It’s Tuesday and this week we are reviewing Dragon’s Dogma. Developed by Capcom, Dragon’s Dogma is a medieval action RPG in which you, the Arisen, must battle to retrieve your heart from an evil dragon. Described loosely as a single player MMORPG, you travel the countryside with your companions, known as pawns, completing tasks ranging from, “Kill X number of a certain enemy”, to surviving ambushes by gigantic mythical creatures. The story is almost non-existent unfortunately. When you do get a story mission, it’s guaranteed to be epic, but they throw so many pointless side quests in your path that you must complete before you can move forward with the story. Well, you don’t have to complete them, but if you choose to continue the main quest too soon any major side quest becomes forfeit, so if you want to complete every quest you have a lot of running to do before you progress the story. Oh yes, and run you shall, for this game does not have a fast travel system. Just like in other popular MMORPG’s, you have to travel the massive world by foot or spend 20k in gold on a Ferrystone, which only returns you to the capital city. Luckily, the graphics are amazing so you have a beautiful landscape to look at while adventuring. One particular area in the southwest is reminiscent of FFX’s Calm Lands and is home to some of the largest beasts seen in gaming.
Boss battles are where Dragon’s Dogma truly shines. From the elusive griffon, to the lumbering cyclops, every time you encounter one of these behemoths you know you’re in for a fight. At first glance, they almost seem invulnerable. Your attacks seemingly doing nothing as you cling to the cyclops’ back and stab at his spinal cord, but just like in all of Capcom’s greatest games, the beasts always have a critical weakness. Griffon keep flying away from you? Set it’s wings on fire and watch it come crashing to the ground. The cyclops is obviously defeated by attacking it’s single eye, but how do you tackle this beast when he is fashioned with barbed wire and sporting a steel helmet to protect his eye? It’s moments like these that restore my faith in gaming. Nowadays RPG’s are all but devoid of any real challenge, focusing more on storytelling (which definitely isn’t the case with Dragon’s Dogma, seeing as how it has no mentionable story). The difficulty curve can be quite unforgiving at times and without a solid auto-save system, you will be dieing and losing some of your progress near the beginning of the game. This is great for me because I always love a mildly-frustrating challenge, but it doesn’t stay fresh long enough to maintain that challenge. Like I said earlier, you have a lot of side-quests to complete before continuing, and without a fast travel system that means running through low-level mobs over, and over again. Killing these low-level beasts will always give you experience points though, so you don’t have to worry about only fighting enemies your same level.
I don’t want to delve too far into describing the scenes of the game because these intense cinematic moments are the best part, I found excitment in not knowing what’s next. Capcom does a solid job of keeping you on your toes. Everything is meant to work against you. Not only do you take regular damage in combat, but large blows also damage your maximum health which can’t be restored by magic. You then have to eat food to restore your max health, but some food items are time sensitive, meaning they are only good for a few hours before rotting and becoming poison if consumed. Some items actually become better with age though, and are worth fortunes if you can let it spoil to just the right point. Adventuring in the daytime, you can see for miles and the road is occupied by friendly peddlers and strong pawns for hire. Pray you finish your business before sundown down though because it’s a whole different story when dusk approaches. Once the sun goes down, it’s dark… Like, really dark. Now you must rely on only the light from your lantern to find your way, while undead and wolves wait on the outskirts of your vision to pounce at every moment. What was once an RPG now almost feels like Survival-Horror game, as you fight or frantically dash back to any settlement so you can rest until morning.
As Arisen, you have many powerful skills at your disposal, and you can equip six at a time (three primary and three secondary). The catch is, you can only learn and set your skills while at an inn, so you need to make sure you have a good variety before setting out each morning. This can be troubling sometimes because all of the skills are amazing and you will want to have them all!
Dragon’s Dogma takes the western RPG and gives it a JRPG spin (and it works beautifully if you ask me.) Even though Capcom has little-to-no experience with RPG’s, they make some of the very best action games and the combat here is impeccable. The world is detailed and breathtaking, but unfortunately not very interactive. Most items are constrained to either treasure chests or the occasional “gather” pile of ingredients. Your main pawn is your best friend in this unforgiving world, and its fun to see what others come up with as you go to hire for help. While the game’s story may be quite lackluster, at least you can tell they tried, which cannot be said about the voice-actin and dialogue. The lip-synch is absurdly off and hearing the same phrase for the millionth time really detracts from the overall experience. If you can look past the shallow story and lack of common features (such as fast travel), you’ll find a rare gem that is not only a blast to play, but also full of surprises. Now let’s go kill some dragons!