Drakensang : The River of Time is the second Drakensang game that has hit these shores after its German conversion. Don’t get me wrong, I played and enjoyed the first game and it was REALLY good, but there were a few niggles - jsuch as daft things, like having no fast travel option, which meant that walking around got you nowhere fast. This new game thankfully has rectified that, even though running about on foot still happens at a snail’s pace.
The River of Time is a standalone game that is actually a prelude to the first game. However, you won’t miss much if you haven’t played The Dark Eye, though there are just a few jokes you may miss. Also, this series is based on the pen & paper game of the same name.
The story is based around pirates looking for a treasure on the River, so vessels are attacked while they are looking for this mystical haul. This is where you come in - travelling from towns and outposts, following the course of the river and trying to find out just what is going on.
Each area is a fair size with quests scattered about liberally. You enter an area, find all the quests, complete them and move onto the next area. There is also a boss fight thrown in on some of the tied-in quest lines. Some of the boss battles are very creative. The first one you encounter is a junk Golem - basically it looks like a giant robot that has been assembled using magic and the bits scattered around a warehouse. Great stuff!
The setting itself is typical fantasy, the likes of which you will have seen in so many games before, such as Neverwinter Nights. Dwarves are typically miners, Elves live in trees and make good rangers; and so on.
Character creation sees numerous archetypes available to different races. So, in that sense you may not actually be able to get an exact match to what you may usually play. You can do an advanced build where you set all your stats manually, but this can really mess a character up if you aren’t sure what you are doing. You are also a little limited in the way your character can look with only 4 different options of hair, face and body type. That’s no bad thing really as it is just a single player game, so nothing to worry about in case you were wondering if you will meet a doppleganger in the game.
As with most fantasy games the visuals almost have a dream like quality to them, thanks to some high post processing and bloom effects. Towns and villages have an old Edwardian look about them, bricks and planks on the exteriors to the houses. You are quite limited to indoor areas in the towns with mainly taverns only allowing entry as the merchants all have stalls outside. Interiors have the usual fantasy look about them, roaring fires in the main hall and huge barrels of drink scattered about the place. It all adds to the ambience in a great way.
The English language conversion this time around is much better than the original and much easier to understand. When you get near NPC's they will be having conversation on the street you can listen in on. This is done with speech bubbles. In most cases if characters are talking in this way you know it’s pointless trying to talk to them as they will say things like “Mind your own business” or “I have nothing to say to you.” Conversations that are with key characters have them speaking to you where you can’t say anything wrong. Just go through the options to get quests and find out about the character. Other sounds in the game are of the light medieval type with music playing softly in the background. Once again it adds to the dream like setting and fits nicely.
The inventory system is what you would expect from any RPG, with two bags and fairly frequent trips to vendors to offload loot. Weapons and shields are the usual fare; however you don’t get access to magical and rare items. You get base weapon stats and once you notice a weapon is becoming less effective you have to find another one from a vendor or fallen enemy.
Character stats on the other hand have so many options. You can train in any skill you want. Understandably you will want to stick with your main skill but you can build on something like ranged attacks or maybe a little bit of Alchemy for healing just to get you through. Levelling in general is pretty slow, however, enemies don’t scale alongside you like in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. So go off searching for a while and you will become a bit more powerful making it a little easier when you reach a boss. It is a worthwhile system that fits nicely with the game. You can up weapon skills for particular types, right down to daggers, sabres, axe & maul and various different levels of two handed weapon instead of just a few skills that make you better at everything. It is extremely in-depth, and you can add points to your stats as and when you get them instead of having to wait until your next official level. Or you can go to a trainer and get a few new skills and special attacks. This makes things interesting and you can literally customise you character right down to the way you want.
The game itself scales absolutely fantastic. It works just as well on my wife’s older laptop as well as my more powerful desktop and gaming lappy. Also, there is little difference between high quality and medium settings.
Drakensang : The River of Time is a must have for RPG fans everywhere. It is easier to pick up and play than the first title and less of a grind. The entire game can be clocked in about 25 - 30 hours, whereas the first game was longer but it got tedious pretty quickly towards the end, not forgetting the lack of fast travel which added numerous extra hours just travelling. This sequel feels fresh all the way through and more streamlined.
I didn’t see any PR or hype for this game and decided to pick it up as I enjoyed the first game. It’s highly playable, and considering I picked it up for a mere 20 quid, it’s well worth every penny.
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