Drakengard was an attempt to mash together the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors and Panzer Dragon. It wasn't very successful, mired in slow-moving repetitive battles that got too old too fast. Though it sold well enough for Square-Enix to pat Cavia on the back, and tell them to give it another go. This time they created some fast-moving, compelling combat with a enough unique features to make it shine above being more than a simple clone...and enough flaws to keep it from true greatness.
Now let's get the bad stuff out of the way first.
The camera is broken. If you didn't have the ability to manually re-center the camera, roughly a third of the on foot sections would be completely unplayable. Most of the time the camera doesn't move on its own and you need to jockey it awkwardly with the right analogue stick, though in interiors the camera often decides to point directly at the walls instead of the enemy stabbing you in the back, sometimes leaving you fighting for control more than actual fighting. If it was only locked behind the player like the Dynasty Warriors series has done since the beginning, or used a lock-on system similar to the one found in Bujingai, this problem would not exist.
The cut-scenes are dull. There's also approximately one million of them. A mission begins with several cut-scenes, has several thrown in somewhere in the middle to completely shatter the flow of action (sometimes leaving you on the receiving end of some cheap hits), and several stuck at the end. Roughly ninety percent of these cut-scenes consist of two characters standing perfectly still with a static backdrop and a large text block at the bottom as the conversation takes place. The greatest fantasy story ever told would still make you reach for the start button to skip them thanks to the grueling nature of this stilted presentation. Though to be honest, you wouldn't really be missing anything. I never found myself becoming attached to the Kingdom Hearts reject Nowe, nor the friends and fiends he runs into during his clichéd fight against evil. I cared more about the shiny new long sword that I had just uncovered.
Hack and slash, with a dash of dragon breath.
The weapons are the center of Drakengard II's universe. Without them, poor Legna would have to do all the work, and he has it bad enough carrying that spikey-haired lunkhead on his scaly back. Swords, long swords, magic rods, spears, and axes fill up your personal armory, starting with one and slowly earning nearly seventy others via story events, optional enemy encounters, free missions, or picking them up in the shops. There are even some than can't be earned during the initial play, requiring completists to run this gauntlet twice more to collect them all. Each can be leveled up three times, gaining not only more attack power, but 2-3 flashy attack combos, and a wide range increasingly more devastating magical attacks.
Though to level them, you'll need to use them. Weapons are equipped on the GranWheel, a circular contraption that can be called upon at any time during a battle, allowing you to switch swords and even characters right in mid-combo. Healing and magic-restoring items are also kept there for easy use, though they need to be conserved when stores are only accessible every half dozen missions or so. The quickest way to level both the weapons and your characters is by slashing through hordes of enemies in long combos, with a experience point multiplier that increases with the more hits you land, though go too long without a successful strike and the counter resets back to zero.
Blocking is the import important action in the game, because it centers the camera behind the character. It also guards against damage, though only from the front, which is something you need to be careful of when the enemy AI loves to stab you in the back. The on-screen radar helps this a bit, but the range is so short that charging enemies can still catch you by surprise. Hitting attack while holding block at just the moment an enemy strikes will leave them stunned, allowing you to combo them to your heart's content. The timing of this is fairly loose and you still count as blocking while countering so even if you flub it you have nothing to lose. Just as long as you watch your back.