Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the DragonESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
Developer – Etranges Libellules
Publisher – Activision/Sierra
360KB to Save Game
Dating back to the PlayStation One days, Spyro the purple dragon has been with us for quite some time. Not being familiar with the series I was very curious to see what the action and adventure based game was all about. After some extended time with the latest title, and after reading about some of the other successful ones in the franchise, I have say I am left a little disappointed as this one just did not live up to any of the expectations I had. Nevertheless, there are some enjoyable moments in The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon for the Xbox 360 and fans may enjoy some of the new additions to the franchise.
Overall the visuals are average at best as I was just not impressed with the overall look of the game. Dawn of the Dragon looks more last generation than next generation as it appears the game was designed with the PS2 as opposed to the Xbox 360 in mind. The environments are underwhelming and the characters could have used a few more months back in the development shop. This far into the life of the Xbox 360 we have seen family based video games that look far superior.
On a positive note, when it comes to the games environments you do get a good deal of variety in Dawn of the Dragon. From the underground caves buried deep beneath the ground to the burning lands of Mordor, the game does mix it up quite a bit from level to level. That being said the levels are fairly linear and there is not much room for exploration as you plod your way through. Dawn of the Dragon does feature a new element where you can fly at any time, however it is very restrictive. You will be flying along then all of sudden hit an invisible wall when you stray from the levels main playing area. This is not uncommon; however games usually do a better job at hiding these dead ends. Additionally, the environments lack detail and textures do not seem ‘up to snuff’. When you compare other similar games such as Kung Fu Panda or the latest Crash game, Dawn of the Dragon falls a little short.
I was also a little disappointed with the games characters. The dragons are recognizable and fans of the franchise will enjoy the look of many of the creatures. However Spyro and Cynder (Spyro’s former enemy and now co-op partner) lack some detail and I just didn’t see enough animations from them. Not to mention their faces show little to no emotion and these dragons seemingly have no teeth. The majority of enemy AI all look similar and the oversized bosses seem unfinished. Additionally, the game features some slowdown and I did notice some clipping issues. Several times my dragon would fly into a platform and part of his wing would go through the fixture. In some cases my dragon even got stuck. All in all while some of the games visuals appear decent we could have seen so much better from the development team.
As far as the sound is concerned, Dawn of the Dragon is strong but not the best we have heard in recent months. First the positive; the voice acting is stellar and the voice talent features some big name stars. Elijah Wood, Gary Oldman, Blair Underwood, Christina Ricci, Wayne Brady, and Luke Skywalker himself Mark Hamill, all lend their voices to this latest Spyro game. The results are impressive and they bring some much needed value to the game. I can only imagine the cost to bring in such talent but in the end it pays off as it brings some authenticity and a huge believability factor to the game. Overall, the in-game dialog sounds terrific and crystal clear. On a technical note it was also nice to see that the dialogue was not out of sync with the characters mouth movements.
In terms of the negative, the soundtrack is not as good as I had hoped and it becomes very repetitive. Although the music fits the game it is very forgettable. As for the rest of the in-game sound effects, they are solid and compliment the rest of the audio. The fighting sequences feature terrific battle sounds and the breakable objects shatter quite loudly. There are actually a couple of times throughout the game that my subwoofer shook the floor. Overall I have no major concerns with the games total sound package however there is some room for improvement.
Dawn of the Dragon is the third part of a trilogy. The biggest twist this time around is Spyro now plays alongside his most unlikely ally – Cynder, who was a former enemy of the purple dragon. The basic premise of the game centers on the Dark Master (voiced by Mark Hamill) who invokes his evil upon the world. Spyro must fulfil his destiny and unlock his true powers which can then be used to take out the Dark Master. The game starts out with a bang as within minutes Spyro faces off with a giant Gollum. After a brief battle, the game gets going as Spyro begins his quest to destroy the Dark Master.
Overall the story is decent and easy to follow. Playing the other games in the trilogy is by no means an advantage or critical to the storyline this time around. The story is not confusing and has a way of reminding you of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Perhaps this is due to Elijah Wood’s voice acting or the references to Gollum. Heck, even some of the levels look strikingly similar to Gondor. I could not help but think I was playing a modified and more family friendly version of a LOTR game. Even the overall tone of the game was similar to LOTR as it takes itself a little too seriously. There are some moments of humor with Sparx (played by Wayne Brady), but for the most part the game does not make light of itself.
Dawn of the Dragon features new game modes this time around and the biggest enhancement has got to be the drop in/drop out co-op mode. Cynder now plays alongside Spyro, and this will certainly appeal to girl gamers as it did my 6-year old daughter. Overall the co-op game play works pretty well until you become separated from each other as the game can get finicky during these times. On a couple of occasions one of us would get stuck due to straying too far from one aother. But at the end of the day the co-op is nice feature as it is far more enjoyable to play with someone else than by yourself. Unfortunately there is no online co-op mode. In fact, there is no online mode whatsoever which is a bit of a drawback.
Even when playing the single player game switching between Cynder and Spyro is accomplished with relative ease. The controls are easy to pick up as the game flashes instructional cue cards fast and furiously within the first 15 minutes. There is no tutorial mode so for younger gamers just learning to read the cue cards will make it tough to learn the controls. Flying your dragon can take some time to get used to however after about 15 minutes of gameplay you start to get the hang of it. Controlling the camera can be a task in and of itself though as sometimes it has a mind of its own.
Dawn of the Dragon also features gem collecting and upgrades. The gems upgrade your currency which is then used for buying upgrades. The upgrades can be used to improve such things your breath attacks or poison and shadow attacks. So not only does your dragon have a variety of ways to destroy the enemy, he/she can also upgrade their abilities as well. This is nothing incredibly original and something we seen time and time again with similar games.
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