Dragon’s Dogma Review

This review is a long time coming, but E3 is a harsh mistress and she must be appeased. Dragon’s Dogma is the latest new IP (New series) from Capcom. As I mentioned in my demo impressions, when Capcom actually takes a chance on a new IP, gamers should take note. Capcom is notorious for playing it safe to the point that Keiji Inafune (The creator of Mega Man) had to trick them in order to push Dead Rising and Lost Planet out. Dragon’s Dogma is an open world fantasy medieval RPG, which is something we have all seen before. Looking at it from a superficial level, Dragon’s Dogma seems to cobble together bits and pieces from various games. The art style is similar to Dark Souls; the climbing mechanic is similar to Shadow of the Colossus; the bosses take notes from Monster Hunter; and the character creator and open world are reminiscent of The Elder Scrolls. However, to call this game derivative would be grossly underestimating it. Despite similarities to other games, Dragon’s Dogma forges a unique identity for itself, and steps far enough away from the ordinary to provide an interesting spin on a setting that is seriously overdone.

It’s OK as long as the Dragon isn’t preachy about it.

Gameplay is where Dragon’s Dogma stands tall against major competitors such as Skyrim. There are nine classes, all of which are based around the generic Warrior, Mage, and Rogue classes you see in every fantasy RPG in existence. There are three starter “basic” classes: the Fighter, Strider, and Mage. Each of these offers three different gameplay styles. The Fighter is a defensive melee class. The Strider is an archer with some support skills, and the Mage has minor destructive and support spells. You soon get the option of changing classes to either “advanced” classes or “hybrid” classes. The advanced classes, the Warrior, Ranger, and Sorcerer, are like the basic classes, but they lose their supportive abilities and go full offence. The Warrior cannot use a shield or one-handed weapons, but is capable of using two-handed weapons. The Ranger uses longbows, and the Sorcerer gains advanced destructive magics and status ailments at the cost of support magic. Finally there are the hybrid classes: the Assassin, Mystic Knight, and Magick Archer. These act as jack-of-all-trades classes, but have some very unique abilities to prevent stagnation. What is so great about this game is that no class is obsolete, including so called “basic” classes, as they all bring something unique to the table. These classes are fairly well balanced. Some classes are better than others in terms of DPS, but no class is useless and the only time class balance is an issue is with the super boss. Each class has a set of skills and you can transfer passive skills between classes, which encourages you to switch up classes. Stats are also affected by class, so don’t expect to be a good mage after 50 levels as a Warrior.

Much easier when you can just shoot it in the eye

Unlike in most open world fantasy RPGs, you will actually be building a party to combat the demon horde. Your teammates are called Pawns. You can have up to three Pawns with you at a time. One of the Pawns will be your main Pawn. Your main Pawn can be fully customized like your character and you can select his or her equipment and class. The other two Pawns can either be preset Pawns from the game or hired from other players. Hiring other players’ main Pawns is the core online component of the game. Pawns gain experience as they are used and will fight better and make more useful suggestions the more experienced they are. Also, you gain rift crystals (A secondary currency used for customization tools) from having other player hire your Pawn. In short, it pays to make your Pawn desirable to other players and to make them as useful as possible.

Yea, it will take more than large breasts to get hired; although, sadly, not much more.

Party composition is very important in this game. If you go on without a Mage for healing, you will have a harder time. Making sure you have the right elements is also very important. There is no reason to bring a Pawn along with all sorts of ice magic when you intend to fight Snow Harpies. Similarly, a team of mages will find themselves out of luck when going up against the magic immune Metal Golem.  There isn’t one set rule for parties and experimentation is encouraged so each player can find what type of team works best for them.

Snow Harpies are like this, but less vase-bound

At its core, Dragon’s Dogma is driven by adventure, and key to that adventure is the acquisition of new items and treasure. There is a huge variety of equipment to customize your character with, and many different materials to be scavenged from enemies to upgrade that equipment. Unlike most RPGs, many equipment slots have room for two pieces of equipment: armour and clothing. This allows you to layer equipment on your character and better customize his or her look.

Someone doesn’t understand how to layer.

Quests are both a positive and a negative in this game. Primary quests are fun enough offering some small plot lines between minor characters and yourself. Notice Board quests are usually just kill a certain amount of enemy x, or collect a certain amount of enemy y, or escort certain NPCs around the map. Dragon’s Dogma has very restrictive fast travel, so you will be mostly on foot, and this too is a positive and negative. It is a positive that you have to consider where you are going and plan accordingly, but it is a negative as quests, such as escort quests can be a pain. On the whole the lack of fast travel is refreshing and the game feels much richer without it, encouraging the player to explore and not simply skip all of the journey for immediate gratification. One unique aspect of Dragon’s Dogma that gets involved with travel is the night mechanics. Nights in this game are truly dark and require a lantern. Also, much stronger and more enemies prowl the wastes at night, making travelling at night dangerous business.

Nights are way more intense in this game than pretty much any game ever.

Graphically, Dragon’s Dogma looks excellent. It has a similar art style to Dark Souls, but with much better character models. Where the game really shows its worth is in its enemy designs, particularly with the bosses. I have never seen a Chimera look so good in a game of this scope. Speaking of bosses. There are a large collection of boss creatures taken from Greek mythology and all of them are fun to fight. Many of them have parts that can be broken off like in Monster Hunter for better loot, and many of them can be climbed on to reach weak points. There is a large variety of bosses and they help keep the game fresh.

Poor little goblin. Never stood a chance.

Dragon’s Dogma has an extensive character creator for both your character and main Pawn. Gone are the awful sliders found in other games. In this game, you choose from a large variety of pre-made parts to design your character. As such it is much easier to create a character that looks even remotely human than in games like Skyrim where you can wrestle with the creator for hours and still end up with sub-human trash. There are also many customizable options not available in most games. You are free to create a decrepit old man, a small child, or a muscle bound woman. These are all very uncommon in games such as this and that is definitely commendable. Also unlike many games like this, you can recustomize your character by spending rift crystals, and there are more options than initially available that can be opened through rift crystals; although, these options are mainly crazy hair and skin colours.

All of these faces look less identical in-game.

The biggest down point of Dragon’s Dogma is definitely its audio. The title screen music sets the game up with JRPG-style rock, but the main game is full of uninspired overdone orchestrals, the same kind found in every fantasy RPG ever made. It is very disappointing, as a game such as this permeated with J-Rock would be really uniquely scored, instead of falling back on the basics. The voice acting is also really subpar. With possible exception of David Lodge, who voices the Dragon, the voice cast seems half incompetent and half phoning it in. Of course it doesn’t help that the dialogue is really poorly written, so the blame isn’t only on the voice actors.

Above: David Lodge going about his day-to-day life.

The other weakness of Dragon’s Dogma is the story, which is barely present. It does ramp up a bit at the end, but you will rarely get a chance to interact meaningfully with any character, or really know what’s going on. This isn’t a huge deal like it is in some games, because Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t push its story down the player’s throats. The story is a flimsy excuse for action and it never evolves much further than that. All you need to know is that your character is the Arisen and you want to kill the Dragon. There really isn’t much more to it than that until the end where some plot twists get thrown in.

Wait, what story?

Dragon’s Dogma is a very refreshing game. It doesn’t pretend like its story is central so it never really disappoints in this regard like Skyrim or Diablo 3. The gameplay is addicting and you are likely to spend a lot of time with this game purely through travelling unlike most RPGs that simply give you an easy fast travel option. With a wide variety of customization options, and strong varied combat, Dragon’s Dogma is not a game you will put down for awhile after starting it.

Pros:


Varied character classes
Strong combat
Strategy involved
Lots of useful loot


Cons: 


Weak story
Poor voice acting
Generic music


8.5

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