Dragon’s Dogma Preview (PS3, Xbox 360)

Action RPG, Dragon’s Dogma, is almost somewhat of an unknown entity at the moment. Whilst people go mad for The Witcher 2, Dark Souls and the like, Capcom’s newest IP seems to have taken a back seat. It has a number of interesting features though, and handily enough TSA has been granted early access to check things out. Let’s go Monster Hunting!

The first thing the game does is make you create a character. It’s an impressively deep system, allowing you to set height and weight, as well as muscle tone and voice samples. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, 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 also 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, so don’t fret too much about making the wrong choice.

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[drop2]After this lengthy process the story then kicks off with a bang. A rift in the sky appears and a huge dragon flies out, before descending on your home town. Most people run, but you pick up a sword and head off to face the dragon. Then you get your arse kicked (duh, it’s a dragon). Rather than burn you to a crisp, the dragon seems to sense something within you.

Using one giant claw he pierces your chest, plucks out your heart and eats it, before leaving. You should be dead, but instead you awaken some time later with a huge scar running down your body. Touching this scar causes the dragon’s voice to sound in your head, almost taunting you to seek him out and take action. You are also now referred to as the Arisen.

Unfortunately, after this adrenaline kick of an intro, the pace of the game drops dramatically in order to teach you the basics. You’ll find yourself looking for medicinal flowers and escorting tradesfolk rather than slaying dragons.

The fighting all occurs in real-time, with attacks mapped to the controller buttons. It’s all fairly standard stuff in the code I played, with new moves made available as long as you can afford them. As my character was a fighter, my entire repertoire was melee based; leaving me at an obvious disadvantage when magic was required. This is where the Pawns come into play.

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, but you can also determine their mannerisms and how they will react in battle.

[drop]Though the game will apparently ship with thousands of Pawns for offline play, it’s online where things get interesting. You can hire out other players’ Pawns to use as your own, bringing with them all the knowledge and experience they have.

Online players can also hire your main Pawn, and when you rest at an inn your Pawn will update with all the knowledge they have amassed whilst being used elsewhere, including information on areas you have yet to explore. 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 makes for a very interesting system.

The Pawns are incredibly proactive too, and 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.

After all this, it’s the actual gameplay that has split my opinion. First up I should make the obvious disclaimer that I have in no way completed the game, and am only a few hours in so things could quite easily pick up, but so far a lot of the side-quests have been on the dull side. 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.

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. This is where good Pawn organisation is crucial, as each boss can be beaten in a number of ways. I made my 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, putting the Cyclops off balance and causing him to fall over. Good man!

The world Capcom has created is also an enticing one. Places you can see off in the distance can be travelled too and explored, and as the map opens up you realise just how big it is. Those who love Oblivion or Skyrim will find this very appealing.

The locations look good too, with an impressive draw distance. There seems to be a bit of pop-up when it comes to simple things such as crates and items, and some character clipping occurs, but nothing major. I can’t say I like the voiceovers much though, as they seem to be a mish-mash of accents, but none done particularly well.

I like what I’ve seen of Dragon’s Dogma. Whilst a lot of the side-quests have been a bit slow, the bosses, locations and Pawn system are interesting enough to make me play on. The full game is out next month, along with our review.

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13 Comments

  1. Come’s out the same time as max payne 3.

    Forget it.

  2. Glad to hear that the pawns are appropriately useful as that was my main concern after spending time with Bethesda’s AI companions recently.

    • Ahhhh, there’s nothing like getting a critical stealth hit on your ally as they run directly into your line of fire eh? Or hearing “Ooh look a cave” “Yes dear, we just came out of it….-.-“

  3. Very interested in this game. Thanks for the preview!
    Looks promising.

  4. Nice read. Really interested by this game. Looking forward to the review.

  5. sounds interesting.

    the pawn system sounds like something pretty unique for an rpg.

    they’ve got to get the ai right though, there’s nothing worse than being saddled with an ai companion who’s a bloody moron.

    can you create a female player character in this one?

  6. Sounds good to me. I think I’ll have to keep an eye out on this one

  7. I’ve watched my flat-mate playing Skyrim and it’s hilarious. From the ludicrous American accents to the “I’ll gallop down an invisible flat surface” as the ridden horse decides that huge rocky boulders are but the simplest of challenges. It would appear that gamers (and reviewers) can forgive all manner of nonsense when looking at the big picture.

    I do love some Action RPG so bring it on I say. :)

    • Yeah one of the biggest things that would make a difference to the plausibility of Bethesda’s world would be an animation system such as that in UC3, hell even Red Dead’s would be better. I appreciate its a big task given everything else they do, but they could licence Euphoria for usage these days I believe and in one swoop improve the immersion tenfold.

      • Ah, that was one of the gripes for me. I watched an entire scene unfold with the chap (Whitemane?) talk for a good few minutes and I’m assuming he’s had a terrible stroke as his arms didn’t move once and his facial animation was up there with a rotten corpse.

      • Yes nothing worse in an rpg than the awful character animations spoiling the emersion. Playing id’s Rage highlights how bad Bethesda’s NPCs are.

  8. Hugely looking forward to this! As long as Capcom don’t play one of their DLC tricks with character costumes and weapons…

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