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DRAKENSANG: tRoT – a hidden gem on the PC!

March 3, 2018

The-Dark-Eye b

PROLOGUE

Maybe Drakensang tRoT is in Germany well known in the (PC) gaming scene. But in the Uk/US game community and the rest of the world, this game is afaik near to total unknown.

What for US citizens and most others Dungeons & Dragons is, is for German tabletop role playing gamers DSA – Das Schwarze Auge/The Dark Eye also known in the US/Uk as Realms of Arkania.

Hardcore PRG‘ler with a faible for western/PC RPGs maybe heard already about some Realms of Arkania games in the mid 90‘s, a trillogy called Northlandsaga. A saga told over three games: Sword of Destiny, Startrail and Shadows over Riva.

Back then, I played only the third part of this trilogy (Shadows over Riva), what I always regreted. I always would like to know the whole saga … but I thougt it never will happen … till now (for me surprisingly) the first part of the remake of the trilogy was ported onto consoles. I was so curious about that, dispite standing before the last mainquest, I pauses the River of time, so sneak a little into Blade of Destiny.

I finished now Drakensang: the River of Time and I really wanted to write an review about it … especially cause it‘s such a beauty of a western RPG and in many regions of the world very unknown.

Drakensang the River of Time

It deserve imo more attention, cause it has an unique charme and appearance.

Western RPGs comes in different forms:

  • There are the TES (The Elder Scrolls) inspired games. Big openworldish games, where you navigate, skill and manage one character in the game.
  • The ISO (isometric) RPGs inspired by Baldurs Gate like Divinity: Original Sin (2) and many others.
  • The oldschool Pen&Paper like computer RPGs like the Northlandtrilogy … back the time a regular sub-genre (or the mother of RPG gaming) on home computers and PC. But today threatened by extinction.
  • And games like Drakensang. The battle system is strongly inspired by the Baldurs Gate series, but the word is not only viewed from the isometric perspective, but have a real 3D graphic engine you are often zoomed in while playing. So the game appears different. If you know KOTOR or Dragon Age you know exactely the game Drakensang is about in way of battle system combined with a 3D world.

And yes there are the Action RPGs like Diabolo, but these games are a complete different story. Same for pure Dungeon Crawler which were very pupular back then on PC and today (for me) surprisingly on handhelds. But they have mostly only a hub-world and a huge dungeon, kind of one big tower or underworld, to fight through. So these two are RPG subgenres, I don’t count in.

December 2017 I wanted to play a western RPG, but don‘t to start a new, cause I did not want play so much … but, it came complete different ^^.

So I wanted reenter good old TES Skyrim, just to revisit this great game again. Even if I  have played Skyrim through long ago, theres alway something to do you can sneak in for long or short. I was really appreciated to go back into the world of Skyrim. So much memories on that great game …

… but suprisingly the game crashed everytime I tried to start it. I was annoyed, tried to fix it, but nothing worked. „Damn PC shit“ I thought peevish.

But as it sometimes is, the biggest shit brings things in a new direction. I came to the idea to continue Drakensang tRoT. I remebered that I liked the game a lot but played it only half back then, cause I played before Dragon Age Origins … and normaly I don‘t play two RPGs one after another.

I decided to continue it, clicked the .exe to take a short look at it … only for fun, no serious intention, I was still in the annoying phase caused by the Skyrim crash  … but tRoT hooked me immediately, the setting, the gameplay, the atmosphere, the RPG mechanics … I felt imediately again in home in that game.

GAME OVERVIEW

Realms of Arkania: Drakensang – the River of Time

Drakensang the river of time (2) b

After the installation process I did not need anymore the CD to start the game. The game I purchased needed no non-CD patch, it worked right out of the box. And no Steam or other online approval needed. Very nice. 

Drakensang – tRoT is the successor of Drakensang: the Dark Eye. The games are generally buld with the same game-engine, but afaik is tRoT impoved in graphic and general in details gameplaywise. But this I can‘t say for sure, cause I have now only played tRoT. And theres also a Gold version of tBE I have already (but not played) wich seems to be an updated version of the first Drakensang (improved graphics, etc.).

You can only play this game with mouse and keybord. It works perfect, but for all Joypad fans, this is not supported.

The setting in Drakensang is not so dark like other western RPGs, it is more a bright and positiv atmosphere. I personally like that really a lot!

GAMEPLAY

RPG-MECHANICS

The RPG-mechanics are complex but very well arranged. Here is where the game shines … it‘s complex, but in the same time with its well designed menues kind of a clarity due to its connections between status, charakter developement, rules, weapons/amor, items, alchemy, sorcery, etc.

char weap amor tr

MAPs

On the map you can on any point set a note. In towns, fields or in a dungeon. You can set and name as many marks as you want. That‘s really helpful and works very comfortable. Here you can see the map of the town of Nadoret and enviroment.

Drakensang map bf

Drakensang tRoT is not an openworld RPG like Skyrim. First it‘s a party based RPG and the locations you are, are limmited areas. If you leave an area, it loads the new one. It‘s the same like in Dragon Age Origins.

BATTLE SYSTEM

Drakensang battle pause B

You can choose three difficulties: easy, normal and hard. You can switch between these settings when ever your want. The battle system looks at first sight real time, but is in fact turned based. If you match a group of enemies, the game pauses automaticly. Here you can do the preperations and use the abilities and items of the group or set some strategic elements in pause mode before you start the battle. When the battle is running, your party members walk automaticlly into their combatpositon to attack the enemy. With the mouse you can now use special attacks, magic, items, etc. while the battle is running in real time (but in the back its still strickt turn based!). If you want so set something without hurry, you can everytime pause the battle to organize your battle activities without a hurry. It is the same battle-system you know from games like KOTOR or Dragon Age Origins. A unique feature of the Realms of Arcania rules are that your characters suffers often injuries in the battle. So after a fight, you have often to heal the wounds of your group members by items or magic stuff. So take care if you level your characters up, to push the values which makes them more robust against injuries. Injuries here are really part of the RPG-system!.

Drakensang battle b

I made a short gameplay-footage video to show a battle, it was anywhere in the middle of the game – but spoiler alert for a sidequest incoming! In this fight I set the commands while the battle is running. But you can always pause/freeze the battle and rotate the camera via mouse free over the battlefield to set your strategic commands without a hurry! Sorry for the quality, I filmed it simple with a cam onscreen a while ago. I can’t capture with my old PC.

YT gameplay-footage – Drakensang tRoT sidequest (spoiler) ‘Black Amazons Soulrescue’

PARTY MANAGEMENT

CHARACTER MANAGEMENT AND SKILLS

Note: the skill tipps I write here is simple a result of my play. If you want a professional guide, visite Gamefaqs.

You can choos wich weapon each char shell use and master. Each charakter has to level up the weapon seperately. So if you skill you char for swords, it means not that the char can use an epee, saber or rapier. They have different skill slots. And its not that they level automaticly by using them like in Skyrim. In Drakensang tRoT you earn points and these points you have to decide how to invest in wich skill. Want you set your points into weapon-skills, defensive skills, on one of your generell char-attributes or others. It’s a very classic role playing mechanic and is faithfully orientated on the pen and paper game “the Dark Eye”.

Drakensang Skilltree b

To levelup your skilltree you have to learn these from an instructor.

Drakensang SKILLTREE (2)b

I try to show it a bit, by explaining some parts of the character developement I did in my group.

THIS IS ONLY AN EXAMPLE – YOU WILL TRAIN YOUR GROUP BY YOUR OWN PREFERENCES.

In the levelsystem you each of you character for her/his primary tasks. But each char has additional attributes you can level-up I list some for each in form of additional skills. I played the german version, so I translated it freely, hope its correct 🙂

Amazon – weapon: sword, saber

In the character creation at the start of the game, I decided for an Amazon. Here it‘s free to choose gender, classes, attributes, a.s.o. as you know it from other western RPGs. So you can build freely your own charakter and class you want to play. I train her first to become strong to fight alongside with the tank of the group Forgrim (dwarf).

I took care for additional skills:

  • people knowledgeable
  • persuade

Waldläufer (ranger): Fayris – weapons: bow, Säbel + magic

It‘s imo necessary to have at least one magic focused party member in the group. I trained my females long range weapon/bow-char into magic and alchemie. I also trained this char into naturopathy (disembowel animals, etc.). So I did not choose a full fledged mage in my party, but to train one char focused on that topic to do the job. Afaik magic-attack is in tRoT less effective than weapons, so I skilled my mage-char into healing, alchemy and such.

Therefore my bow/long range weapon char is not only my magician but also relevant for alchemy – so it‘s necessary to train her to handle plants and downhunted animals.

I took care for additional skills:

  • bow making
  • wilderness life
  • botany
  • zoology
  • set traps

The thief: Cuano – weapon: epee

In the game you will meet Cuano. He‘s the thief in the game. Battlewise I skilled him to support the other partymembers in front battle via epee. He‘s not the strongest, but still very helpful, sometimes I let him fight in defence style. But not always.

But he’s a thief – and so his additional skills are the primary ones.

I took care for additional skills:

  • pickpocketing
  • pick locks (chests)
  • sneak
  • defuse traps (or build one if you want)
  • beguile other people
  • bargain
  • Acuity (sharp senses)

The dwarf: Forgrim the tank – weapon: axe

Forgrim is the most easy to train char, cause his role is simply the tank in the group. So you don‘t have to regard much when give earned experience points into attributes to level your char up.

I took care for additional skills:

  • forge
  • dwarf nose
  • Gassenwissen – don’t know how to translate this – it’s about knowledge in the town, the gossip, local things, or so. To be honest, I don’t know if these ever worked for me in the game. The same for dwarf nose. He was my tank and forger. If these other things did anything, I did not notice ^^

But thats only my party … you can create/skill your party total differently. If you want e.g. a Mage in your group, you have to add Jaakon. In a quest you have to decide who to rescue first afaik. Jaakon or Fayris. If you decide to help Jaakon first, he will join your group.

You can give any char an offensive or defensive fighting style. Long range weapon chars you choose of cause defensive, If you want your char in front of the battle, you choose for your stronger chars offensive and for your bit weaker chars (Thief) the defensive style.

Generally for all characters you should take care on SELF-CONTROLE –  a high self-controle prevents wounds … and wounds are a essential gameplay feature in the Drakensang rules (and RoA/DSA in general)

RPG game mechanics:

To give a closer look onto tRoT I will give a little example (spoiler!!):

If you walk around the area outside the city of Nadoret, you will meet the three Trolls Brullbu, Krolmum and Mombo. Like in other RPGs you can choose in this case between two options: fight or dialog.

But to be able to get the dialog option, you need the people skills/knowledge about humans level 10. If you have not reached this level yet, you cannot choose the dialog option, but have to fight them.

If one of your chars have already people skills/knowledge about humans level 10 the Troll will offer you a quest and tells you about their preference for candy. Not every candy, they love “Koschammezungen”. The Quest then is clear, find their beloved candy and bring it to them, to be let through. You get this candy from a man called Krumme Otto. But he gives you the item only, if you have one char with zoology level 10 at least. If not you will not find it in Ottos inventory.

But don‘t worry, you don‘t have to understand which ability and skill you need for each item, answer or what ever. But you should generally understand that this effects your gameplay and so skill a character in zoology, another in people skills/knowledge about humans a.s.o..

So it is importand to skill each char toward its strenght and abilities you want to develop on every char in your group.

CRAFTING

You can do the typical kind of crafting as you‘re used in a western RPG. To be able to execute this abilities you have to buy and use recipes or got teached by an instructor.

  • Alchemy (make portions and more)
  • Blacksmithing (weapon, armor)
  • Bowery (bows, arrows, missiles, etc)

Drakensang smithing b

WORLD

  • not an Open Word – limited locations, but big enough for exploration and the locations are build with a lot of love in details.
  • can‘t go in every building. Only some buildings you can enter (tavern, thiefsguild, etc). But that does not bother here, because everything is presented very coherent.

STORY

The story is not to save the world … yeah maybe still the generic rescue the kingdom shit. But it’s told on a much more personal level on the characters. And I‘m really happy about that! I don‘t wanna spoil, so only a quick impression. In many western RPGs the storytelling is often lacking, but here tRoT brings a quite good told and good paced story. It‘s nothing groundbreaking. Like in most western RPGs, the complex RPG mechanics and the world you walking though is the star of the game. But the story frames the game here very good and is nice and character-based told. No comparison to the weak storytelling of the TES series and also better told then Dragon Age Origins. Yes I love TES, but it‘s imo the weakpoint of the series.

The story is told in two parts: in short movies and general ingame talk

Drakensang storytelling CGI b

Drakensang storytelling ingame b

The world of tRoT is as mentioned no open world like in Skyrim. But you have different parts of the world where you can walk freely … you have loading times between them. And yeah, the loading times are a bit annoying. But nothing terrible, once you loaded an area or a Dungeon, you only rarely need to load a new section. For some buildings yes, but I think it’s minor at all.

THE GRAPHIC:

For 2017 standards the game is of course a bit dated. But therefore it‘s a PC game it looks with full details still decent. Imo much better than many smaller to mid-budget titles on PSN or XBL.

Grass, hills, nature looks even still pretty imho.

Drakensang nature (3) b

Drakensang nature (1) b

Drakensang nature (2) b

And villages like Natoret looks still good imo, cause of the pretty style of the game I like, even if the textures are of course low res.

Some locations than look really dated like the elf tree. But for me no problem – I like the look of the game in general, even if you can see that it has aged on many textures … but I have also no problems to play older games. But decide for yourself.

Drakensang ship b

Drakensang Elvetree 1b

THE SOUND:

The sound is like in most western RPGs more ambient based. But here also the Soundtrack of tRoT differs a bit. I playes classic themes with strings, a.s.o..  That adds really a beautiful and relaxed atmosphere to the game. It‘s imo perfect to sink into the word. Especially the overworld themes I like. The dungeons themes are a bit simpler, but matches the atmosphere also perfect.

The FX are also very well designed, so no complains here at all!

Speech: the speach/voices are a weakpoint imo. I play the game with german voices, so maybe you have more luck by playing the game localized in english. But the german voices are a bit sad … everything works so good together to create the really nice atmosphere of the game.

Summery

THE STRENGTH OF THE GAME:

  • the RPG elements
  • great battle system
  • great atmosphere and a beautiful crafted world
  • classical music, mostly very relaxing, always perfect to the atmoshpere to the location.
  • good told story, especially for an western RPG.
  • very nice and unique artstyle.

CRITICS

The game is great and I love it, but there of course some critics I have to mention:

  • a failed steal has no consequences
  • As you maybe know it e.g. from Dragon Age, your party is in tRoT also gossiping. But here it repeats much to often.
  • Same issue for town gossip – they say always the same.
  • The german speech is very medioca … maybe the english is better. I have played the german lanuage version, so I can’t tell anything about the enlish localization.
  • You have different choices to answer, but no real consequences as a result
  • CPUs/citizens have no daily life-cycle, they are simple scripted. They stand mostly on the same spot, walking the same routes, talking the same.

EPILOGUE – CONCLUSION

Maybe that seems many critics, but the positive elements overshining the critics tatally, that at the end the critics have very less weight while playing.

The strengths of the game dominates the impression and the gaming experience. The critics influences the game experiences much less. Maybe that you can steal everything from everyone without consequences is the greatest flaw within the critics, but the rest falls under the floor.

At last it was maybe good that Skyrim crashed, yes I was very unhappy about … but I think I maybe never continued that beautiful game then. And I played already enough Skyrim, but Drakensang tRoT only by half … so at the end I‘m lucky with it.

Even this game is now 7-8 years old, this game looks still decent. Imo it even looks still good, cause of its own graphic style the game has. Yes many textures lookin dated, but other objects still good like the grass, the hills etc. …. and the artstyle makes it even kind of pretty in my eyes. Nadoret with its medi-age architecture looks beautiful … other areas like the Elves tree more dated.

If you love party-based RPGs … this is imo a must play for you!1

It‘s a real classic!1 My personal Rating: 8.7/10 – this game matches my taste of games pretty perfect.

The River of Time is the second game of the Drakensang games. I played till now only the second one, but If you’re sure you want to play both … play the Dark Eye first, cause you can transfer the savegame of your party over to the River of Time.

Here are some ratings from magazines back the time when the game was released:

PC Games (Ger) Feb 18, 2010 87 out of 100 87
GamersGlobal Feb 15, 2010 8.5 out of 10 85
GameStar (Ger) Feb 16, 2010 85 out of 100 85
Gamer.nl Oct 28, 2010 8 out of 10 80
Eurogamer.de Feb 08, 2010 8 out of 10 80

 

Drakensang the river of time (5) b

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