Dragon’s Dogma – Japan’s Western RPG

Dragon’s Dogma, Capcom’s medieval action RPG, was released yesterday and I’ve been playing it every free moment I have. We here at whatsyourtagblog.com are no strangers to the RPG genre (you can check out Mileson’s Diablo III review, as well you should) so it came as a surprise when we heard Capcom, of all companies, was making a medieval RPG. Even more surprising is not the fact that Dragon’s Dogma is good, but just how revolutionary it is, not only for Capcom, but for the genre as a whole. Action RPG’s as of late have mostly been dominated by the western market with titles like Skyrim, Fable, and Diablo. Now before you get your panties in a bunch, I know, Diablo and Skyrim aren’t technically “action” RPGs, but since they don’t use the turn-based battle system commonly found in pretty much every JRPG, they lean more to the action side of the table. “So Japan made an RPG that wasn’t turn based, big whoop, why should I care?” Japan has always been more experimental than America with it’s games, and we’d be fools to not notice our own shortcomings. Shortcomings such as…

One is the loneliest number
Many modern RPGs have a companion system that allow you to bring a follower with you on your journeys. Fallout had companions, Fable had man’s best friend, and many others have had numerous forms of “heroes for hire”. Unfortunately, they never amount to more than cannon fodder and a fleshy backpack for my items. Unless the game specifically requires the use of companions, I usually just roam alone. During my last Skyrim play through, I never used a companion, not even once. Dragon’s Dogma, on the other hand, does require that you use a companion (a.k.a. pawns), but they are more like your best friend then just some stranger you picked up in a tavern (we all know how that ends). Pawns utilize all the same customization tools that your main character gets, so it’s more about creating the ultimate duo than settling for what you have. My pawn, Pyah the Fighter, perfectly accentuates my play style by soaking up damage as I dispatch foes from afar with my rogue trickery. The game rewards you for keeping your pawn strong in a very unique way too. Now, the two of us could easily dispatch this goblin camp outside town, but it’d be much easier if we had a mage to buff and heal, so here’s where it gets interesting. You want your pawn to not only be strong, but also appealing and original because other heroes will request the aid of your pawn, and you can do the same with theirs. Every time someone hires your pawn they gain knowledge and you are awarded with Rift Crystals (the rare sub-currency for special purchases). Also, knowledge is not experience points, it’s even cooler than that. If your pawn completes a quest you have yet to unlock or learns the weakness to a mysterious beast while with another hero, they bring that knowledge back with them and share it with you. While scavenging a dungeon, my pawn led me through a secret route he learned about that I didn’t even see. At the end of the corridor was a horde of skeletons, and my attacks were doing nothing more than brushing the dust of their bones. It seemed hopeless until Pyah yells out, “I’ve seen this before! They hate the light!”. Suddenly, the mage I had hired buffed my weapon with holy and the skeletons fell in an instant. “Holy, you say?” says the mage, and now she too gained knowledge to bring back to her world. It’s for this reason that you want to make sure your pawn is versatile because the more heroes that hire him, the stronger he becomes. You will need that strength because…

Giant enemy crab!
Dragon’s Dogma is full of boss encounters. There are more bosses in the first 3 hours then there are across every Bethesda game. I don’t want to give away any details on the bosses because they are awe-inspiring, but if you’ve ever played a Monster Hunter game before you know how epic they can be. In fact, your very first battle as the Arisen has you pitted up against a looming troll who is already picking up and eating soldiers before you arrive. It’s these moments that really suck you into the universe and give you the challenge that has been pretty much stripped from the RPG genre. Let me reiterate that, this game is not a walk in the park like Fable 3 was. You will die, and it will be marvelous. In most games when an NPC suggests you not go a way because it’s “too dangerous”, that is just an open invitation for adventure. Not here, if someone suggests you stay away from a particular area, you’d better heed their warning unless you you have a death warrant. Even simply wandering a little too far into the forest could have nasty results. It’s this sense of mortality that really keeps you grounded while playing. Far too often games like Skyrim give you too much power and nothing to use it on so you just feel like a walking god in a sandbox. While that can be entertaining, it’s completely devoid of any challenge and just leaves you wanting more.

Does this tunic make my ass look fat?
Dragon’s Dogma wouldn’t be a japanese game if it wasn’t filled to the brim with customization. Everything from the character creation process, to the jobs, to the equipment can be customized…for the right price. Gold is scarce in Dragon’s Dogma, so you need to be wise when buying and upgrading equipment for you and your pawn. Even rarer are the elusive Rift Crytals which you need for hiring stronger pawns and purchasing rare items. The only way to get Rift Crytals is to have others hire your pawn (or purchase them with Microsoft Points, you bastards). So sometimes it’s even more important that your pawn be outfitted with the best gear in hopes of him being rented more. I never mentioned this earlier, but just to clarify, you never lose your pawn. Even when they are out adventuring with others, your pawn will always be by your side. After you come back to town for the night (you don’t want to adventure at night, TRUST ME) and rest at an inn, your pawn will update you on his adventures. It’s also here at the inn where you can learn new skills and jobs, so you’ll want to rest often. When choosing skills, you are allowed six total, three for each hand (3 dagger, 3 bow; 3 sword, 3 shield). You can only set your skills at the inn though, so make sure you have a nice mix of everything you’ll need. Once you learn everything you can from a particular job (a.k.a. Vocation), you can change vocations and bring old skills into your new job. There is just so much versatility to everything, I can’t even begin to describe it all. Plus, half of the fun is seeing it in action for yourself.

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