Monday, November 21, 2011

Perkunas' Dragon Episode One (XBLIG): "Slovanic Mythology Told Through Shmup, RPG & Puzzle Gameplay"

I'm a huge fan of any kind of mythology. I remember spending countless hours reading up on Greek, and Egyptian myths at the local library during the earlier part of my life. With that being said my interest in mythology spanned all cultures, and civilizations. I often dreamed of becoming an archaeologist, and some day unearthing the remnants/histories of long forgotten civilizations. Of course I abandoned that dream to become the reviewer that I am today (^.^). While reviewing video games is far from finding lost civilizations, and their mythologies it still allows me to spend time in mythologies of the digital kind. Middle Lands Studios, the developer behind the "Perkunas' Dragon" series kindly allowed me to review their first game in what's supposed to be a series based on a mythological Slovanic tale. It involves The god Perkunas, a prayer from a desperate duke (Duke Radbod), and Zithira the dragoness which Perkuna has sent to him as an answer to his prayer ...

Perkunas' Dragon Ep.1 follows the story of Zithira the dragoness who was sent as an answer to a duke's prayer for his people. It seems while the people of Duke Radbod's land prayed, and served their gods with great dedication hard times still fell on them and their land. When a disease was unleashed on the duke's people he turned to Perkunas in hopes that his prayer to end the people's suffering would be answered. What he got instead was Zithira who began her journey far from the designation where she had been intended to be. The intro to "Perkunas' Dragon Ep.1" is a beautifully narrated tale that is told by a female voice actor who seems to be of a Slovanic descent. The visual story features some original art that compliments the story quite nicely, and accents the mythological plot as well. As the gamer you control Perkunas' dragoness Zithira through a quest that spans several missions. Your goal is to make it to Duke Radbod, and fulfill your god given purpose.

There are 4 different difficulty settings (easy, medium, hard, Japan) in "Perkunas' Dragon Ep.1". Each difficulty setting gets significantly more difficult, and the Japan setting is the toughest of them all. The game revolves around three game genres (shooter/shmup, RPG, puzzle), and combines them in a manner that may be somewhat difficult to grasp at first. If you pay close attention to each missions' objectives you'll definitely have a better understanding of what is going on though. Within "Perkunas' Dragon Ep.1" you (the gamer) pilot Zithira the dragoness who can use a variety of attacks (Fireball, Wild Fire ... ), and spells (Sword, Light Prison, Blind Wanderer, Air Coffin ...) to destroy enemies/solve puzzles. Perkunas' Dragon Ep.1 features a leveling system that gives you the opportunity to enhance your primary weapons, spells, and even gives you the option of purchasing a limited supply of health/mana refills. Mana is the power source that allows you to cast/use spells in the game, and every spell that you cast costs a certain amount of mana points. Aside from the limit of mana you also have a limit of life/health, so keeping tabs on those meters is very much a necessity in the game. The puzzle, and shooter/shmup part of the game go hand in hand, and require some quick/focused thinking in order to complete the game's wide variety of objectives.

Perkunas' Dragon Ep.1 features two modes of gameplay (campaign & dragon's arena). As I mentioned previously in this review there is the campaign that tells the story of the dragon who is on a mission to answer Duke Radbod's prayers. The campaign itself features different possible paths (via the map/ 'Y' button), and objective based levels. It picks up where the intro to the game left off, and where Perkunas' dragoness Zithira is trying to find her way to Duke Radbod. In the campaign you fly across level after level solving puzzles (matching blocks ...), facing boss battles, fighting off enemies and helping the people with their problems. These goals are achieved through the use of your fireball attacks, and spells that are made available from the get go/as you level up. The second part to "Perkunas' Dragon Ep.1" is 'Dragon's Arena'. This mode is a survival based mode that pits Perkunas" dragoness Zithira up against other dragons, and mythological boss creatures. Your goal in this mode is simply to survive as long as you can, and use earned skill points to level up your weapons/spells as you play. To defeat the dragons in this mode you will need to use the 'Blind Wanderer' spell, and drag them into the opened portal which appears after their life bar has been depleted.

The controls/gameplay mechanics in "Perkunas' Dragon Ep.1" are a little more complicated than they should be in my honest opinion. While movement (Left Thumbstick) is easy to pick up on, dealing with the attacks, spells, and puzzle solving mechanics is a lot more involved/difficult. The game has a fairly good tutorial that goes over the games controls/gameplay with you as you progress through the first few stages, but some of it definitely needs more explanation. In fact I found myself clueless in one level, because I missed out on the objectives that were briefly displayed. I ended up having to repeat the level a few times to truly understand it. During my playthrough I found that this isn't really a casual game that can be picked up, and jumped right into. You'll have to pay close attention to every levels' objectives as they are given if you want to complete the game at all. As for the 'Dragon's Arena' mode hardly anything was explained, but most of what you needed to know was taught in the game's campaign mode.

In the end I found "Perkunas' Dragon Ep.1" to be a very interesting game. I definitely loved the mythological aspect of the game, and the fact that 'Middle Lands Studios' incorporated three different video game genres in it. The beginning of "Perkunas' Dragon Ep.1" featured one of the best narrated indie game intros I have heard yet. It's what you'd expect from a high end RPG video game. As for the gameplay I was a little frustrated with having to deal with so much stuff at once while trying to survive constant attacks from enemies. I found that a lot of the enemy's attacks are difficult to avoid in the game. Another issue I noticed is that your attacks in the game seem to miss the target/enemy on a frequent basis. I had difficulty in 'Dragon's Arena' trying to hit the dragons, and bosses with my primary weapons (fireballs ...). The spell targeting system seemed a little clumsy at times as well. The puzzles in the game were also unnecessarily puzzling at times. In one instance I couldn't solve a block puzzle properly due to the fact that the details on the block weren't easily noticeable. There were just too many issues for me to enjoy the game. It was definitely a great concept though, but the gameplay just wasn't executed in a user friendly manner. Unfortunately I'm going have to say skip this one. The game just has to much going on to be properly functional.

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