Panzer Dragoon Orta

First Look - mystical wars, dragons and oddly named young girls - Sega at their best!

Thousands of years after the fall of the ancient civilisation the world is a cruel and unpleasant place, and the few remaining human tribes live in fear of biogenetic terrors - powerful artefacts born out of blasphemy. In the midst of the battle for precious water resources, the Empire discovers a factory in the ruins of the Old Century and manages to shape its own organic weapon - the Dragon. The key to restoring peace to this distorted world is a young girl held captive under ball and chain.

Her name is Orta

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Tonight at nine: When Dragons Attack!

Panzer Dragoon Orta is the latest game in a series which has grown in infamy since its release on the Saturn way-back-when. Its exclusivity on Xbox will be enough to sell thousands of the consoles to hardcore gamers bent on playing the latest instalment, and in its own right it looks and sounds like a fantastic game.

Each of the game's 10 stages will be tied together by sumptuously detailed cut-scenes, and will feature a climactic boss encounter. This is of course preceded by lots of fast-paced dogfighting with other sky-dwellers. Orta's dragon companion will be able to take different paths depending on timing as well as observation - a bit of speed at the time will see the pair swoop through a crumbling rock pass, whereas failure to make it in time will seal that door shut and leave Orta looking for another way past.

The dragon's weapons are varied and perhaps a little obscure. The main weapon is a lock-on laser which is fired from the mouth and can hit multiple targets. This weapon powers up as the dragon morphs. As there are three stages of metamorphosis, which sees the dragon upgraded for certain situations, so too there are three specific levels to the lock-on laser. The second stage increases its accuracy and inflicts more damage, whilst the highest dispenses with the laser and has the dragon steal hit points from enemies and unleash a berserker attack with immense destructive power. Furthermore, Orta herself, perched atop the winged beast, can unleash attacks using whatever weapons she happens to have handy. This manual shooting is supposed to be a fair bit more accurate than the dragon's own attacks.

Graphically, Panzer Dragoon Orta is clearly going to wow a lot of people. The screenshots and footage released so far top almost anything so far shown on the Xbox, and if Sega can pull off the level of detail they're promoting, and couple it with a compelling enough adventure, Panzer Dragoon Orta could be one of the biggest and most successful Xbox titles since Halo.

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