Dragon’s Dogma Review
Arisen! Are you even listening to me?! Arisen?
It may be generous of me to say that releasing an Action RPG one week after the release of Diablo 3 is a bold strategy but Capcom ain’t afraid of no skeletons. Dragon’s Dogma is a brand new property that moves the open-world RPG in a few new directions, while holding steady on a few tired ones. Take up your sword, hire a some Pawns and let’s go kill a few dragons. A few dragons, and about a million wolves.
Dragon’s Dogma follows the story of your created hero, dubbed the ‘Arisen’, as you rise from the dead to try to steal your heart back from a Dragon who ate it. While there are other Arisen in the world they are rare enough that they garner special attention from the citizens of Gransys and carry the ability to enter the ‘Rift’ and recruit ‘Pawns’ to fight beside them. Pawns look like people but have a singular purpose in seeking out, and working for, Arisen.
From the outset of the game you’ll be clear on the story’s start and end points (arise from the dead, kill the dragon who stole your heart) but everything in between will be up to you. There is a main quest line but the next stage in this journey isn’t always handed directly to you. Often you’ll find yourself searching around for that one interesting person to talk to who may give you a quest that puts you on the right track. This is where the Pawns can help you; these guys don’t shut up. Not only are they helpful in battle they’re always good for yelling advice at you. Often all at the same time, or repeatedly, but it’s advice all the same.
When you start Dragon’s Dogma you’ll create your character, and choose a vocation for him or her from three basic choices. Fighter, Mage or Strider, who is a ranged specialist with the other two being mostly self explanatory. Advanced and hybrid classes are available later in the game for those looking for a change and vocations can be swapped altogether for those who decide to go from Fighter to Mage and so on. Early in the game you’ll also create your primary Pawn, this Pawn will stick with you during the whole game and will level up alongside you, with you being in charge of its skill development and equipment.
At Rift Stones, which are placed throughout the world, you can also hire up to two additional Pawns by entering the Rift. You’ll need to frequently go back to the well for these Pawns as they don’t level up or advance with you. Choosing the right party is key to winning the difficult, and often overwhelming, battles you’ll face in Dragon’s Dogma.
Combat, though tough, is one of the most satisfying things about Dragon’s Dogma. Battles are often large scale affairs and where other games will have you facing one or two enemies at a time, Dragon’s Dogma often says “here, fight fifteen wolves, you’ll be OK”. Working with your Pawns will allow you to triumph as your skill will often compliment one another. Weapon swings carry weight you can feel and the pace of battle is quick so things stay interesting. The other standout mechanic you’ll notice is the grabbing system. The right trigger makes your character grab onto enemies and on smaller enemies this can mean holding a goblin’s hands behind his back while your Pawn skewers him. On larger enemies this can mean climbing all the way up the back of a twenty foot tall Cyclops to slash at his head. I had a ton of fun with the battles in Dragon’s Dogma.
As fun as the fighting is, there are a few things that break down and take you out of experience. For one, you’ll be running long distances as there isn’t a well developed fast travel system. You can purchase very expensive Ferrystones to return to the capital city, or to a Port Stone, but these are single use and hard to come by. Travelling from one town to another to perform a side quest can get tiresome when you have to run for twenty minutes to get there. I know the point of this was to encourage exploration, but cut us a little slack. This is especially annoying considering you have to return to an inn to rest if you want to full regain your health and managed your skills.
The world of Gransys only has a few people in it and most of them are Pawns who are constantly yelling things at you. The world doesn’t feel very alive, though some of it is very detailed. The dragons and other monsters look great, but the people look they are from a game made six or seven years ago. The pros outweigh the cons here, making Dragon’s Dogma is a lot of fun, but the cons are noticeable and significant.
Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t feature any kind of real co-op or multiplayer but that doesn’t mean you’ll be completely alone. There are world events, such as the Ur Dragon, which tasks the community with killing a dragon by having individual players fight it to the point where it retreats only to have one person finally kill it. Each time you rest at an inn your primary Pawn is saved and shared out to the community so other players can hire him or her. If another player hires your Pawn you will be granted money and gear the next time you rest. Some neat ideas, but ones I would have traded wholesale for some actual co-op.
Dragon’s Dogma has some flaws but is absolutely worth playing. As far as open-world RPG’s go, this is some of the most fun you’ll have in actual combat. Be prepared to run your tail off when going from place to place, and having your Pawns repeat themselves constantly. This will all be far from your mind as you’re trying to climb up a dragon’s front leg to slash at it’s throat though.