Perkuna is a god, of something or some sort. An apparently inept leader, Duke of wherever has prayed to the gods to save his people from a devastating plague. Perkuna, always the cheeky bastard, instead sends a red dragon to destroy the Duke. Only somehow this dragon-owning god sends his dragon to the wrong land. Also there is a blue witch of some sort involved.
If this description seems lacking there are two primary reasons for it. One, the story is lacking from the start and rather than asking how this “series” will be more than one episode, you should simply ask why; why would it take more than one game to work through this plot? The other reason for the lackluster story breakdown is that not only did the game do little to really make me interested; it did even less to make me want to finish the game to see where the story went. Admittedly, the story is supposedly based on Slavic mythology, of which most non-Slavic people likely know very little about, so it is possible that they are doing the best they can with their source material.
The Dragon, lost in a land it is not familiar with, must fight off hordes of birds and flies (and probably some other stuff too) in order to find its way. In doing so the game presents you with a classic top down shooter experience, having the game scroll along as you fly around the screen shooting at various enemies. Unlike most top down shooters though, Perkunas’ Dragon does try to do something different. Incorporating “puzzles” and RPG-esque elements into the game is an interesting twist. It is not always a game of flying forward and shooting things (like most top down shooters), you gain experience, level up skills/magic and even occasionally have to sort out puzzles, basic and rudimentary as they may be. The highest praise I can heap onto Perkunas’ Dragon comes from this fact: Middle Lands Studios tried to do something a little different.
Visually the game is hard to criticize or praise. Everything kind of looks like a painting, which is an interesting look and creates some interesting visuals. It also sort of looks like a painting that isn’t very good at times, and the way the graphics are implemented in the game sometimes resulted in weird moments where enemies exploded partly behind a background image or certain attacks seemed to make the different “layers” of visuals very apparent. Possibly the most damning aspect though is that interesting as the art style may be, it led to a very confusing, hard to sort out gaming experience. Often the screen flashes or the game goes about making it literally impossible to see what you are doing, combined with crazy amounts of small enemies and a somewhat shaky collision detection leaves gameplay hectic, in a bad way. This isn’t even getting into the fact that you can only shoot in the direction you are flying (and initially your main weapon fires so slow you can easily fly past it, which, I mean… physics anyone?) yet the game seems to make no account for this in how enemies often appear on the screen. Though some of the magic attacks help with that.
Special attacks or the magic attacks (whatever you want to call them) also add an interesting dynamic to the game but the game doesn’t offer much explanation up front about how to properly use them. After digging around a little you can figure it out, but hop into the game expecting it to tell you what to do and you’ll die, probably pretty quick. A lack of clear objectives and instructions also plague the game, and in one specific case was directly responsible for me giving up on the game (clearly I was supposed to do something but what I was supposed to do was unclear so the boss I had just barely survived a fight with suddenly had full health again and I was quickly back on the Xbox home page).
Perkunas’ Dragon: Episode One is mostly disappointing in that the trailer actually gives hope for a solid gaming experience. What it actually offers though is a game that tried to do so many things that it never nailed any of them as well as it should have. Confusing and sometimes (seemingly) broken gameplay, combined with a weak story (and weaker dialogue), graphics that sometimes seem lazy and less than clear objectives sink this title that might have otherwise been something to cheer. In the end it feels like Perkunas’ Dragon just fails to capitalize on a lot of good ideas. Whether it was rushed to the marketplace or the victim of a bad development process (too many cooks in the kitchen perhaps?), too many things simply work poorly (or at least don’t work well) to overlook; especially when the asking price (240 MSP or $3) is three times more than most XBLIG’s. Only the most enthusiastic top down shooter fan eager to see some new/interesting ideas implemented into the genre is likely to enjoy this one.
Though some of you may enjoy this “rap” made for the game:
Final Rating: 5/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Time to completion: No idea, I am simply not that patient.
Gamer Score Earned: N/A
Price Bought at: N/A – Copy furnished by Middle Lands Studios
Current Price: 240 Microsoft Points ($3)
Recommend Purchase Price: If you are really interested I’d wait (hopefully) for a price drop to $1.
Why you should buy it: Top down shooters give you gamegasms.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: Dragons give you gas.