This review will come from an interesting perspective, as I have never played the original DRAKAN. I've never been a giant PC enthusiast, so when it comes to non-first-person-shooters on the PC, I don't know much (unless it's MYST).
Fortunately for those of us stuck in the console world, the game gives a brief backstory on what happened before. Once the game gets rolling though, the story plays little significance as you mainly travel to different areas, fight a boss and take an item back to a certain character. It's all very simple, but due to the differing locales and enemies, the game never seems to get stale.
The game is played from a third-person perspective as you adventure around the world. Gameplay is divided up between time where you're on the ground, and time on the back of your trusty dragon. The biggest problem is that the control is not set up very well to utilize items in combat. You can hot-switch items, but if you pick something up in the heat of battle, pausing will put you at risk. Otherwise the fighting engine works pretty well with a variation of the "Z-targeting" from OCARINA OF TIME. The only problem with the ground fighting is that the shield is far too powerful and the enemy AI can be quite atrocious. There are many ways to get a cheap kill on normal enemies and bosses alike. The flying element of the game is fairly stale to start with, but soon grows very interesting as you gain experience and get new attacks (the same holds true for the ground portion as you gain new weapons and spells). All in all the fun of the game and playing in the world quickly overcomes the apparent flaws in the game's AI.
The coolest part about DRAKAN: THE ANCIENTS' GATES is the way that the world sucks you in. Immediately I felt like I had entered the world that was on my screen. The game is beautiful. Textures all look good and the game uses the right color and landscaping to make it feel perfect. There is a mist/fog that hangs over the land and occasionally you'll see some sort of incredible wildlife or something flying by. The world is living and breathing, and it manages to grab you and keep you in the game. The only thing that irritated me from a visual standpoint was some pop-up and some of the character models, but I'll live - the rest of it is fantastic.
The sound in the game is as impressive as the graphics. Everything is very subtle, but it all contributes to the massive world that the game holds. Little things like the different sounds as your weapon strikes wood or stone, and how your footsteps sound on different materials have all been taken into account. The music also contributes to the game and the voice acting has been done fairly well.
While DRAKAN may not be the best game if you look at it from a pure gameplay standpoint. The scope of the world created easily makes up for the shortcomings. I highly recommend it.
Platform: Playstation 2
ESBR Rating: Mature
Developer: Surreal Software
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Fun Factor: A-
Reviewer's Wild Card: A