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Review

Dragon's Dogma Review (Xbox 360, PS3)

The start of something big.

Dragon’s Dogma, Capcom’s take on a Western-style RPG, sees you take control of a heartless chap known as the ‘Arisen’. Now that might sound like a bit of a personal attack, but the poor man literally has no heart. The opening cutscene shows a rift in the sky, out of which flies a huge dragon before descending on Arisen’s home town. Most people run, but he picks up a sword and cautiously heads off to face the dragon.

Unfortunately it’s not nearly cautious enough, and the dragon easily takes the plucky man down. Rather than burning him to a crisp, the dragon seems to sense something and decides to pierce Arisen’s chest, pluck out his heart and eat it (seriously). Rather than being killed, he awakens some time later with a huge scar running down his body. Touching this scar causes the dragon’s voice to sound in his head, almost taunting him to come and take action.

Despite this rather action-packed opening, the pace of Dragon’s Dogma drops drastically, with the story slowing to a crawl. Although at times it may feel like a chore, those who put in enough hours will find the story eventually heads off in some interesting directions.


That dragon doesn't exactly look pleased.
Those used to RPGs will initially find themselves in familiar territory. The first thing the game does is allow you to create a character. It’s an impressively deep system, allowing you to set normal parameters such as height, weight, muscle tone and voice samples.

However, you can go several steps further because if you really want to nail the look of your character there’s all manner of cosmetic tweaks you can do – even altering eye spacing!

You then get to choose what skill your character specialises in. I choose a fighter, but could just have easily picked a mage or one of the other vocations. Once your character hits a certain level you can reassign this skill, however it’s worth mentioning that the lighter characters are better at scaling enemies, which is an incredibly handy talent to have.

In terms of combat, the fighting all occurs in real-time with attacks mapped to the controller buttons. It’s all fairly standard stuff, with new moves made available as long as you can afford them. As mentioned above, the ability to scale an enemy is useful even if it’s just to put the enemy off-balance, giving your team an opening to launch a counter attack.

Notice I just said “team”? That’s where your Pawns come in. The Pawn system is one of main hooks in Dragon’s Dogma. They are essentially AI comrades bound to carry out your bidding, as well as provide useful advice in and out of battle. You can hire up to three at any one time, although you get given a main Pawn towards the start of the game that you can customise. This customisation isn’t just looks and skills based, you can also determine their mannerisms and how they will react in battle.

I made my main Pawn aggressive, and when faced with a huge Cyclops he charged forward, jumped onto the monster’s leg and started to hack away with his sword, causing the Cyclops to take a tumble and allow us all to get a few digs in.

Whilst the two lesser Pawns will frequently need to be swapped out for those of a higher level, your main Pawn can be hired out to other online players and not only gain experience, but knowledge of areas and enemies you may not have encountered yet. To be clear, you can still use your main Pawn even if someone else is as well – they are basically getting a clone of it. It’s a clever system, and one that sets Dragon’s Dogma apart.

The Pawns are incredibly proactive too, and most of the time will fight strategically, or heal when necessary. Their advice is also extremely useful, rather than the inane babbling one might expect. It also allows for a great deal of flexibility, as if you are having problems defeating an enemy you can hire different Pawns with more effective skills.


It's not all dragons, boss fights like this are highlights of the game.
Unfortunately there are times where the AI has a bit of “a moment” and will stand and watch you get your face eaten instead of enchanting your weapons with an effective spell. There were also times where they would completely trash the house of a friendly NPC (and I mean completely trash), making you feel like the leader of a gang of ASBO owning yobs.

Those who enjoy collecting loot will be pleased to hear that Dragon’s Dogma is stuffed with it. There’s all manner of items to pick up, although this leads to a cluttered inventory system, with menu after menu to make your way through.

It all sounds promising, but it feels like for every step forward Dragon’s Dogma takes, it also takes one back. I’ve already mentioned the extremely slow-to-get-going story, but a large chunk of the side-quests are also on the dull side, and for me that’s a real killer. Despite being his creator, I also found it incredibly difficult to form any sort of bond with my character; he’s just a bit lifeless. The same can be said of the majority of the characters I came across.

It also looks very ropey in places, with a fair amount of pop-up and some pretty major slow-down in places. In fact, there were times where the entire screen would freeze up for a moment as the game seemed to catch up with itself. The camera can also completely lose the plot in some of the more intense battles, switching to some ridiculously obscure angle or zooming in far too close.

There were points where I hit some pretty big difficulty spikes, even after recruiting a decent team of Pawns. There’s an odd lack of fast travel too, instead relying on an expensive item to get you back to the main city.

The world Capcom has created is also a bit of a mixed bag. Yes it’s vast, but at times it feels that there’s not enough inhabiting it to warrant such a big area. However, the boss fights are pretty damn awesome. Not content with having set bosses, Capcom has also chucked in a load of random bosses that you’ll stumble upon if you stray off the beaten track.

Taking on these mythical beasts is an exhilarating experience and each one has their own individual traits to learn and overcome. It’s something Capcom should get a huge pat on the back for. Whilst these battles aren’t flawless, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Pros

  • Brilliant boss battles.
  • The story eventually heads in an interesting direction.
  • Good customisation.
  • Strong combat.
  • Pawns are a great idea.

Cons

  • Uninteresting characters.
  • Fussy inventory and map system.
  • A lot of dull side-quests.
  • Normal enemies lack variety for such a big game.
  • Looks ropey for the most part.

Dragon’s Dogma feels like the start of something big. It thrills and frustrates in equal measure, and whilst it’s not up to the level of those at the top of this genre, one can’t help but wonder what a Dragon’s Dogma 2 could be like if Capcom act on all the lessons learned from this game. An exciting thought indeed.

Score: 7/10

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15 Comments
  1. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    i enjoyed the demo, the combat system worked well, and as that is the thing i’ll probably be doing most that’s good.

    i can forgive the other shortcomings if the combat is fun.

    climbing over the monsters to reach a certain point was pretty fun.
    i liked how there was a strategic element to it as well.
    with the griffon or whatever it was from the demo.
    the snake tail cast magic and the lions head did physical damage, and cutting off or killing that part stopped that damage.
    and that’s where the climbing came in handy.

    i definitely want to pick this game up, it’s just a matter of when.

    Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 09:13.
  2. ray_gillespie
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    I really want to get this but I just can’t afford it at the moment so I’ll have to wait for the price to drop. I really enjoyed the demo, apart from the ridiculous black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. For me, I actually like the fact that there’s no easy ‘fast-travel’ system – fast travel almost ruined Oblivion for me as it totally destroyed any immersion into the game world. When I play it now, I deliberately choose not to fast travel anywhere except to major cities once I’ve already been there.

    Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 09:37.
    • XRAVE
      Member
      Since: Mar 2011

      This Game is awesome, I really enjoy playing the combat system is amazing only beaten by Dark Souls.

      Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 10:29.
  3. yd
    Member
    Since: Mar 2011

    I love the lack of fast travel. (Ok, you can get back to the main city with a fairly rare item, and you can set other destinations with an even rarer item)

    There are certain quests that involve quite a long journey. And you really want to rest until morning, and set off first thing. You definitely don’t want to be caught outside at night. More monsters seem to appear, and they’re not afraid to surround you. Which is fine, except for the fact that it’s dark and you can’t see a thing. Even with a lantern.

    Of course, you’ll inevitably get caught outside at night and it’s a lot of fun. If you don’t die. One of the best bits in the game.

    I’m not so keen on the completely idiotic things the pawns like to say though.

    “‘Tis a troubling enemy”

    No, it’s a massive boulder that just rolled down a hill.

    “This looks interesting”

    No, it’s just a bloody rock you found lying around. Unless it’s an amusingly rude shape, I DON’T WANT TO KNOW! Not once. Not twice. And definitely not every 12 seconds for the next 3 hours!

    Still, at least that’s marginally less annoying than the “They’re masterworks all, you can’t go wrong” guy.

    Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 10:41.
    • sabrecheeky
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Having played the game for nearly 50 hours – this post made me laugh out load. You, sir, have nailed it!

      Always a worry when you recruit new pawns and then start your journey – Oh no, I’ve got a talker.

      Comment posted on 16/06/2012 at 09:18.
  4. doug
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    Took me 90 hours to get platinum and it never crashed once (take note skyrim)

    Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 12:13.
    • Izorpo
      Member
      Since: Jun 2012

      Skyrim is completely different – as every Bethesda open world game – as it remembers everything you do in the game, only looted coins from one forsworn, only looted a weapon from another – the game remembers

      this is the main reason peoples game saves ended up being 15 mb (thats huge game save file) – not to mention all the crap you bring to your numerous homes, collect books it remembers that too – can’t compare the two at all

      Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 12:49.
  5. LTG Davey
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Tried the demo but its not really my cup of tea. May pick it up one day if it reaches the sub-£10 price point. Plus it comes with an RE6 demo I’m itching to play lol

    Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 13:00.
    • An-dz
      Member
      Since: Oct 2010

      I forgot about the early RE6 demo, the code was printed on the inside of the cover so i didnt even notice it for a few days.

      Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 14:54.
      • LTG Davey
        andUandU
        Since: Aug 2008

        lol awesome. You have it on PS3 or 360? 360 owners get really early access to it I think (Early July?), whereas PS3 owners have to wait until Sept. Weird :S

        Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 15:49.
  6. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    Excellent review Dan. I’m not a fan of stories that eventually get going and have dull sidequests to keep me interested as chances are i would have gotten bored and turned to another game. The unique gameplay is enough to get me interested but i’ve seen footage of DD and the pawns will get annoying after a few hours of repeating the same thing. “I get it!, you’ve learnt a new thingy, now shut up and kill that motherfecking snake that is trying to eat us!” But the pawn idea is a good idea as it actually adds to the role playing aspect and could force you to decide if you need a high level mage and if you should grind or hire a high level pawn. Shame about the Ai though as it would have felt like they were actually fighting along side you instead of standing around and watching you getting torn a new hole.

    May pick this up when it’s £20 mainly due to the slow story and lack of interesting side quests. That and the gameplay is not enough to keep me playing untill the story takes off as it would end up getting a bit repitive 10 hours in and if nothing has happened in the main story. Imo. :)

    Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 16:45.
  7. MadBoJangles
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    Loved the demo, hopefully will pick it up soon :)

    Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 17:51.
  8. yogh_wayne
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    Dragon’s Dogma is the best (and sadly most underrated) game I’ve played this year. At the moment I spend every free minute playing it, because it’s mainly one thing: fun :)

    Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 18:56.
  9. Kennykazey
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    Liked the demo, but it hadmore potential for greatness rather than actual greatness. There was a lot of clipping and the pawns probably double as caddies for Everybodys Golf on their spare time. So I’ll most likely be skipping past this one (due to a massive backlog) and keep interest for a sequel.

    Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 20:54.
  10. wearejimbo
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    I bought this because I was depressed after trying to play Diablo 3 for 3 days and not being able to get in. I do not regret the purchase. After a few hours of play I was getting a bit annoyed at the fact that there was no fast travel, but that was the only annoyance. I never saw any of the performance issues mentioned in the article (I have the PS3 version BTW) and am impressed at how well it performs even when there are several Sorcerers and Mages all casting AOE spells at large groups of enemies.

    ***** SPOILER ALERT ***** Once you get past the real final Battle, (A quest called Final Battle happens about 3/4 way through ) then fast travel is a lot easier as you are able to place port crystals around the main map to which you can fast travel from anywhere ***** END SPOILER ALERT *****

    Diablo 3 has not got a look in since and I have played this as Strider, Assassin, Magic Archer and Mage in that order. I am about to complete the game on NG+ with a NG++ beckoning for a Ranger play style I think to see how it differs from Strider.

    If you enjoy RPGs then I recommend this one. The menus are a bit clunky, but its difficult to see how else they could have done it on a console.

    Comment posted on 18/06/2012 at 15:11.

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