Sierra is now two-thirds of the way through its Legend of Spyro trilogy, but neither 2006's A New Beginning nor last year's The Eternal Night has done much to make this a saga worth remembering. Sierra will be aiming to end on a high note with Dawn of the Dragon, a game that we got to see in action on the Xbox 360 earlier this month.
Perhaps because we weren't able to grab a controller, our attention immediately fell on the impressive visual upgrade. Dawn of the Dragon marks Spyro's first appearance on the latest generation of consoles (the Wii notwithstanding). Visually, it looks as if new developer Etranges Libellules--a French studio whose name translates to "Strange Dragonfly"--is taking full advantage of the new hardware. The first level that we saw looked great; it's set in a fantasy landscape with vibrant pastels used to color the overlooking mountains and sunset. Another level depicted an underground catacomb with Spyro fighting a massive golem among pits of lava. The colors and effects here looked equally impressive, despite the disparity in settings. One more important visual detail is Spyro's slight transformation. He has grown up a bit and has left behind his familiar baby-dragon image.
The biggest addition to the gameplay is Cynder, a female dragon who trails you at all times. Cynder can be controlled by a second player in co-op mode on the fly, without the need to start a new file. We're told that she controls quite differently from Spyro, including different attacks and animations. Some of the ways Cynder is used include necessary teamwork in platforming segments, such as those times when Spyro can't make it across a gap on his own, or in a puzzle that requires two simultaneous inputs. Another new addition is grappling, as well as a combo system heavily inspired by the God of War series. You'll also notice a heavier emphasis on flying; Spyro can go a full 10 meters in the sky whenever he likes.
You'll be able to customize Spyro in a handful of ways. One is by directly upgrading his combat and platforming techniques. Another is through the armor system. You can unlock new bits of armor that not only change the look of the character, but also his attributes. When you're decked out in a complete suit of matching dragon armor, you'll earn an extra bonus.
Just like in previous games, Sierra has inked a number of celebrities to provide voice work for the game's characters. Cynder will be played by Christina Ricci, and other well-known voices on the roster include Elijah Wood, Gary Oldman, Wayne Brady, and Mark Hamill.
As we mentioned, the version that we saw running was for the Xbox 360, but Dawn of the Dragon will also be coming out on several other systems. Those include the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii, and DS. The release of The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon is scheduled for later this year.