Hands-onDragon Rage

3DO brings by a playable version of its upcoming dragon simulator.

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As 3DO's Kudo Tsunoda made clear during his visit today, rare is the game that casts you as a genuine dragon (remember ColecoVision's Dragonfire?). Granted, games exist in which you're either aided by, or are fighting against, hordes of dragons, but modern gaming has not enjoyed a moment in which the experience of the mythical beast has taken the forefront. That's exactly what 3DO's trying to do with Dragon Rage, which was formerly a Might and Magic game but which has become, very recently, a game that has us very interested.

Kudo Tsunoda, who also played a big part in making 3DO's Air Attack games the paragon of the Army Men franchise, heads the team developing the game. Knowing his proficiency with all things airborne, and after seeing the early version of the game this afternoon, it's easy to have faith in the game's future. Because any reference to the world of Xeen was ripped straight out of the game's narrative, following its transition away from the Might and Magic franchise, the team was forced to come up with something fresher. So in Dragon Rage's world, the orcs are the most "civilized" race, in that their technology is most advanced, and they have the biggest cities. As such, they've taken to exploiting their world's dragons, sapping them of their supernatural powers and using them as beasts of burden. But as it happens, one dragon manages to get a fix of power and takes it upon himself to free his shackled brethren. As that dragon, you basically have to destroy orc settlements and defeat their ground and air troops in an effort to set things right.

The game takes place from a third-person perspective, where the camera is pulled back just a tad farther than normal. With the left analog stick, you control the dragon, who dives and sways rather gracefully for a creature of its size. The control scheme, at this point, works as follows: The X and triangle buttons are what you use to destroy enemies--the former shoots forth a fireball, and the latter lets you bathe your immediate environs in flame (it's a "rage" attack, the game's lingo for "special"). Said "rage" isn't always usable, though 3DO didn't reveal the reason for this. In any event, its effect was powerful, and it did much to raze our environs horribly. Finally, the shoulder buttons let us perform both loop-de-loops and--when hit twice, in rapid succession--barrel rolls. Tsunoda made it clear that in the final game the dragon will be able to bite, claw, and tail-slap its enemies and their respective structures, though the build we saw didn't have those features yet.

The game's environments were very interesting in design--one in particular took place in a hilly area, where a series of orcish fortifications were nestled. Though the world wasn't terribly detailed texturally, the series of rises and dips--in short, the environment's topography--was quite varied, and from a bird's-eye view, it really did much to set the tone for the stage.

The game is pretty early--there weren't any mission objectives to speak of in the environments we saw, which made our experience resemble a sort of flying 3D version of Rampage. But we can imagine a time when we'll be able to fly though lushly detailed environments, buffeting gorgeous water with our wings, slapping fortifications with our tails, and setting fire to the hearts of men. Or orcs. We'll keep an eye on this one.

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