Dragon's Dogma Review
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Dragon's Dogma is Capcom's new action role-playing game (RPG) with open world exploration. The player takes on the role of the "Arisen". The Arisen is a hero chosen by the dragon. That hero's destiny is to stand up against the darkness and eventually defeat the dragon. From the start of the game, you take on the role of an Arisen of your own creation that has had their heart consumed by the dragon and must embark on a journey to defeat the dragon and reclaim the heart that was stolen from your character. A player will need to travel throughout Gransys and perform several quests in order to learn more of the true purpose of the Arisen and their overall destiny.
Dragon's Dogma is an open world RPG at its core, but it has some of the most satisfying action gameplay that I have played in an RPG. The game is basically like playing an action game with RPG elements rather than a standard open world RPG. It's easy to tell that it is from the staff members that helped in the making of Resident Evil and Devil May Cry with the pleasing gameplay that it has. From the start, your character can be assigned to one of three basic vocations (character classes) that will determine the weapons and abilities that your character will make use of. After a while, a player can choose from a whole variety of classes, each with their own unique abilities.
The full vocation list is Fighter, Warrior, Mystic Knight, Strider, Ranger, Assassin, Mage, Sorcerer and Magic Archer. Each vocation has its own style of gameplay and abilities. The Fighter excels in melee combat with a sword and shield abilities, the Warrior is the only class that can wield two-handed weapons, the Mystic Knight combines swordplay with magic (rods and magic shields), the Strider can equip a normal bow, the Ranger can wield a longbow, the Assassin can use swords, daggers, bows and shields, the Mage can use rods to perform elemental magic and curative magic, the Sorcerer can use a rod to perform elemental magic different from the Mage and the Magic Archer can use Mage abilities with a rod and has a special magic bow that allows for elemental arrow shots!
In other words, the vocation system is very deep. Abilities can be quite flashy per vocation as well. I found the bow very satisfying for combat with the overall aiming view and range of the weapon. All bow aiming is in third person with a shoulder view just like the newer Resident Evil games. By visiting inns a player can customize abilities, learn new abilities through discipline points or change a vocation. No matter what, you're constantly upgrading your character. Each class uses a specific weapon type much of the time. Only a few classes can share weapons. Bows are often class specific, especially when it comes to the Magic Archer. All weapons can be upgraded with higher stats through the use of gold and combinable materials at a weapon shop.
Each player is allowed to create their own pawn to help them on their journey. Pawns are nomads from an alternate world that are free of will and emotion. They basically live to serve an Arisen. The pawns will be your party members for the game. As already mentioned, each player can make up their very own fully customized pawn near the beginning of the game. Pawns can take on the majority of vocations that an Arisen can use and you can customize the abilities of your main pawn.
A player can enter a rift (or certain area of Gransys) and seek out other pawns. The pawns in the rift are all pawns of other players! Two party members on your team will be composed of other players' pawns throughout the game. The two extra party members on your team may not be customized, they will follow the actions assigned to them by their creator. Rift crystals must be used in order to buy other player pawns that are of a higher level than your current level. While your pawn travels with another player, that pawn will learn of enemies and quests that the other player experiences. Each time you visit an inn, if another player uses your pawn, your pawn will return to your party with knowledge of enemies and quest that he/she has experienced. Basically, your pawn, or another player's pawn, can help out in your quests with tips that they will mention while you're fighting an enemy or trying to find a certain item.
As mentioned above, pawns are not only found in rifts. They can sometimes be seen walking down the street of a town or on the world map. They basically can make up part of the world of Dragon's Dogma and they will join your party member any time you ask. The pawn system is quite unique and gives you something to look forward to each time your party sleeps at an inn. Basically, your pawn will return with items and extra knowledge from traveling with another player. A player will gain many rift crystals depending on how long a pawn stays with a player as well. While in a rift, a player can summon high-ranked pawns and special pawns that are made by the programmers for other players to use.
Both your main character and main pawn are fully customizable. From the beginning, you choose the way they look. The customization is very deep - you can change facial structure, eyes, mouth, height, hair style, arm and leg appearance among many other options. The armor that is equipped to your character will change their appearance as well. No armor looks the same. There is always some type of difference, whether it be color or some added piece in armor. Weapons all look different as well. This gives a player a lot of freedom to create their own Arisen and main pawn of their choosing.
For a game that has a customizable lead character, Dragon's Dogma has quite an intense and satisfying story to it. The Arisen character of your choosing is always the center of attention, and he meets some of the liveliest of characters in Gransys. Dragon's Dogma's story is filled with moments of epic action and very satisfying cutscenes. There are some boss fights that truly stand out as some of the most epic boss fights I have seen in gaming. The game literally turns into more of an action game during some events in the later portions of the game and it is very eye pleasing and fun.
Your party will take on many quests throughout their journey in Gransys. All the "fetch and retrieve, kill a certain amount of enemies, kill a boss, talk to people around the town, venture to a certain area and investigate" type quests are all present in Dragon's Dogma. There are several side quests to go along with the main story quests. There is a notice board that grants additional quests and there are a few quests that are only available by talking to certain characters at a certain time.
You'll battle goblins, harpies, saurians, undead, skeletons, wyverns, chimeras, ogres, Cyclops as well as many other enemies throughout the random battles on the world map and quests that you choose to take. Battles can be quite pleasing with the abilities you possess. Bigger enemies such as chimeras can be grabbed from the side and your character can actually climb on top of them and stab them in their weak areas. Actions such as this make the combat very pleasing and addictive once you get the hang of the overall gameplay. An enemy fight can look much like a battle from Shadow of the Colossus. As you finish each quest, "Quest Successful" will appear on the upper left hand portion of the screen - there were moments where it gave off the same satisfaction as "Achievement unlocked" with how addicted I was to performing quests in Dragon's Dogma.
The quests where your party only kills a certain amount of enemies can become repetitive, but these quests are often fulfilled without notice once undertaken. The quest type that I never did truly enjoy was the escort quests. There are some quests where your party must escort a character to a certain area of Gransys. The escorted character will travel slowly behind your party and often be completely defenseless. They sometimes get stuck behind objects and your party will have to wait on them to catch up often with how slow they are. If you run into a big enemy such as a Cyclops, the character you are escorting has little chance of surviving with the intense battle that will take place. It's very easy for the escorted character to get trapped in between enemies since the enemies seem to target the defenseless character just like a member of your party. Escort quests literally make the game turn into a Dead Rising 1 escort mission. Escort quests are quite numerous in Dragon's Dogma if you keep performing side quests. Thankfully, they are not mandatory for the overall story.
The overall look of Dragon's Dogma is very solid for a game with such a massive world. The sense of scale to the game is amazing - you can literally see a castle in the distance from several miles across the landscape. The ocean looks like a never-ending body of water but you can still see little extensions of land that can be seen on the map. Weapon and ability effects look great as well. The magic bow of the archer has some realistic lighting effects. There is one magic bow skill that can actually illuminate a large area once an arrow is shot. Character models are all detailed much like other customizable RPGs. I can't help but notice the character models for just about every character all look unique while in a town. Even extremely minor characters often look different. Some of the enemy damage effects like having a chimera's face burn from a fire spell add a nice touch to spells that you can cast on them also.
The opening theme to Dragon's Dogma sounds much like a music piece from an anime. It's easily addicting from the get go. The game has several large scores of music that truly liven up battles. While fighting enemies such as chimeras or cyclops, the game will change to a very loud and epic sounding track once your party members start to win the battle by toppling the creature. There are many boss battles that have some great music placement to make the battle memorable. Characters are all voiced rather well. There are a few repeating voices in minor characters throughout the game, but every single character in the game has a voice when your party talks to them!
The controls are solid and easy to work with. Dragon's Dogma controls much like an action game. You have a light and heavy attack button along with a jump button. Ability commands per vocation can be performed by holding down a shoulder button and pressing one of the face buttons on the controller. Abilities can be assigned to each of the top three face buttons (Square, Triangle and Circle). The only problem I found with the controls is that you have very limited control over your party members. By using the D-pad, you can assign three commands that your party members will change their strategy by - Go, Come and Help! The majority of the time party members would get the job done by using the in-game commands, but there were times where I would have loved for my mage to stop fighting and help me by casting an immediate cure spell. Some sort of pre-commands for a party member to go by would have been a nice addition.
Out of all of the RPGs I have played, Dragon's Dogma stands out as one of the most satisfying action RPGs. It has a real pleasing overall story to it that is full of surprising events. The game features multiple decisions that a player can make to change the story or slightly change the way some cutscenes will play out. The game offers a new game+ option that carries over all items and levels once the game is completed as well. Capcom has already started to add additional quests through online DLC and has promised more, so Dragon's Dogma will last you for quite while! One full journey through the story took me 30 hours on my first time through and that is without performing many of the game's side quests and basically playing the game for the story alone.
If you're deciding between getting the game on PS3 or Xbox 360, just know that both versions have their ups and downs. The Xbox 360 version usually maintains a smoother framerate where the PS3 version's framerate seems jittery at times. The Xbox 360 version has screen tearing that is not in the PS3 version. Both versions have a problem with a skipping framerate after the game is played for a long period of time. Resetting your console will get rid of the problem, but it will often come back after a few hours. Dragon's Dogma also includes early access to the Resident Evil 6 demo on both consoles, but the game is much more than a early access demo vessel. If you're a fan of RPGs or Capcom action games, Dragon's Dogma is definitely worth a look.
+ Pawn party member system
+ Flashy combat and abilities
+ Fully customizable characters (even the armor)
+ Tons of quests and overall content
- Very basic partner control (just 3 commands)
- Escort missions
- Framerate skip problems at times
Final Rating: 86%. Take control of a heartless hero and command party members devoid of will and emotion that will surely die for you. Welcome to the world of Dragon's Dogma, newly appointed Arisen!