The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon
Seeing how The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon is the third game in the reboot of the franchise, it's worth noting that it caters strictly to fans. If you want to understand what's going on here you better know what happened in the first two Legend games, otherwise you're going to feel like you're missing something, and frankly you are. The basic premise here is that Spyro and Cynder are woken up from the crystal they were frozen in. Sparx has been freed as well, Hunters still around, and in the end this story is about stopping the evil Malefor from destroying the world. If you're a fan of the series then the catch here for you is that former enemies Spyro and Cynder are forced to team up due to being tied to each other. There are some nice character nuances that are throwbacks to previous Spyro games, but if you're a newcomer chances are good they'll probably be lost on you. The bottom line is the story here is the stuff kids cartoons are made of so don't expect an outstanding script or powerful emotional moments. Then again, you're probably not coming to Spyro for the story you're coming for the platforming action.
Before we really dig into the gears that make Spyro tick it's worth mentioning that the development this time around is handled by Etranges Libellules rather than Krome Studios, who handled the other two Legend games. If you've grown accustomed to the previous two titles then you should know that this one feels different. It's not necessarily better and it's not really worse. Overall I'd say that Etranges Libellules pulled off a decent facsimile of the work that Krome did, but with that being said Dawn of the Dragon still has its fair share of issues.
For starters, as we've already discussed with regards to the story, Spyro and Cynder are forced together. This means where one character goes the other has to follow and this is something that has many pluses and minuses. On the good side of things it makes for some awesome co-op action if you have someone else to play with. That alone elevates the gameplay from mediocre to above average, but if you find yourself playing alone then you're going to have a much different experience. Basically you can swap between the dragons on the fly though the only problem is whichever one you're not using acts like an idiot.
The AI in this game is shoddy to say the least and your IQ challenged compatriot will get stuck on walls, lag behind, and do nothing in battle. This leaves you in the role of the workhorse and doing the job of two dragons. Not to mention since the secondary dragon is merely window dressing if you're playing by yourself all of the enemies come after you. And trust me when I tell you that there are a lot of enemies. In fact you're going to be spending most of this game just mashing buttons trying to take down wave after wave of adversaries and taking cheap hits in the process. Boss battles are another source of frustration in the game as timed button pressing events are prompted in order to beat them. This grows tiresome rather quickly because if you goof you have to fight in order to get back to that point.
When you're not locked in battle, which is rather rare, the game is content to let you explore the sizeable locations to your heart's content. You can actually fly around freely to some extent with Dawn of the Dragon so if you always wondered why Spyro spent most of his time on the ground you'll be pleased to know that Etranges Libellules apparently thought the same thing. Sadly, even though you can fly at will now the game has a limit on how high you can go and it's seemingly random based on where you are. This means you'll hit an invisible ceiling and be forcibly dropped down a bit which isn't the worst thing in the world, but it does feel kind of funny. Despite that, the platforming and adventuring elements are decent enough and quite honestly they feel better than they did in the previous two Legend games, but they aren't exactly revolutionary components. This is a ten year old game franchise and unfortunately the wheel hasn't been reinvented with regards to the gameplay.
Overall The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon is a decent, yet flawed game. The platforming and flying elements are a nice touch and if you have a buddy to play co-op with you that elevates the overall experience. Unfortunately painfully repetitive and frustrating battles plague this game, boss battles are annoying, the AI is dumb, and the camera has its fair share of issues. All in all these aren't debilitating flaws, but they do speak to some poorly designed elements and make the product look unfinished. This isn't a strong finish to the Legend series though I will say that it's maybe slightly better than the other entries.
The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon is presented on the PlayStation 3 with HD support of up to 720p. In screenshots and standing still I must say that this game looks fantastic. The backgrounds are vibrant and teeming with life, the character models are charming and detailed, and overall the game has a very nice artistic design. Regrettably that's where the good news stops.
The framerate drops like a stone at random points and bounces all over the place with the smallest things. Simple action such as flying, controlling the camera, fighting, and even walking causes the framerate to hiccup to a distracting degree. These rough patches definitely should have been ironed out before shipping, but even so this is still a beautiful game, when the framerate isn't crashing that is.
If Dawn of the Dragon has any feather in its cap it would be the sound direction. Everything from the music to the voice acting is handled with great care (though sound effects didn't quite pack the punch you'd expect they would) and there's quite the roster of Hollywood talent present. Mark Hamill, Blair Underwood, Gary Oldman, Elijah Wood, Christina Ricci, and Wayne Brady all lend their talents to this game. Because of them this game reeks of charm and the story and banter are given life due to their voiceovers. After seeing the names signed on for this project it's no wonder the other areas of the game faltered.
The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon is a decent platforming title for the PS3, but it's definitely not the cream of the crop. So many other games have done what this game does and they have done it better. Fans of the purple dragon will be pleased enough, but newcomers to the franchise may be left scratching their heads. A glitchy framerate and many frustrating moments during gameplay really overshadow the highlights. It's a shame really, but I guess the old saying is true that it's better to burn out than fade away. Spyro fans can easily get by with a rental here, but newcomers probably don't need to bother.