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RPG Corner: Drakensang Is Quite The Surprise

Impressions of an unlikely high-quality RPG out of Germany.

I don't know about you but as a primarily PC gamer I've developed a somewhat unhealthy addiction to checking Steam for new games every week. Maybe it's boredom and maybe it's just the hope that something, anything will come out for the platform during these usually dry gaming months in Spring. About a month ago I noticed a RPG release from German developer Radon Labs called Drakensang. I was immediately skeptical. First of all it's $30 and as a rule I never trust new releases that don't come out at standard market prices. Low prices are usually the sign of low-quality, budget gaming. Second, the game is tied to some universe my narrow-minded DnD brain had not heard of before: The Dark Eye. I could point you to some hefty documentation about what The Dark Eye encompasses, but for now, just assume it's the German version of a Dungeons and Dragons system.


Blind Guardian. Also from Germany. Also rocks.
So as I mentioned, right off the bat I was very worried. I knew I'd end up purchasing this game both because there really aren't any western RPGs coming out anytime soon and because the game came out of Europe. Let me explain the last point. Along with a Steam addiction I also have an unhealthy tendency to check out every European / Russian release in the Strategy / RPG genre that receives very little press. At least once a year something comes out of those regions that completely blows me away. I give you S.T.A.L.K.E.R, Divine Divinity, King's Bounty and Silent Storm as recent examples. Drakensang is the newest surprise attack.

Now this isn't a review, the game is far too long for me to finish in any sort of reasonable time while I'm building sites and taking care of the morning news desk, but if you are a fan of Neverwinter Nights 2, I have no problem recommending you check out the game. At thirty dollars it's a huge value and to be honest, if you like this genre, what else are you going to be playing this year? As far as I can tell we've only got Dragon Age, Alpha Protocol, Disciples III and Mass Effect 2 coming out. All of those games still have a ways to go before we see them on shelves anytime soon.

Drakensang plays like NWN2 but with a better camera.
So enough of me lamenting about CRPG releases these days, what's the game like? Basically Drakensang plays a whole lot like Neverwinter Nights 2. The story may not be as rich -- mostly due to some odd voice-attacking -- but the actual look and universe of the game is of high-quality. Combat takes place exactly like you'd expect from a BioWare game with pause-to-attack combat. You'll control up to four party members at any one time and have full control over their actions, leveling and equipment. The main differences from NWN2 is a WoW-like camera system that sits behind your party. Unlike Aurora-Engine games you can actually see the ceilings of dungeons and lush skies in cities.

Oh, and then there's that whole thing about it not being a Dungeons and Dragons game. At first, it was completely off-putting. The Dark Eye ruleset is different, but similar to what you're used to in DnD. I've had both fun and trouble trying to learn what skills and new spells are important. The game definitely gave me a wake up call to what it must be like for a non-DnD player to pick up a game like Icewind Dale. Eventually you'll figure stuff out, but if you're used to having a player's manual in your lap the game's similarity to Neverwinter Nights might make you wish you could throw a Fireball or Sleep spell at the attacking horde.

In the end this post is simply a note to curious RPG fans. I know what it's like to have no idea about a game and find very little information about it online. In this case, know from one RPG-nerd to another, Drakensang is a quality games that fans of early BioWare games will enjoy.




Dave Snider on Google+
40 Comments
Posted by snide

I don't know about you but as a primarily PC gamer I've developed a somewhat unhealthy addiction to checking Steam for new games every week. Maybe it's boredom and maybe it's just the hope that something, anything will come out for the platform during these usually dry gaming months in Spring. About a month ago I noticed a RPG release from German developer Radon Labs called Drakensang. I was immediately skeptical. First of all it's $30 and as a rule I never trust new releases that don't come out at standard market prices. Low prices are usually the sign of low-quality, budget gaming. Second, the game is tied to some universe my narrow-minded DnD brain had not heard of before: The Dark Eye. I could point you to some hefty documentation about what The Dark Eye encompasses, but for now, just assume it's the German version of a Dungeons and Dragons system.


Blind Guardian. Also from Germany. Also rocks.
So as I mentioned, right off the bat I was very worried. I knew I'd end up purchasing this game both because there really aren't any western RPGs coming out anytime soon and because the game came out of Europe. Let me explain the last point. Along with a Steam addiction I also have an unhealthy tendency to check out every European / Russian release in the Strategy / RPG genre that receives very little press. At least once a year something comes out of those regions that completely blows me away. I give you S.T.A.L.K.E.R, Divine Divinity, King's Bounty and Silent Storm as recent examples. Drakensang is the newest surprise attack.

Now this isn't a review, the game is far too long for me to finish in any sort of reasonable time while I'm building sites and taking care of the morning news desk, but if you are a fan of Neverwinter Nights 2, I have no problem recommending you check out the game. At thirty dollars it's a huge value and to be honest, if you like this genre, what else are you going to be playing this year? As far as I can tell we've only got Dragon Age, Alpha Protocol, Disciples III and Mass Effect 2 coming out. All of those games still have a ways to go before we see them on shelves anytime soon.

Drakensang plays like NWN2 but with a better camera.
So enough of me lamenting about CRPG releases these days, what's the game like? Basically Drakensang plays a whole lot like Neverwinter Nights 2. The story may not be as rich -- mostly due to some odd voice-attacking -- but the actual look and universe of the game is of high-quality. Combat takes place exactly like you'd expect from a BioWare game with pause-to-attack combat. You'll control up to four party members at any one time and have full control over their actions, leveling and equipment. The main differences from NWN2 is a WoW-like camera system that sits behind your party. Unlike Aurora-Engine games you can actually see the ceilings of dungeons and lush skies in cities.

Oh, and then there's that whole thing about it not being a Dungeons and Dragons game. At first, it was completely off-putting. The Dark Eye ruleset is different, but similar to what you're used to in DnD. I've had both fun and trouble trying to learn what skills and new spells are important. The game definitely gave me a wake up call to what it must be like for a non-DnD player to pick up a game like Icewind Dale. Eventually you'll figure stuff out, but if you're used to having a player's manual in your lap the game's similarity to Neverwinter Nights might make you wish you could throw a Fireball or Sleep spell at the attacking horde.

In the end this post is simply a note to curious RPG fans. I know what it's like to have no idea about a game and find very little information about it online. In this case, know from one RPG-nerd to another, Drakensang is a quality games that fans of early BioWare games will enjoy.




Edited by ahoodedfigure

Dave, maybe you've heard of Realms of Arkania, the "old" Sir-Tech RPG trilogy that has you roll up a party and explore places first person, then have third-person tactical combat.  That's based on The Dark Eye.

Posted by snide

I do remember it but barely remember playing the last game in that series. I hear good things but as far as I know this game is not related in any way other then that it's using the Dark Eye ruleset.

Posted by Luberik

I like em 1st-3person changes in these type of games. Always 3rd person just gets a bit tedious as times.
In fallout3 the 3rd person was so messed up I didn't even us it...

Posted by unangbangkay

Another surprisingly good offering out of Europe is Men of War. It's better than Company of Heroes. Seriously!

Posted by Aeterna

Thanks for the heads up man!

I'll be checking this game out now. :)

Posted by Death_Burnout

Wow an article on Drakensang, that's cool.

I tried it too, a while ago, sadly not for me, but it's pretty impressive...i have a constant Fantasy RPG thirst it seems.

Posted by kainen

Is there a demo of this on Steam?

I too fall prey to their weekly deals....the last one (IL-2, Dark Messiah, Far Cry, and BG&E) for 10 bucks was an ABSOLUTE steal.  I've only played Dark Messiah so far and it's worth the 10 bucks alone, such a great game. 

Posted by Geno

Sweet, thanks for the heads up Dave. I was debating whether or not to get this game.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Nice write-up!  Good to see some quality RPG's on the PC, especially when they sneak up on consumers.  I'll have to check this one out.

Moderator Online
Posted by Death_Burnout
No Demo on Steam but you can get a demo off the official website.
Posted by ahoodedfigure

Does the system in this game have negative attributes (greed, curiosity) and that you have to roll up certain scores to be able to play certain classes/races, or are things less reroll-y now?

Posted by dillinger

Dave you should do like video features or something of older CRPG's to spark some interest in them.  OR...you could do an endurance run of Baldurs Gate 2 + ToB expansion.  That'll be a good 2 years well spent!

Posted by Progman9000

Part of me wants to grab this, but a larger part of me really doesn't care for Fantasy universes.  I might have to grab that demo and try it to see for sure.

Posted by DeavonW

Just started playing it this week. The story is a little bland but other than that its a genuine quality sword and sorcery romp.

Edited by Al3xand3r

I'd have it already if Steam didn't rip us off in Europe by having it 50 Euros which translates to  over $65. And yes, it's normally budget priced here also, yet Steam felt like bumping it up. What the...

Posted by ratzombie

I do the same thing, I check Steam everyday to see if there are any new releases or games on sale. And it's not like I need new games to play, I have a huge backlog to begin with.

By the way, "voice-attacking"?

Posted by CoinMatze

I don't know how Drakensang being good can be a surprise :D There are two genres we germans go totally bananas for: Adventures and RPGs. We just lack the money to produce more of the latter.

But about the game: It's full of cliches and I think it gets a little stale in the end. They stripped a lot from the pen and paper Darkeye system but - the good news for all real RPG fans - it's still complicated and broken as hell. I had a lot fun playing it. The game did pretty good here in germany and a prequel to Drakensang is already in the works with a planned release of early 2010.

Posted by Unchained

Great write up Dave. I'm digging the RPG corner thing. From the podcasts and your reviews and news posts, I find I have a lot in common with you in terms of RPG-taste.  I may have to check Drakensang out, as I've been kind of RPG hungering lately while I wait for Dragon Age.  I've been replaying The Witcher and Baldur's Gate II, and maybe this game could also help with the interim until DA:O is released.

Edited by snide

@colnmatze


Yeah, it's more of a surprise for us non-europeans I guess. There was literally no press for this game before release. I'd casually known about the previous games, but this kind of came out of the blue for me.

@unchained

It's not up to the quality of The Witcher. I'm mostly just pointing it out because it costs $30 and plays almost exactly like a NWN game.
Posted by lightwarrior179

I remember playing Realms of Arkania Blades of Destiny which I think was based on Dark Eye world and was made by some other German developer as well.

Drakensang looks interesting though. I loved NWN,and if this game is similar to it, I may consider getting it.
Posted by Maxszy

Interesting! Thanks for the information, I will be checking this out asap.

Posted by Jimbo

Ah, excellent, I was hoping somebody would take a look at this.

If you have a soft spot for diamonds in the rough, I second the 'Men of War' suggestion.  Terrible name, terrible voice acting, but the gameplay and mission balance is pitched to perfection and you can play the entire SP campaign co-op.  Definitely recommend checking it out if you haven't already.

Edited by Cerza

Yay Dave! I have been waiting for this ever since I saw your thingy that said you were downloading this to check it out, because I have been on the fence about this title for all the reasons you said you were skeptical. It's great to know that those concerns can be dismissed. I will be picking this up ASAP. Thanks! :-)

Posted by TekZero

I'm still waiting for Diciples 3.

Posted by MeatSim

German RPG's are like German Cars I hope.

Posted by Ping5000

Hm. I demand my CRPGs have awesome stories. Combat is more of a means to an end for me.


I do like D&D clevage, however.
Posted by RHCPfan24

Interesting. I don't have much interest in this game, but your well-written impressions definitely gives me a good feeling of it.

Posted by zityz

I was looking at this on steam the other day but when I heard it had to do with some dark eye ruleset thing I was at a loss. Also there was another Kings Bounty? what the hell? I played the genesis one back in the day ALOT and waited for someone to make a new one. That's one I need to find.


Also, Blind Gaurdian is awesome.

Posted by snide

@zityz


King's Bounty is available on Direct2Drive. It's a quality game and if you like HoMM or Disciples games you'll likely dig it. 
Posted by StarFoxA

Dave, I really like how you're posting PC gaming news on the site now. As a primarily console gamer, it's been pretty interesting.

Posted by EndlessMike

I bought this game a few weeks ago. I'm liking it so far. Not buying a game because it's not standard retail price is ridiculous though. I know a ton of great games that are priced under the 50 dollar mark. You're missing out on a lot if you stick to that.

Posted by Media_Master

yup

Posted by TheTemplar

Wow a reference to Blind Guardian, that's enough to make me intrested in the game. Unfortunately not enough money this month. :/

Posted by Rio

Its a good thing for Radon Labs that you put stuff like this up on the site,  because I am likely to go buy this off of steam now.  Thanks for the article Dave.

Posted by floodiastus

I wrote a review of this game, in the drakensang section. It's a great game.

Posted by Stefan

Well, there is also another RPG by German Developers, which was released recently: Risen on PC (360 version wasn't as good) It's also available on Steam in Europe (proxy... works great with the US Store :-D )  
Gothic 4 might also be worth a look. 
Hope you read this Dave!
Posted by Seedofpower
@Stefan: He might even though its a 7 month old article.
Posted by FunExplosions

I'm sure Dave's heard of Risen.

Edited by Linkyshinks

I might get this after looking into it a little more.  
 
Is it using a modified Aurora engine?