The world is in chaos. Some fool paladin has gone and killed the last of the great dragons and now all the magic in the world has dried up. It is up to you and the other three members of your band of heroes to restore balance to the world by solving the mystery of the Dragon Tears.
You can’t say that Drakkhen doesn’t have a decent enough story behind it. Should you take the time to read the manual that accompanies this game you will be treated to a very detailed accounting of the events that lead up to the point at which the game begins. Unfortunately, the game developers could have done a lot more to integrate the story into the game. The problem that Drakkhen has is that while the story defines the main objective of your party there are no side plots within the game to create quests and no interesting non-playing characters to be met in the entire game. There are a couple of non-playing characters that are in the game to provide direction or clues but they have absolutely zero character development and often have nothing useful or interesting to say. I found it disappointing that such effort was put into the game documentation but so little was put into developing characters and storyline within the game.
Another problem that I had with Drakkhen is that battle is done in real time taking away many of the strategy components that can add to the enjoyment. The strategy for battle in Drakkhen is pretty much limited to making sure that your party is equipped properly before the battle begins. That includes determining what spells are to be used. It is possible to change weapons and armor in battle but it is usually difficult to control the casting of spells unless attack mode is turned off. Unfortunately when attack mode is turned off it is nearly impossible to control all four party members simultaneously. The party member equipped with a spell during battle (if attack mode is on) will simply repeatedly cast the spell until their magic points are depleted. Also, there does not seem to be a way of controlling which enemy a party member will attack (again with attack mode on) when there is more than one to choose from. In a nutshell, battle in Drakkhen is clumsy and often unsatisfying.
The environment in Drakkhen is about a fifty-fifty split between traveling outdoors between destinations and navigating indoors, through one of the Dragon Castles, in search of weapons, armor and artifacts. The outdoor travels are done in first person perspective until the party encounters an adversary or NPC at which time the game switches into third party perspective so that the player can control and observe each party member independently. The indoor castle navigation is done entirely in third person as it is often necessary to have party members in different rooms at the same time. It is the castle navigation and ensuing battles and traps that are the redeeming feature of Drakkhen. Almost all of the strategy necessary to succeed in this game is involved in getting through the castles without running out of hit points and losing party members through death. Since the game does not allow the player to save inside a castle you may find that many short excursions are necessary while finding an exit occasionally so as to get outside the castle where saving is allowed. Without a doubt that is the part of the game that is the most fun.
Maps are not provided in Drakkhen (at least not in the PC version). It is up to the player to find their way around both indoors and out. Neither is there an adequate explanation of the many potions you will discover. The game developers obviously want the player to have to experiment to find what is successful in different situations. The outdoor environment that makes up the game world consists of four different geographic areas. The areas are the icy region, the marshy region, the forested region and the desert region. Each region has its own level of difficulty and its own native bestiary.
The inventory for each party member is only capable of carrying eight items. Inventory management is one of the more challenging aspects to Drakkhen. It is impossible to discard an item in the game and come back and pick it up later. Once you discard it, it is gone. In addition to inventory there are another eight positions that are filled with weapons and armor. When a foe is killed the party member with the kill assumes whatever goodies the foe had and they are automatically put in that member’s inventory or weapons cache. It is important to leave at least one inventory/cache slot open or items will not be received. It is extremely important to leave a slot open when conversing with a Dragon Prince or Princess so as to receive any gifts they might offer.
The weapons and armor, as is usually the case, exist in a hierarchy as to their effectiveness. You don’t really know which weapons are better than others until you use them or try to sell them at the weapon smith\'s. The game developers could have made the game better by having different weapons with different effects on different adversaries. As the game is, however, a weapon seems to have the same relative effectiveness no matter who the foe might be. There are many spells to be used but some are of limited effectiveness. Here again, experimentation is the key.
Drakkhen was an innovative game for it’s time. Many of the RPGs of that day were Ultima clones that offered little in the way of innovation. Drakkhen used a combination of first and third person perspective as well as a blending of two and three dimensional environments. Drakkhen also provided the ability to control the party as a unit or each party member individually. While strong in technical innovation Drakkhen lacks in what I think is the most important aspect of a good RPG … interesting characters and an evolving plot that submerses the player into the game world. Drakkhen deserves a rating somewhere between 3 and 4 in my opinion. It is a game that should be experienced but certainly not one that is unforgettable.
The manual uses a native Draconian alphabet to name the spells and potions. Figuring out the alphabet (and thus the names of the spells and potions) is meant to be part of the game.
There is only one slot in which to save a game. You must be very careful before saving as all previous save games are lost.
When the game loads it will prompt you for the display type. Select “F2 EGA”. If you wish to create your own party members (as opposed to having the game give you default characters) remember to select “F1 Create” when given the opportunity when loading the game for the first time.
Other ports of this game for different game consoles play differently from the PC version. This review applies to the PC version only.
Tech Tips: If you play the game in DOSBox you will need to adjust the cycles down to the 750-1000 range. Run DRAKKHEN.COM to start the game.