Panzer Dragoon Orta is the only Panzer Dragoon game not developed by Team Andromeda, even though Smilebit included many of Team Andromeda's former members. The game focuses on a young girl, Orta, who has been held as a prisoner her entire life, before being freed by a mysterious dragon. As she rides on the dragon's back through a post-apocalyptic world, she must defend herself from the forces of an oppressive and militaristic Empire, who believe she is the harbinger of their destruction. Panzer Dragoon Orta is a rail shooter: players can control the dragon's position onscreen, and may briefly slow down or speed up (the latter can be used as a potent ramming attack), but ultimately are in no control to fly about the level. Enemies must thus be defeated before they vanish offscreen as the levels "scroll" by (with the exception of boss battles, which take place in environments that "loop" until the boss is defeated). Orta's dragon can morph itself instantaneously between three different forms: the Base Wing (standard class with no weaknesses or strengths), Heavy Wing (offensive class with less mobility), or Glide Wing (nimble class good for shooting down masses of incoming projectiles). Each of these forms can level up by collecting "gene bases" from certain enemies.
Attacking is performed by holding down a mappable attack button, maneuvering an onscreen cursor over enemies, and releasing the button to fire a volley of arching lasers at each target. Orta is also equipped with a rapid-fire pistol, though the game does not make it clear exactly how she obtained it (other than that it was related to the dragon somehow). At the conclusion of each Episode, the player is ranked based on the number of enemies defeated, score, hits taken, and the time it took to defeat the boss. Each of these is assigned a letter grade from S, A, B, C, and D (with S being the highest). The four grades are averaged together to give the player an overall assessment of how well they performed. This grading also occurs at the conclusion of the game's numerous side-missions (including all seven Episodes of Iva's Story).
Panzer Dragoon Orta was made backward compatible with the Xbox 360 on April 19, 2007. The game was made compatible for all regions; however, there have been multiple reports that the PAL version of the game consistently crashes to the Dashboard after the full-motion video at the end of the third Episode. No fix to this problem has been made available in two subsequent backwards compatibility updates.