Drakensang “2” – Am Fluss der Zeit

Quite the change from the introduction with Salina’s shaved legs, right?^^

The whole text is based on the first/unpatched version. Which is somehow self-evident, but it has been a draft since February and was obviously released weeks later, so… things (sometimes) change.

Though I got my problems with prequels (I usually believe that at some point a story is just done and having nothing left to add but to go back in time might be a hint), AFdZ pulls it off quite well. Forgrimm and Kladdis (2 heroes known from before) tell the story and even comment on loading screens. That’s a very nice touch. I don’t think they could have wrapped it together more elegant.

After Drakensang I wanted more (apparently I wasn’t alone – yay!). I was really happy when I learned they made another one. Luckily the/my waiting period was pretty short, since I played 1 long after the (official) patching cycle ended. I don’t know if this is actually correct, but when AFdZ was announced first, I read it was supposed to be a pure expansion. In time it became a full title. Whatever the real background, AFdZ certainly deserves this status. It’s a lot more than just more/new maps for the same engine. The majority of changes can safely be described as improvements, no matter if they were intended as such or added for other reasons. The characters no longer hold their weapons in their hands all the time, as if they were in a fight, or waiting for a fight… That was really weird when running around in a city and just talking with different vendors or looking for quests… The drawing of weapons works now as it does in Dragon Age. Better even, because it doesn’t just auto-draw/holster when necessary, but also offers a manual option – the game enforces no restriction.
Next is the quick travel. Every world map has certain hotspots, once explored, they can be reached by mouse click from all other quick travel locations. This maybe doesn’t sound like much, but really takes most annoyances out of quests. But to fully get how great it is and to feel actual joy, having walked through the woods, to do all the errants for the witches in 1, is a requirement.

All the dialogs are full audio now, personally I had no issue with reading the texts (I also never saw a problem with the rules, because they are so neatly explained at a simple right click), but many players seem to perceive a lack of audio (in all places) as some kind of drawback. Maybe that’s why BioWare voiced even the Codex entries in Mass Effect… Anyway, it adds to the amount of effort put into the game and the voice acting is quite good.

Coming with the title is a ship (Thalaria), that serves as mobile base for the player and his party. The ship contains chests for every single party member and can be upgraded with the necessary equipment to craft own items (weapons/bows/alchemy). Because the ship is naturally coming along (has always an own quick travel spot) and is therefore never far away, it’s much more comfortable to use than Ardo’s house in Drakensang, that had lots of spots to store loot, but at the same time, put everything left behind clearly out of reach during upcoming quests.

The biggest and most welcome perk is most likely the “open world” alteration, where all locations remain accessible. Nothing was as unsatisfying as this in 1, being cut off and shut out. It doesn’t matter if all quests were finished, it isn’t even important if all quests were discovered in the first place. The world map allows a return at any time (while not on story quests). They were very consequent with this change in game design. Places even progress, after story quests are done there. New people arrive, dialog options adapt to the new situation, sometimes new quests await… As if this wasn’t great enough, a Mass Effect 2/GTA is pulled here, because the game doesn’t necessarily end with the main story. After the ending credits it’s possible to return to the ship, to hunt down overlooked quests and the like (and people are once again aware of this in dialogs!). No pressure is added, where none should be. Cool!

Sometimes people criticize a lack of party banter in these games. I don’t see it. While they don’t talk all the time, the discussions of party members revolve around the task at hand, where those in Dragon Age usually just relate to certain characters and could be triggered any place and any time (and are). This helps create the illusion that fellow travelers are aware of the situation and care about it. I consider it a strength.
I further disagree on arguments that this game wouldn’t be on par with other genre giants. Drakensang might not utilize the Unreal 3.5 engine (I personally think the Nebula engine is absolutely beautiful and is perfect for creating a role-playing world) or feature a bunch of Hollywood actors for voice work, but its quests easily belong to the best the entire role playing genre has to offer. People who disagree here, should play more than one RPG. Quests are still the backbone of every good RPG (I won’t describe the other aspects again).
Apart from all this the game sparkles with the usual (compared to part one) love for detail, countless items can be purchased, found or possessed in whatever ways remain, while being animated and portrayed in the game world as well in the character pictures at the right side of the screen. What I already missed in Drakensang was, that, while it’s no problem to buy countless clothes, there are no quests making use of this rich game world. There never was a quest where it’s necessary to wear any “special” clothes from the local tailor. You know, some undercover action or requirements for a shindig… And yeah, I do remember the mission with the mercenary armor at the end. This doesn’t count, because it’s utilizing none of the shops, is given directly to the player and is still armor – as opposed to the countless normal clothing available. I get it though, that no optional quests were made with this complexity. It’s just the hunger for more, created by the fact, that there seems to be such an imbalance in some possibilities of the game world. The same is true for some character feats. Distributing skill points to “subterfuge” is a complete waste (used a total of 4 times in the whole game), or etiquette (used one single time) is even worse.

The game has some bugs, but in a huge project like this one, it is to be expected. I read that a patch is already on the way and since they “killed” all the obvious bugs in 1, it can be expected they will do the same for AFdZ.

Next in line is already queued. I’m glad that they seem to have a nice run there. This time it’ll almost definitely be released as an expansion. It’s dedicated to Phileasson, a famous DSA character I never heard about before (I only play the PC games).

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  1. 1 Drakensang – Phileassons Geheimnis « adrift

    […] add-on expands the (possibly) familiar world of “Am Fluss der Zeit“, the main game (similar what Tales of the Sword Coast did to Baldur’s Gate). I used my […]

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