Drakensang: Beware of Evil Trees

So in playing the aforementioned Drakensang I stumbled across an.. interesting.. scene. By large, a tree was holding an elven woman (in a rediculously short skirt) prisoner by using its roots. I kid you not. She was ranting something about evil spirits and the risk of being crushed by roots or whatnot, though I think if you’re an elf, it’s rather embarassing to be caught by a tree. Of course.. this was no ordinary tree.. my tooltip faithfully informed me that I was, in fact, facing an Evil Tree.

Apparently, the inherent evil of this tree is such that even the map proudly declares its location with the label Evil Tree, which makes me wonder if the locals were aware of this tree, and it’s elf-napping habits. Seeing their murderous bayliff who wanted to execute someone for wandering the marsh and later wanted to put the life of my character to end for stopping him, it seems entirely possible that some villagers might even have encouraged this tree.

Of course, my character being a somewhat more properly dressed elven woman of the Spellweaving variety, I could ill let this foul tree continue its habits of tormenting elven women, so it – along with its swarming firefly servants and a huge multitude of unrelated undead – had to be slain.

Drakensang is an interesting game, and the above incident with the tree actually was rather fun as I had an epic moment where two of my party members desperately held off wave after wave of firefly while the third member – a dwarven powerhouse – went toe to toe with the Evil Tree itself – all with my own character handling healing and de-posioning throughout the skirmish.. and giving the odd firefly a stab when that wasn’t necessary. It felt rather epic trying to hold the line like that, in spite of the AI sometimes tossing a mad quirk like deciding to run off to kill something else, and I’m somewhat disappointed that there’s no way to automate the ability usage of your party members – I would’ve been perfectly happy just to tell them which target to hit and then manage the healing while they would swing their melee powers around in a reckless fasion.

They don’t. You have to control all their ability usage yourself. Tactical, sure, but sometimes a little bit of a bother, especially with a rather obfuscated system that takes time to get used to. Leaving the other characters on auto-pilot would’ve been welcome, especially with resources like mana (sorry, Astral Energy) actually regenerating, rather than the n spells per day system used by other systems and that I have little but outright scorn for.

With levels, my team has obtained a rather established proficiency of tearing down most adversity with relative ease – hardly because of my tactical skills, but in large part with understanding what skills are useful. Levelling is a slow progress, but with experience provided as a resource you buy upgrades with rather than just getting skills at level ups, that’s not all that bad. Levels just restrict how high up skills can go. Some prowling on the Drakensang forums also enlightened me as to what’s useful to put points in and not, to the point that there’s very few things you actually want to (or need to) max – the Willpower skill is one of them – not only preventing miscasts due to damage, it also prevents wounds – an interesting stacking debuff that might afflict any character taking a large chunk of damage in one go (or by certain abilities) – wounds debilitate the character and aren’t easilly removed in combat – the heal spell can only remove so many stacks max so if it’s stacked higher than that, you have to use other methods. So, the more wounds a character has – totally independent on their hit points – the weaker they become. This is made even worse by characters who “die” getting back up with a Critical Wound after combat ends. Which is even more debilitating, and more of a bother to get rid of.

With my team, appart from my Spellweaver, consisting of two straight up melee combatants and one melee/mage hybrid, I found myself largely just having them run in and bash stuff while I – as an elf – spent time mostly healing. Unlike many similar systems – it seems – Drakensang actually doesn’t mind hybrids: there’s several hybrid classes between spellcaster and warrior, and every single elf class (there’s three) are hybrids in their nature, with the spellweaver being the most castery of the lot. Also, elves get less spells, and certainly less kaboom than human characters, but still make decent buffers/healers. Though there’s constraints, I do like how free it is, and how there’s little that’s directly restricted to class. With will and determination, you can make fairly potent melee mages and soforth – base classes are just templates to grow from.

Aquiring abilities is all done by trainers however – you can boost them yourself (though in many cases this actually isn’t necessary) but to aquire them period you need to see a trainer. Of course, I may be blind, but I haven’t found anyone to actually train my random assortment of epic heroes in additional melee prowess. There’s been a few spells offered, and base weapon skill, but no actual abilities, defensive or offensive alike. I’m not entirely sure if it’s just something I missed or just hasn’t popped up yet.

One of the things that surprised me with Drakensang so far is its restraints with magical items – the average fantasy RPG-esque thing tends to throw them at you in droves the moment you get out of the tutorial area, or potentially before then; halfway through such a game you might find yourself wielding +10 Longsword of Apocalyptic Ruin. In Drakensang, the amount of magical items I’ve gained total to four – only one as actual loot and not quest reward. I’ve seen a few more up for sale (at insane prices) but it really does strike as if magic something special, rather than a situation where the economy is based around magical items and ye humble farmer is likely to have a +4 Plow of Potatoes.

Though I actually ran across an interesting blacksmith who lived by the motto of turning spades into swords – and actually did offer to make swords out of any spades I handed him to prove the point. (I even tried, he made me a broadsword out of one).

I’ve been having fun with it so far. It’s hardly deep or riveting, but it’s fun and interesting, and seems to avoid a few of the pitfalls most Pen and Paper to PC game conversions tend to fall into. It’s definitely not Mass Effect, not by any stretch, but in the lack of something better, I’ve certainly had fun with it so far. There’s odd moments where it’s rather quirky or frustrating, but by large it’s functional, which is more than I can say for some examples.

Plus, it looks good. That always helps.


3 Responses to “Drakensang: Beware of Evil Trees”

  1. 1 Raz
    April 9, 2009 at 07:26

    Spellchecker at yet service, “tlel”.

    Personally, I think too many games as so far focus on graphics and begin to leave out essentials, such as coding more interesting abilities or putting more effort into ideal spells. Atleast that’s why like to mess about with jass-triggering on WCIIIs map editor.
    Nonetheless, the good read got priority over my books, because your “ranting” holds very insightful content in my future gaming ideals

  2. 2 Nhani
    April 9, 2009 at 07:49

    Negh, good catch. Fixed.

    Graphics is an interesting thing – it, like sound, proper UI design and so forth on can make up for other things being lacking, but not completely so. I’d say graphic design is quite possibly more important than how many polygons you push out at once. In this case, Drakensang not only pushes polygons but uses light and graphics to create a feel about a certain location and to show your avatar. I’d say if there’s one thing that can really draw in people in to a game that’s in third person, it’s letting their character – by extension, them – look cool.

    I’d like to mention though that the one enemy that frightened me the most in any game remains the Haunts from Thief 1 and 2, and 3D model wise they’re something like Quake-era ugly. Instead, the entire impression they have is made up from environment and sound.

    It’s a tradeoff. A game that is really pretty can end up being forgiven some other flaws because “ooh and aah”-factor provides desire to play and progress. A game that’s really immersive can be forgiven other flaws in a similar manner, and so forth. Let’s face it, I spent several hours yesterday playing Spelunky – which is hardly an art wonder but is gleefully compelling even if I’m terrible at it. By contrast, the thing that drew me in to try King’s Bounty some time back was how vibrant the colours were.

  3. February 6, 2013 at 16:35

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    Cook the chicken first in a little olive oil – cut the chicken into little cubes.
    Once the consistency is there, I knead for about a minute.

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