Review: Dragon’s Dogma

‘Tis time for ye olde-style RPG to be released. But is Capcom’s newest offering fairer than a maiden’s hair, or does it stink like Dragon doo doo?

Dragon’s Dogma sees you in the role of the ‘Arisen’, one who is responsible for taking down the titular dragon. A brief section showing you the exploits of one of the previous Arisen serves as a tutorial and explains the basic rules of combat clearly.

Although the backbone to the game is stat heavy the combat itself is not turn based. Instead combat occurs in real-time with the emphasis on changing your tactics to overcome different enemies. Playing as the Fighter job class (one of many classes, others includes Strider which is an archer and Mage which focuses on healing and offensive spells) I found myself unable to blindly hack and slash due to a stamina bar which runs out as you attack. You have to time your attacks well to avoid wasting too much stamina and you must rely on defensive blocks with your shield to preserve your health. As well as the basic heavy and light attacks available to you there are a range of other moves your character can perform, which gets added to as you purchase new ones with experience from levelling up.

Of course you are not alone either in combat or on your journey through the game world. Your Arisen has the ability to summon ‘pawns’ (human-like immortals from another realm) to help them out. This is one of the really unique things about Dragon’s Dogma. Not only do the pawns help you in combat (even shouting tactical advice about how to attack enemies) they also provide quest hints and scavenge items for use. They are clever enough to equip new items they find or you can choose what they wear yourself.

Which smoothly enough, leads me onto the item combination system. By combining items you and your pawns pick up you can create brand new ones. Part of the fun is experimenting with different combinations to see what new items you can come up with. For example I managed to create a stronger health herb by combining an existing one with another item.

As in every RPG the basic gameplay is all about the quests. These can be picked up from village notice boards and the time honoured method of talking to people with question marks over their heads. Quests range from the usual kill this number of enemies sort and the standard escort missions to more original fare like catching a village thief. As ever it is advisable to accept as many side quests as you can in order to level up your character and get access to those all important skills.

Character creation itself isn’t the most in-depth feature, with many face and body characteristics only offering presets and not the more detailed sliding scale offerings from RPGs like Elder Scrolls. However it’s still detailed enough to create a decent lead character and you can also create your main pawn the same way which is a nice touch.

Once plunging your character into combat you’ll notice that boss battles are a more thoughtful affair than usual with the need to find a weak spot and exploit it (usually by climbing to it and hacking repeatedly) being crucial to avoiding defeat. Tactics also come into play against minor enemies too. For example I found myself  barely surviving early on against a pack of wolves that in many other RPGs would have been easy to pick off. This is another unique thing about Dragon’s Dogma. Each fight, no matter how minor, requires thought and planning. The difficulty is pleasingly challenging.

Sadly the production values are not as solid as the core gameplay. Graphically the game really only comes alive in the cut scenes. It is by no means poor to look at, but in an age where the bar has been raised by Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls, Dragon’s Dogma does disappoint somewhat. The voice acting is also weirdly emotionless and stilted, the game lacking humour and the plot being an RGP-by-numbers script. The soundtrack is pleasant enough (save some cheesy Jap-Rock title music) but again feels generic and is not that distinctive in its own right.

There are a lot of good, well implemented ideas here such as the ability to share pawns online and the clever item combination system but these are marred by the lack of polish in the games visuals and a dearth of originality in plot. However if you are a fan of the RPG genre, I would recommend this game as providing a stern challenge to those used to easy combat and something with a decently long lifespan, that it’s three job classes might extend further. Overall, in spite of its flaws, this is one dragon worth taking for a ride.

7/10

Dragon’s Dogma is out 25 May for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. You can order it now from our online shop.

Author: Michael Youngman

Your friendly neighborhood gamer and film buff. Equally at home in the art-house or multiplex cinema. Loves all types of game but 1v1 fighting is a fave. I like a good natter every now and then so why not contact me on twitter.

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