Dragon’s Dogma Review
Dragon’s Dogma (Available on PS3 and Xbox360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Dragon’s Dogma M for mature for blood and gore, partial nudity, suggestive themes, and violence. Featuring a fantasy setting, the player will engage and kill numerous types of creatures/monsters and human enemies. Blood is kept to a minimum but is still present.
Plays Like: Dragon’s Dogma is an open world action-RPG.
Review Basis: Completed main quest, played 95 hours so far.
The Great: The combat is phenomenal. Imagine shades of Devil May Cry mixed with Shadow of the Colossus. In addition to light and heavy attacks, you have the ability to map three skills each to your primary weapon and secondary weapon (or for the mage, six spells). Sprinting, attacking, casting, and blocking are all governed by your stamina gauge. Depleting your stamina leaves you stunned and open for attack, so careful use is required. Enemies will range from goblins half your height to dragons a couple stories tall. The larger enemies can be climbed, allowing you to strike at weak points. Battling the larger creatures is truly the highlight of the game. Having your party drag a chimera to the ground so you can have at its head, or landing an arrow on a griffin’s wings and watching it tumble to the ground is immense fun.
Heavily tied to the combat is the class system. Upon starting the game you choose one of three starting classes for the Arisen: mage, strider (agile archer with daggers), or fighter (knight with sword & shield). A little ways into the game, you gain the option of changing classes for you and your main pawn. Advanced forms of the three starting classes (sorcerer, warrior, and ranger) are available in addition to hybrid classes (magic archer, mystic knight, and assassin). Each class is limited to which weapons and equipment they can use. Each class levels independently of your characters main level, and each class level unlocks a new tier of skills and attacks that can be purchased using Discipline points (these are also spent to unlock new classes and are along with normal experience during combat). Most skills are weapon, and therefore largely class, specific, but you also unlock augments. Augments are mostly passive skills and boosts, but are available to all classes as you switch. While the restriction of weapons and skills to classes, the system feels less free-form than something like Demons Souls/Dark Souls, but it makes each class feel unique and forces you to alter your tactics and approach to combat. This keeps the combat from growing stale through the length of the game.
+ The pawn system allows you to summon two pawns in addition to your main pawn that you design. These summoned pawns are the main pawns of other players and, likewise, your main pawn will gain items and knowledge of areas/enemies when other players choose them. The importance of choosing a strong, well-balanced party cannot be understated in Dragon’s Dogma, so players would do well to spend adequate time to select and outfit their party in addition to their own character. The pawn system is one of Dragon’s Dogma’s more innovative features and makes the game feel something like an offline MMO at times.
+ The game world. The game takes place in the land of Gransys. Gransys is fairly expansive and offers a lot of ground to explore. There is not a terribly impressive variety of locations; you’re going to spend a lot of time in various forests, woods, and fields. However, each area still manages to have its own feeling and personality, so it avoids feeling completely repetitive. The environments feel well designed, if you pay attention the ambient noises and sights while trekking through the world, it’s very easy to feel as if you are actually on a journey across a great land, surrounded by nature.
+/- The story. It works to move the game along, but don’t expect a super gripping narrative or much depth.
+/- Characters feel flat and one-dimensional. While you can customize the personality of your main pawn to a degree, the pawns and NPC’s don’t impress.
+/- The music. Mostly ambient. It’s functional, but largely forgettable.
+/- Quests. After the completion of the “main quest”, a new area opens up to explore and all enemies upgrade to a more difficult level or form. The game is fairly lengthy and will keep you engaged for dozens of hours, especially if you choose to engage in any of the many side quests. While there are a few side quests and have a more personal touch, the rest are largely cut and paste of the same few types. Be prepared for plenty of escort missions and fetch quests.
+/- The graphics aren’t terrible, but can’t hold a candle to something the likes of Skyrim. Many textures are a bit rough and the character models, while passable, are just a bit…..odd. While environments and characters are ho hum, the enemies at least are very well done and even show visible signs of damage as inflict more damage.
+ Enemy locations. With few exceptions, enemy locations are fixed. On one hand, their spacing is almost perfect in terms of the frequency of encounters. Encounters are not so sparse that the world feels barren and boring, but neither does it ever feel as if you can’t get around because you keep getting attacked. On the other hand, in regions you travel through more frequently (ie-around Gransys) you’re going to see the same group of the same enemies every time. Eventually it gets old fighting the same group of wolves or goblins.
+/- Rendering and loading. I played the PS3 version and didn’t notice any screen tearing or clipping. However, the rendering distance for NPC’s could be extended. While sprinting through the capital I often couldn’t see NPC’s until I was running into them. While the NPC’s only appear when you’re right on top of them, the environments and enemies load at a decent distance.
- Extremely limited fast travel. Dragon’s Dogma’s game world is fairly extensive and walking from one end to the other can take some time. Ferrystones allow you to warp back the Gran Soren, the capital city and central hub of the world. Later in the game you gain a portcrystal that, when placed on the ground, allow you to travel to that location with a ferrystone. However, ferrystones are rare drops/finds and are somewhat expensive to buy, further reducing their already limited use.
- The voices. Dear god the voices. Your pawns talk, nonstop. When exploring new areas or facing new enemies, this can actually be helpful as they will help you explore, gather items and resources, point out alternate routes, shout out enemy weaknesses or suggest tactics, they actually have useful information. However, they often comment on various changes in the environment ie-when moving from one region to another or passing a certain landmark, and they will speak the same phrase. Each. And Every. Time.
While far from perfect, Dragon’s Dogma introduces a number of unique ideas. The combat is frantic, fun, and varied (thanks to the class system) and the pawn system provides a unique way of managing ones party. There is very little the game does poorly, but much the game only does a mediocre job, leading to a bit of tedium at times. However, if you can move through that the game is still good fun and worth playing.
Final Score: 7/10
Addendum: A sequel for Dragon’s Dogma has been green-lit. Personally, I think this franchise still has a lot of potential. As aforementioned, there’s not much the game does really bad on, so with a bit of refinement the sequel has the potential to be even better.
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