Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is heading to the PC in the next couple of days. Before you shake your head and wonder what year it is, yes, this is the same Dragon’s Dogma that released in April 2013 for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Due to popular demand, the enhanced version of the action RPG has finally made its way to PC – which tells you a lot about what can be achieved with enough fan support.
For all intents and purposes, Dark Arisen is essentially an expansion of the original game, adding a new zone, items, quests and weapons to go with the base game. It’s built on Capcom’s MT Framework, an engine which has been in use since the first Dead Rising.
With the PC release of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, it’s interesting to note how the visuals have evolved since then. The MT Framework engine served as a reliable framework for Capcom, powering titles ranging from Resident Evil 6 to Marvel vs. Capcom 3. To say that it’s diverse is an understatement and it was capable of making use of the multi-core CPUs in the PS3 and Xbox 360 to implement techniques like motion blur. It’s also fairly old – Capcom brought about its current generation Panta Rhei engine in order to replace MT Framework to increase efficiency for design and workflow. The results can be seen in Deep Down for the PlayStation 4 which makes use of deferred rendering, dynamic light sources, specular light reflections and more.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen actually makes strong usage of PC hardware to bring about source texture assets that couldn’t be displayed on the Xbox 360 and PS3 due to their limited memory. The question is whether it measures up to the latest Capcom has to offer in Panta Rhei. That’s not taking into consideration what Capcom has been doing with Dragon’s Dogma Online, the MMO which runs at 1080p resolution and 30 frames per second while offering several characters on-screen at once.
The PC version has more to offer than just improved textures. Along with options for a variable frame rate, the game now essentially run at 60 frames per second and at 4K resolution, providing a huge advantage over the previous gen console versions. Players get the usual array of DLCs, 16:9 aspect ratio support and even support for 144 Hz monitors to allow playing the game at 144 frames per second.
The graphical settings are fairly diverse as well. You can adjust the resolution and frame rate along with refresh rate but there is also a chance to change the anti-aliasing for up to FXAA3HQ. HDR can be toggled, texture filtering goes up to 16x anisotropic filtering, and factors like texture detail, shadow quality, grass quality, depth of field, FOV, distance scaling and more can be modified.
How does the game run though? We tested Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen on both a SAPPHIRE TRI-X OC Radeon R9 290 4GB and an AMD FX 8350 with 16 GB of memory at 1080p resolution. All settings were maxed out. Given the game’s relative age, it should look and run amazing, right?
Check out our complete analysis of the game including an in-depth comparison with the PS3 version in the video below. Select 1080p and 60fps option for best possibly video playback quality.
Unfortunately, performance was fairly spotty. Screen tearing was quite abundant due to the engine trying to maintain a locked 60 FPS frame rate. Night time settings did help to achieve this frame rate but it would often drop to the lower 30s at times. Day time settings saw similar performance but the random frame drops continued. Odd as it may sound, whenever characters would move around, the 60 FPS frame rate seemed incredibly fluid. When things stopped, the frame rate seemed to drop down to the low 40s. We’re not quite sure why this was happening and could be attributed to sub-standard optimization in places. It’s still odd all the same.
When comparing Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen to the PS3 version, the biggest difference can be seen in the image quality. The PS3 version managed a 1280×608 resolution with a low 20 to variable 30 frames per second. Compare this to the PC version which, despite its frame rate issues, still delivers a crisp 1080p resolution with excellent anisotropic filtering to improve image quality. The improved texture filtering doesn’t do many favours for the textures though – at AF 16x, you’ll notice textures becoming blurrier the closer you look. More detailed shadows, denser foliage, better draw distance and other features definitely put the PC version miles above the original PS3 release though.
Make no mistake – Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is not a current gen game, even if the PC version does help it to realize features that weren’t possible on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Some modern techniques like global illumination and physically based rendering are missing. That being said, those who experienced the game at a less than ideal resolution and frame rate should take a look at the PC version, if only to witness a better experience than what the previous gen consoles were capable of.
Those expecting visuals to rival the hits in 2015 will be somewhat disappointed but in terms of aesthetic and scale, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is conceptually in a different place as well. We’re still unsure about the frame rate issues that occurred but hopefully, future patches will rectify the same. At this stage, the PC version of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is worth a look for those who want a compelling action RPG with a significant scale. Just don’t walk in expecting The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and you’ll be fine.