Every once in a while, there comes a piece of media that makes me question the creators’ sanity. Drakengard didn’t do that. I am absolutely certain that this game was written by a lunatic.
With Nier Automata coming out next year, I thought I’d revisit this… strange franchise and put my thoughts about it back in order. As Dark Id said: strap in, kids. It’s going to get fucking weird.
Drakengard is a mixture of ground-based slaughter and aerial dragon-riding mayhem. In terms familiar to those who’ve seen the Blade movies: It has the strengths of neither and the weaknesses of both. This game is repetitive, frustrating, and flat-out unfun.
But Drakengard is paradoxically not about gameplay. Rather, what makes it stand out is the sheer and utter insanity of its story. Also the final boss, but I’ll get to that. There will be a whole lot of spoilers, so I’d advise anyone crazy enough to want to play this to stop reading right here. Actually scratch that. Just don’t play the original Drakengard. No one should actually play the original Drakengard.
The story takes place in a vaguely defined fantasy world where two forces called the Union and the Empire have been at war for a while. You play as Caim; a nobleman and psychopath. Our… hero has a real rage-boner for slaughtering everyone even loosely affiliated with the Empire. He also utterly hates dragons due to losing his parents to a black one.
Caim receives a deadly injury during battle and is forced into a so-called Pact with a female red dragon in order to survive. To finalize this pact he has to give up something, and apparently the d100 that determines this rolls on his voice. He remains mute up to the end of the game (barring a specific ending). Caim and the red dragon then proceed to murder absolutely everything in their path and turn the tide of war.
A bit later on, we learn that the Empire is actually being run by something called the Cult of the Watchers. This cult is attempting to break something called Seals, one of which is Caim’s sister, Furiae. Furiae had taken up a vow of chastity so she could become the bearer of this seal, much to the detriment of her fiancee Inuart. They are both complete and utter failures of characters and deserve each other in every possible way.
Inuart, being a complete wuss, gets captured by the Empire and brainwashed into accepting a Pact with a black dragon. This is of course the very same dragon that killed Caim’s parents. Having lost his ability to sing, Inuart beats up Caim and kidnaps Furiae. This is where everything goes completely and utterly insane.
While searching for his sister, Caim and the red dragon gather some party members. One of these is Leonard, a blind pedophile paladin guy. The other is … Arioch, an elf-woman who had lost her children, and now likes to eat babies. Someone thought it would be a good idea to take her along. Probably as a joke.
The last party member is a kid called Seere, who is accompanied by a golem whom he has a Pact with. Seere had given up his time for this Pact, meaning that he can’t age. He is also looking for his sister; a girl called Manah.
The game then takes you on such lovely missions like killing child soldiers who keep asking for mercy as you cut them down. Leonard asks you you to spare them as well, for reasons I refuse to consider. Drakengard has a huge problem with children.
Anyway, after an utter massacre, you come across the game’s first ending where you find Furiae dead in the seat of the Cult of the Watchers. She had been killed off-screen, Inuart is crying next to her body, and a possessed little girl is dancing around them. This is Manah, Seere’s sister, who is apparently the cult’s prophet of sorts. Some plot-fu later, you end up fighting a flying, 50-foot tall, spellchucking Manah. After adding another notch to your child-belt, you are told that someone needs to become the new seal or reality will become undone. The red dragon offers to take up this duty, and the apocalypse is cancelled.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the game has a total of five endings, each more insane and messed-up than the last.
Drakengard’s second ending has Inuart drag Furiae’s dead body to something called a Seed of Resurrection. These large stones of sorts are fated to appear at the world’s end, and using them is supposedly forbidden. But of course, being a complete waste of air, Inuart messes everything up once more. Furiae is indeed revived, but as a harpy-like monster that kills Inuart as soon as she opens her eyes. Caim is forced to kill his sister, only to learn that every single Seed had spat out a copy of her.
So it’s apocalypse by evil clones!
The game’s third ending is by far the weakest. It has the red dragon break her pact when she is ordered to lead the other dragons on a great purge against humanity for reasons the game doesn’t bother explaining. Caim speaks, reminding us just how much better he was back when he was mute, and puts her down. He then charges out to face the army of dragons alone.
The fourth ending is something no sane creature could ever conceive.
With the final seal broken, the sky collapses and a bunch of gigantic, floating babies with teeth enter reality. They are closely followed by their mother, a so-called Queen Beast, who is apparently about to birth forth the end of the world. Arioch, everyone’s favorite baby-eating elf, gets caught up in the sight and is promptly devoured by these things. Leonard dies as well, blowing himself up to give the rest of the party more time to act.
Seere comes up with the idea to break his pact while on top of the Queen Beast, reasoning that the time he gave up would somehow stop her. Caim and the red dragon die flying him up to her. Seere breaks his pact, and most of Drakengard’s version of Europe is frozen in time.
The game’s final ending requires you to collect all available weapons. This is an incredibly frustrating and unfun task, the completion of which rewards you by… transporting you to present-day Tokyo, where the gameplay changes into a rhythm game. And not just any rhythm game, but a completely unfair and unfun nightmare that had people frothing at the mouth.
And after hours, possibly days of struggling with this thing, the player is treated to the sight of Caim and the dragon getting shot down by fighter jets! Holy hell!
Let’s paraphrase this. Drakengard forces you to collect every single instrument of murder in the game. So you would fight a boss that doesn’t let you use any single one of them. And then it rewards you by giving you a joke ending that also kills you. This is trolling at its absolute finest!
No work of entertainment has ever come close to being this messed up on so many levels. Then again, this game can hardly be considered entertaining, so I might be a bit inaccurate. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed it, but I can’t help but remember it every once in a while. Things this grotesque have a habit of burning themselves into one’s memory for good.
They create a strong impression. An impression that crushes like a mace.
M. T. Miller