Upon entering the lecture hall at Genericon XXVIII, looking forward to a panel discussion on the financial, time-sensitive, and resource management trappings of game development, The Con Artists’ speaker Scott Fermeglia wasted no time with formal introductions and audience pandering; he sprang right into action in The Con Artists’ Burn on Sight! Bad Games panel and delivered his dismembering argument on why I should avoid Drakengard 3 at all costs.
The Con Artists, founded in 2008, have dedicated themselves over the years to warning fans about bad anime and video games, as well as championing the cream of the crop in both mediums. Many of these assessments are then compiled and presented at Genericon every year. This year, Drakengard 3 was a target of their crucifixion. And after sitting through Scott’s presentation, I have no intention in ever playing Drakengard 3, ever.
Drakengard 3 – released in the west on May 20 and 21 of last year on PlayStation 3 – has been received as a rather divisive action RPG that follows Zero, this installment’s proud heroine, as she’s tasked with assassinating her five Intoners, or sisters: One, Two, Three, Four, and Five. No, I did not just break out into a Death Clock chant, those are the actual names of her five sisters. The characterization and dialogue making up the story has fallen into the descriptive range from “nothing short of a masterpiece” and “having a unique touch” to “an incomprehensible mess” and “indulges the most juvenile elements of developer imagination”. I’ll let you be the judge:
Say what you will, but I’m sure most of us can agree that this is no masterpiece.
Scott dissected the haphazard focus of Drakengard 3’s tone and pieced together how it performs ungraceful narrative gymnastics, jumping from one theme to another:
They can’t really seem to settle on what tone it’s pushing. Sometimes it’s matter of fact: Zero’s on a mission to kill her sisters and nothing’s gonna stand in her way. Other times she’s on a killing spree, taking as many people as she can.
But when presenting an overview of Drakengard’s colorful cast, it didn’t take long for Scott to convince me that Octa (the cowardly old man), and Mikhail (the dragon with the excruciatingly high pitch voice) are some of the most obnoxious companions anyone would have the misfortune to adventure with in a video game.
Drakengard 3 is packed to the gills with sex talk and witless innuendos. He mentions how Drakengard 3 goes out of its way to reference sex with many of its cast. But amid the subtle characterizations such as domineering Dito and submissive Decadus, the game’s resident pervert, Octa, is the conduit of all things regarding boning.
Octa takes credit for raising the bar of the “pervy old man” trope to unspeakable heights with lines such as: “Pretty much anything will make me hard,” “I need 72 straight hours of self-pleasure before I’m ready for combat,” and “Just the sight of her love pantry was enough to make my snake spring from the can.” These masturbatory lines of self-disclosure aren’t without his litany of on the nose (I don’t want any of that near my nose) pet names for his schlong such as “sandworm”, “hobby horse” and “man banana”.
In Scott’s own words: I can’t tell if it’s impressive or pathetic that they thought of a completely different euphemism for penis every time he mentions it.
While Octa seems utterly repulsive, just a few short minutes of listening to Mikhail’s voice made me want to hunt him down with a pair of leather gloves and a piano wire. The presentation moved into Drakengard 3’s riff on the Panzer Dragoon series where Mikhail opens up the sequence with this child-like song that Scott called “Mikhail Theater”:
♪ Doo-do doo-do doo-do doo-do doo-do doo-do doo! My name is Mikhail! My name is Mikhaiiil! ♪
♪ I really love me some Ze-e-rooo! ♪
♪ I’m not a stinky dragon nor am I a dirty dragon! ♪
♪ Hop on my back and let’s go for a ride! ♪
… … …
♪ Doo-do doo-do doo-do doo-do doo-do doo-do doo! ♪ …
Well, you get the point.
Scott: In case you were wondering, if you do lose the battle, you gotta listen to all that again.
Teeth-grindingly annoying singing is par for the course when looking at many attempts at comedy in video games. However nothing prepared me for what Access Games’ writers thought would be funny in this following Mikhail scene (Feel free to kill it with fire at 1:22):
Setting aside the presumed abhorrent script, Scott criticized Drakengard 3’s pacing and gameplay. He pointed out the repetitive enemies and environments, and showed clips of useless party members and hilariously stupid enemy forces. Now, I’m not ignorant to the possibility that Scott may have cherry picked AI glitches and camera hang ups to strengthen his dissertation on Drakengard 3. In fact, the overall critical reception to the game’s combat has been rather positive. However I, nor the audience, could get enough of how the game seemed to refuse to allow him to end his “eternal unhappiness”.
Spoilers: As Zero slays her final sister, One, she’s run through by One’s brother, who I’d assume might make her Zero’s brother in some way. Zero then collapses and drifts away in a own pool of blood, before the scene fades to black and the credits roll. But after a brief epilogue scene capturing One’s brother and a mysterious narrator, six frightening words appear on the screen:
Branch A Complete.
Branch B Unlocked
Scott: All this work and it feels as if you’ve only played the prologue!
He then took us through not one, not two, but three more branches of Drakengard 3’s story, with the fourth – Branch D – walled off by “The Lost Verses” (or lost chapters) and a nonsensical requirement to own all 62 of the game’s weapons before initiating the final branch.
Scott: As having become something of standard in games, there’s always something new waiting to screw you.
I will spare you the details of the countless hours of grinding and pointless quests. I got all the weapons, now we’re ready to do this thing.
Branch D, according to Scott, is no slouch as he narrated his slog through having to fight Zero’s sisters again, before reaching the “really real, actual final battle for reals this time”.
Now, as we near the conclusion of his story, it’s worth noting that the first Drakengard game had previous form for one notorious final boss battle. Scott was sure to emphasize this. Here, we were presented with what is easily the worst boss battle I’ve ever seen in my entire gaming career. Since words cannot do this abomination justice, enjoy this video in its full duration:
I believe “fuck you” is the correct way to respond to this.
So in conclusion, I’m confident in declaring, in the most informal way possible as a self-proclaimed games critic, that Drakengard 3 looks like a very bad game. The Con Artists’ Scott Fermeglia has helped me reach this conclusion with samples of the game’s tasteless writing, unpolished gameplay, bloated campaign, and unforgivable final boss battle. Hopefully this was as helpful to you as it was to me at the Burn on Sight! Bad Games panel at Genericon XXVIII.
You can watch the full 36 minute presentation below.