Dragon’s Dogma review (PS3)
Does Capcom’s latest take on the open-world action-RPG genre soar high or fall flat?
Dragons Dogma is an action-RPG that developer Capcom has stated was inspired by both Eastern and Western RPGs, as well as Capcom’s own experience in the action genre. It is set in a beautifully crafted open world filled with a variety creatures, with huge structures and castles littered across the landscape.
The story follows a hero on a quest to reclaim their heart, which was literally ripped out of their chest by a Dragon. The hero awakens from this assault as The Arisen and sets off on their quest. The story-line of Dragons Dogma gets boring fairly quickly, with bland characters introduced, and little progression in the story for long periods of time.
Being The Arisen gives you a pawn; an NPC that will be your travel partner throughout the game. When you receive your pawn you can choose their gender, and customize their looks and skill-set. As you fight alongside the pawn, they gain experience, quest and monster knowledge.
Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t feature a direct multiplayer mode, but does feature asynchronous interaction with others online. Through this, players can use the pawn system to hire two more pawns that were trained and shared by other players, allowing them to take advantage of the particular skill-sets on offer. Likewise, others can hire your pawns.
If your pawn did a quest with you, they will be able to help other Arisen by giving them hints on what to do when they are dealing with the same quest. This also works the other way around, whereby your pawn can learn how to fight certain types of monsters when participating in other player’s games.
On top of pawns gaining insight from other player’s dimensions, they also bring back Rift Crystals and gifts given to them by fellow Arisen. This system provides motivation for the community of players to customize their pawns to be as helpful and effective as possible so that they might be chosen, and therefore return with Rift Crystals and gifts.
For those who prefer to stay offline, Dragon’s Dogma ships with many pre-configured pawns to choose from.
While the story of Dragon’s Dogma falls flat, the combat and wide array of creatures make up for it.
The Arisen has a choice of three starting vocations to choose from: a Fighter, who uses a sword and shield; a Strider, who uses bows and daggers; and a Mage, who can use elemental magic to bring down foes. Later on in the game six more vocations are introduced. These vocations can be swapped throughout the game, so the player is never forced to play as one vocation throughout the entire game. This makes for hours of fun, as it is possible to just swap out vocations when tired of the current one.
Capcom claims 40+ hours of main-quest gameplay, along with a huge number of side-quests (70+ hours) which can be performed at any time. Examples of these side-quests include clearing out a mine, collecting ingredients or items, killing a certain number of specific enemies, and escorting NPC’s to their destination. The side-quests help keep the game interesting and are a welcome distraction from the main quests.
In the world of Dragon’s Dogma there are many mythological creatures to be discovered. These include club wielding Cyclops with battle armour, Chimera, and Griffons and Wyverns that stalk the sky.
All these creatures have different weaknesses and ways to fight them. A Griffon for example, can be brought crashing down if its wings are set on fire. Enemies such as the Chimera, need to be fought by removing its different body parts – chopping off the snake tail and killing the goat on its back.
The player and pawns can also climb the creatures they fight, reminiscent of Shadow of Colossus, making for some interesting combat situations. Quite often I found myself scaling the back of a Cyclops to attack his head from behind, or clinging for dear life as a Griffon tried to shake me off in mid-air. Throughout the entire game, different creatures and different variations of each will be found – all have their own set of strategies required to tackle them. making for hours of interesting combat.
Out of the many possible strategies, some will work better than others, or not work at all. Many times I found myself dying in certain situations just to realize my party was not good enough, or that I was too low a level to fight a specific enemy. Levelling-up elsewhere or changing the party layout in these situations is a must.
Fighting and the pawn system go hand in hand, and having the right pawns in your party can make all the difference. It is especially nice when you recruit a pawn that has more experience than you fighting a certain enemy as you can immediately see the difference in the pawn’s fighting style.
If the wide array of enemies isn’t enough, later in the game you also get to fight a boss with other players in your region in an asynchronous event. The damage done by the various player parties will slowly chip away at boss health. When the boss is defeated, all players who helped bring it down achieve rewards based on the damage they dealt to the boss. There is even a special reward for the person who delivers the final blow. Every time the region defeats the boss all the players who partook in the event have their name added to a list for all others to see. The next instance of the boss will then have higher health, ultimately requiring more grinding or players to defeat it.
Dragon’s Dogma also has a few annoyances, such as enemies spawning on the same spot every time you re-enter an area, or that you can easily lose an hour’s worth of game play because you forgot to save and ran into a strong enemy. The pawns can also become really annoying when they start repeating hints whenever you enter a new area or walk by a familiar spot.
Overall, Dragons Dogma is a decent game that creates a surreal world with its assortment of enemies and open environments coupled with an amazing combat and pawn system. Even though the story disappoints, there is a unexpected surprise at the end that ties it all together.