Dragon's Dogma review
Fri, 01 Jun 2012 12:43p.m.
By Michael Quartly-Kelly
You start Capcom’s new open-world RPG Dragon's Dogma by getting killed.
A huge dragon swoops out of the sky and attacks your fishing village, proving more than a match for you and your rusty sword. Rather than kill you outright however, the beast seems to find you fascinating and issues a challenge that you should grow and become more powerful... right before he plucks out your heart.
Waking up after your untimely demise, only mildly shaken by the ordeal, you are dubbed The Arisen - hero of legend and child of prophecy, destined to rid the kingdom of all things big and scaly and fire-breathy, etc, etc.
The character generation screens that wrap this opening section up are facially specific in detail. You can tweak dozens of settings to get your characters face exactly the way you want it, but as is usually the case with multi-slider based systems, the end result usually falls ever-so-slightly short of your intentions. In my attempt to recreate Sean Bean's grim, well-weathered, hard-man visage (Winter Is Coming!), I ended up with an undercooked doughboy-like countenance, with a perpetual thousand yard stare. Well, I thought, this guy will look great in a closed-face helmet.
One of the more innovative things about Dragon's Dogma is its use of an adventuring party made up of player generated NPCs. You get to make one such character yourself, who serves as your permanent companion, and you also have two more party slots available, into which you may hire companions created by other players and downloaded from the Dragon's Dogma servers. There's something cool about hiring hench-people created by anonymous players from all around the world.
It’s almost like playing an MMO for people who don't like social gaming. I created a buxom spell-flinging lass to cover all of the gaps left by my sword wielding main character and was pleasantly surprised that upon my first rest at a local Inn, I awoke to find that my companion had been off adventuring through the night with another DD player and had collected some booty and gained experience and knowledge about quests I had not yet completed. It also proved very handy when I came to points that were simply beyond my current abilities, where I had the option of hiring a couple of companions who were well above my level to help me power through the tough bits.
Otherwise, all the classic high-fantasy game elements are here – slashy sword moves, rapid-fire bow shots and mystical fireball throwing.
Massive lumbering monsters, straight out of the pages of Tolkien or ancient mythology, stalk the land – sometimes distressing damsels, but more often just loafing about, generally being in the way whenever you need to travel to your next location. There are dungeons in need of thorough delving, rats and bats to be killed, and shop-keeps aplenty eager to buy all the rocks, cloths and branches you’ve amassed in the early stages of your adventuring. All of which seems very familiar and promising.
The combat system for the most part is basic face and attack, with a widening array of special manoeuvres and spells available to purchase as you gain experience. The exception to this is when you come across one of the giant legendary monsters like a cyclops or a chimera, that are big enough to actually clamber up and strike at around their more sensitive areas (Shadow of the Colossus style). This can be lots of fun when you first encounter and fell a particular type of monster, but gets a little repetitive the next time you meet the same beasty.
You also have the fortunate ability to switch classes throughout the game. So if hacking and slashing gets boring, you can change it up to lethal ranged attacks as an archer or elemental attacks and healing as a mage.
Some of the dialogue runs a little too deep into cliché, with NPCs garbling on in forced Ye Olde Timey nonsense. It doesn't feel sincere and oft comes off as a local drama-club version of Canterbury Tales.
The writing and structure of the questing aspects are a little lacklustre, not engrossing enough for hours of play, but perfectly serviceable for small stretches. The learning curve can be steep and there were a few times where I died in multiple re-attempts of particularly difficult chapters - but if Dark Souls taught me anything, it’s that death is an opportunity for education. The graphics also aren't as staggering as the likes of Skyrim and by all accounts there are some glitchy refresh problems on the Xbox 360 version, which did not seem to occur on my PS3 at all.
The fun far outweighs any of these small issues I had with Dragon's Dogma and I look forward to having fun continuing to chip away at the game.
Three and a half stars.
:: Publisher: Capcom
:: Developer: Capcom
:: Format: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
:: Rating: M
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