Siliconera met with Square Enix who was showing off their upcoming holiday releases along with one title that’s still in development, that being the much anticipated Drakengard 3. The demo was purely hands off, so I simply sat back and watched producer Takamasa Shiba put the game’s protagonist, Zero, through her paces. Shiba wouldn’t tell me much about the plot, other than how Zero is an Intoner and that she has five sisters who are also Intoners. Zero’s sisters abandoned her, so her mission is to kill her siblings. (Read more about Zero here.)
"Not to enact revenge, not to cause destruction, but just to kill them," stated Shiba. One key point that was stressed is how Square Enix has traditionally served two distinct audiences: casual gamers and hardcore gamers, the later of which were simply referred to as core players. Shiba explained how the former has been the primary focus in recent years and that Drakengard 3 is an attempt at impressing the latter party. In that sense, Drakengard 3 was described as being a risk on the publisher’s part.
Drakengard 3 follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by combining on the ground combat with in-the-air dragon flying action. First, I witnessed improved melee combat, which included super speedy weapon switching system; it was implied that this action was a bit on the slow and cumbersome side in Drakengard 1 and Drakengard 2. Zero’s nimbleness when it came to dodging was also demonstrated along with her ability to block. It was pointed out that if one blocks an attack at the right moment (as in, press the appropriate button at the right time), the attack redirects.
Armed with a large staff-like weapon, Zero plowed through some stationary soldiers with large shields. The weapon was quite large, and not surprisingly, a bit unwieldy. You also had quick and nimble grunts that did more than just stand around, which Zero took care of using a smaller, blade weapon that’s much easier to handle. As Zero fights, she becomes soaked in her enemies’ blood, which in addition to being a way to graphically convey how much mayhem she’s making, is also an indicator of how close she is to having her berserker rage meter filled. Once full, Zero can unleash her full Intoner abilities, which in this instance made time slow down for everyone but herself. It’s akin to Bayonetta’s Witch Time, which even Shiba concurred as well.
Along for the ride was a young male (Apostles in the Japanese release) acting as a support character who you do not have control of. He goes about his own business, fighting by your side and saying bits of dialogue to embellish the narrative. The support character will change throughout game, as dictated by the game’s narrative, but Shiba would not divulge details. Though I did catch how he called someone a "nympho". Perhaps, referring to Zero?
The melee portion of the demo ended with a boss encounter. Zero fought a large three-headed dog that’s purple. That sound a bit peculiar, and the monster looked it as well. It’s hard to say much about the visuals, especially since the game is still in development, but the graphics doesn’t quite line up with other titles coming out for the PS3 these days. Other developers are pulling out all the graphical stops, but then again, Drakengard 3 has a connection to Nier, another game that was lambasted for not having the prettiest visuals in many people’s eyes. Nier still managed to develop a cult following thanks to some smart art direction and other fine qualities.
After the three-headed dog was dispensed with, Zero took flight on the back of her dragon companion Mikhail. Shiba explained to me how much the aerial component of the game has been completely overhauled. In addition to soaring the skies and shooting fiery death from above, you can also run around on the ground and basically run over the enemy. I was hoping to see additional feats of agility in the air, but the environment in the demo was wide open, with no nooks or crannies to dart in-between. A bit disappointing, but the demo takes place in the early part of the game, and giving players less complex environments make sense in this instance.
Another key point that was constantly driven home is how Zero is an anti-hero, which is something inherently unique when it comes to JRPGs, or so I was told. Some may beg to differ this opinion. Then again, many of Square Enix’s offerings are led about noble characters whose modus operandi is about saving the world. Whereas Zero, from what Shiba said, is just out for blood. At the very least, I can’t recall the last time Lightning was ever soaked head to toe in blood, let alone a single drop on her many forms of attire.