Game of the Moment: Drakkhen

There are few games that can inspire a sense of true exploration; a feeling of awe at how large or detailed they can be.  Fewer still are the games that can bring out that feeling even after you’ve beaten them.  For some reason, despite being only a so-so game in nearly every other respect, Drakkhen (of a few systems, though most notably the SNES) still holds uncounted mysteries in my mind.

Drakkhen Field

The most likely source of this awe is simply that the game is so abominably random.  I never owned the instruction book, and the introduction only gives vagaries as to the plot (blah blah, 4 elements, 2 poles of power).  Fact is, you create a party and start in the middle of the Earth area with little direction.  You’re told that you have to collect 8 Tears of Power, and that you should check at the nearby castle first.   Oh, the introductory information tells you a decent amount about the game’s system.  What it *doesn’t* tell you, though, is what’s ironically most important.

For example, observe.
Evil dog!

This mysterious black dog head will attack you if you bump into a grave.  Any grave.  It will also pretty much kill your entire party if you blunder into it before you’re level 15 or so – better have the best equipment just in case.

Combat in general is quite random.  You move your selected character around, and if you walk into enemies he or she will occasionally attack.  It’s vaguely like the Gauntlets, but more just painful.  To be fair, if you know what you’re doing the game’s none too rough – you can get all your equipment from the various castles, and it regenerates if you move two areas away, so you can max out on the Power Armor as soon as you find it (in one of the Water castles, I think).  Bows are crucial for the late-game as yet another random encounter starts popping up – at night, if you look at the constellations funny, they come down and start attacking you.  Yes, the constellations will beat the crap out of your party – often, if you don’t have bows.  If that weren’t enough, you have all sorts of bizarre and occasionally unfair random encounters, like giants crawling out of the ground or slimes that will crush any early-game party.

Hordkhen’s place

As if the game weren’t random enough, I distinctly remember the early-game: after you go into Hordkhen’s castle and talk to him, he sends you to the other side of the Earth area.  There is a huge verboten line across the whole Earth continent for some hellish reason, and if you try to cross it you’ll get stopped by a guard.  This guard manages to simultaneously be everywhere along the line at once.  The solution?

Obvious security flaw

Yes, the solution is to go around the line.  There’s an area just perfect to slip by – not far enough into the other region that you’re in danger, but enough outside the line the soldier can’t stop you.  I have played few games where the solutions I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to use feel so jury-rigged.

Even the merchants in the game are random encounters – old men who teleport in and have goods based on the area.  Sometimes they just want to chat, though.  Never had a random encounter in any other game where some batty old wizard pops in, says one line of dialogue, then warps out.

All in all, though, despite how raw the game feels, it’s quite natural.  You can save wherever you want, so it’s not especially unfair either.  It’s not that the game was made to be unforgiving – it’s that the world you live in hates humans in general.  Even though I’ve beaten it twice, every so often this game still calls out to me, as if there are still areas I haven’t explored, constellations I haven’t conquered, and loot hiding in the dungeon of a castle I haven’t plundered yet.  Every so often I hear the soft, calming music while wandering the world map, avoiding sharks on drawbridges (oh yeah, watch out for that second castle)… ahh, great memories.

I would never recommend this game to someone who was looking for anything easy or logical, but it’s entertaining enough and has pretty good music, too.  It’d score about average on a fair rating scale, but it’s enjoyable enough and not very long if you FAQ a bit instead of wondering what to do.

No, I’m not bringing back Game of the Day.  I have neither enough games nor enough motivation, but I’m planning to cover random games as I remember them.


  1. Lord Yuan Shu Said,

    February 9, 2008 @ 11:35 am


  2. jay Said,

    March 5, 2008 @ 8:15 pm

    My brother had this for the Amiga and I was obsessed with it as a kid because it was so much better looking than any other game I played at the time. The SNES version plus 15 years of time really make the game lose something. And it is absurdly random and cruel – I like the constellation deaths best I think.

  3. Chris Wright Said,

    April 8, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

    A very nice summary of probably the BEST GAME of all time. Well, maybe not, but while everything else fades into obsurity, Drakkhen retains an aura of mystery and otherworldliness than I keep coming back to. Love this game!

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment