning which attributes correlate to which abilities and attributes is vital, as this game makes no effort to ease you into its complexity.

Drakensang: The Dark Eye - screenshot of a wizard - PC
Gandalf? Dumbledore? Oh, sorry I thought you were someone else…

While maintaining this level of authenticity to the source material may please the traditional DSA fans it does make it somewhat difficult for those of us not particularly sure whether to pump experience points into our cleverness, constitution or charisma. Having to do some intensive reading about each and every available characteristic and skill is the only way to be sure you’re not creating a rubbish character. The manual is pretty in-depth but there are also some helpful wikis and forums on the internets.

The story begins with you receiving a letter from an old friend who summons you to their residence. A simple request you may think, but along the way you’ll encounter saucy wenches, multitudes of monsters and uncover a sinister homicide plot with deep significance. It’s a bit like Murder She Wrote, but with trolls and necromancers.

As you travel from town to town performing obligatory fetch and slay quests you start to develop a small gathering of followers who will help you on your journey. Their motivations are not always the most original, but it helps in this harsh world to have a band of axe-wielding brothers and sisters ready to fight by your side.

Drakensang: The Dark Eye - screenshot of a dwarf - PC
“Hoots mon” – Dwarves all talk with gruff Scottish accents

Precision instruction during combat is relatively easy to set up, as you can pause the game at any time, set up orders and then unpause to unleash hell. Unfortunately, the hell is in the execution of these orders, as you will find your team running past enemies, dancing around them or generally just not acting in the way you think they will.

With most games of this genre, there is usually a point where everything starts to click and you really feel comfortable with the characters under your control and the tasks ahead of you. At no point did I feel this association with Drakensang, even after twenty hours with my team I just did not feel any love for the game I was playing.

One of the most common complaints about the game is the amount of time it takes to get around. There is no fast travel and there are no mounts. As the game spreads the quest locations too far apart, at times I found myself cursing the almost snail like running speed, I daren’t even try the walking button or else I would probably have thrown my laptop out of the window!

Drakensang: The Dark Eye - screenshot of spiders
Dungeon infestations – if it’s not rats, then it’s bloody spiders

There are many reasons that I just did not get on with Drakensang, but it is not completely without merit. The visual style is very impressive and even at the higher detail levels the game engine performs admirably. There are a lot of details in the characters and environments, the art style is very true to the European influenced fantasy setting.

As in life, looking good is not everything, you need to have charisma and personality to be a complete appealing package. Despite a decent sense of humour, Drakensang is lacking the excitement and immersion that so many other games out there can offer a player, ultimately meaning I felt no urge to pursue the story to its conclusion and find it hard to recommend it to anyone other than extremely patient and forgiving RPG fans.

Drakensang scores two and a half stars out of five.

Two and a half stars