Dragon’s Dogma is Capcom’s most expensive and ambitious project ever. It’s a sprawling role-playing game that gives you enough freedom to create your unique own adventures, and doesn’t hold your hand in easing you into its gameplay mechanics. It’s pretty conflicting, too, in the way it’s designed, which not only shows Capcom’s strengths, but also their inexperience in tackling this genre. Although, they have to be commended for creating something that is clearly out of their comfort zone.
The game isn’t that accessible for newcomers and has a high learning curve. You journey begins after you create a character with the plethora of cosmetic customization features available to you. Having your heart stolen by a Dragon who attacks your village isn’t something that can be termed as a pleasant experience. The basic premise of the game here is to obviously get your heart back, but it’s not that simple. The story is quite convoluted and the ending will leave you dazzled and confused, but also satisfied.
It takes a while to get used to the gameplay mechanics as the quest markers aren’t that generous and the game depends on you to use your intelligence to find the things you want. Surely being treated like an adult is something most gamers desire? However, this perceived freedom also brings a lot of issues that Capcom could have easily tackled well. The game is quite unpredictable in a sense that you really don’t know what to expect while exploring. It’s also something that makes me appreciate the game that much more, but that experience could have been enhanced even further if Capcom’s design team brainstormed together to reduce player annoyance.
There are a lot of unique classes at your disposal: Mage, Warrior, Ranger and so on, and these classes can be switched mid-game to a something even more potent class, so the game doesn’t necessarily bind you to something. Fed up of the bandits killing your Mage repeatedly? You can switch to something like Warrior after level 10, and give them a taste of their own medicine. But it’s preferred that you stick to one class and level it up, as all the classes have a lot of powerful skills that are also visually stunning to look at.
The big reason why the game looks splendid at night (there is a day-night cycle), is because the lighting in the game really shines. Whenever you use any skill or even equip something simple like a lantern, you will get completely immersed into the game world, purely because of how good everything looks. It’s almost romantic. The game is created using the MT Framework engine – which is Capcom’s top tier in-house engine. However, a bunch of technical issues are prevalent which can be blamed on the aging console hardware. The PS3 version runs smoothly even during large battles, but it’s somewhat inconsistent.
There’s also a Pawn system in the game – which is Capcom’s way of telling you to hire a bunch of companions to assist you in your journey. What is interesting is that, not only can you share your Pawns online for other players to use, but when someone uses your pawn, you earn Rift Crystals, which in turn enables you to hire high-leveled pawns. This is one of the main reasons why the game has an in-depth customization feature to beautify your main pawn to make him/her attractive. You can hire three Pawns – two of them belonging to other players who won’t return after they die.
The entire game is based on balance, and on how you create your party. For example, having a party of all Mages could prove detrimental while facing a group of Bandits or Goblins adept at melee. It’s about careful planning. My party had a Mage and two Warriors, which gave me a good balance between melee and ranged attacks. There’s also an inventory system which enables you to store and combine items to create something unique and new. Various vendors are littered over Gransys – the name of the land – and there are a plethora of varied locations including a fort, abandoned tower, misty forests and so on.
There’s one thing I feel Capcom could have handled better, though, is the fast travel system. You can transport to areas which has a Port Crystal using Ferrystones, and in your first playthrough, you get access to only one port crystal, and the other one is located in the City of Gran Soren – which is your main base in the game. The end result? Lots and lots of backtracking. Even for menial tasks like escort missions, you will be trekking the same areas again, and combined with limited stamina, it’s something that will surely get on your nerves.
Of course, Gransys is a hostile place filled with all sorts of vile creatures – from a lowly Goblin to a Drake itself. This enemy variety which lets you fight things like: Chimera, Griffon, Harpies, Wyvern, Cyclops, Ogres and the likes, is something that can be termed as your fantasy coming to life in glorious high definition. The game gives a good sense of ‘growth’ as you level up and pummel enemies that were annihilating you when you were incapable of beating them early on in the game. This is something that I demand from every RPG; enemy scaling sucks the joy out of such games, and this is something Capcom acknowledges as well.
There’s a lot of content here in Dragon’s Dogma, and after having beaten the game and going through the bizarre ending, I couldn’t help but create a new game with the cleared save file that lets you keep all your weapons and equipment. I think that’s a testament to how addictive this game actually is, however, being a fan of RPGs makes me ignore some of the issues that is prevalent in this game, which clearly a casual player would not. Most people would lose their way at the start of the game itself as they come to grips with Dragon’s Dogma’s mechanics.
It’s fair to say that the game grows on you, but also requires you to be patient and give it time to blossom. Capcom has created something that a lot of veteran RPG lovers would admire, but having played games like Skyrim, Fallout 3, Fable 2 and the likes, the shortcomings of this game are quite apparent. However, the combat mechanics are undoubtedly some of the most satisfying and well implemented ones I’ve seen to date in an RPG after the Souls games.
When Dragon’s Dogma is at its high, it gives you an experience like no other RPG before it, but when you come face to face with its shortcomings, you’d wish the game was designed better. I’d recommend it purely on the fact that there’s too many good things about it, but what it doesn’t execute well is something you cannot take lightly.
This game was reviewed on the PS3.
Second opinion by our author Bojeeva, who played it on the Xbox 360.
It’s a rare thing indeed for a completely new IP to see the light of day – and particularly one so ambitious – but Capcom has taken no prisoners with the arrival of Dragon’s Dogma.
For those of us feeling somewhat deflated now we’ve scoured every inch of Skyrim, had our fill of Fus Ro Dah-ing and heard countless tales of arrows to the knee, Dragon’s Dogma proves a welcome addition to the rapidly populating catalogue of RPGs for our consoles.
Capcom has high hopes for its new franchise and Dragon’s Dogma certainly offers plenty of potential for expansion and follow ups. Brought to us by the guys behind Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry 4, it combines the facets of games such as Skyrim and the thoroughly unforgiving Dead Souls. Dragon’s Dogma is huge, engrossing and tough – albeit a little rough around the edges.
Signposting and handholding is not part of its remit here and you’ll find yourself wandering the vast environments not knowing precisely where you’re headed most of the time… or what’s waiting round the corner. But it’s that sense of freedom that makes Dragon’s Dogma so magical and appealing.
The plot goes something like this: the titular dragon unexpectedly attacks your sleepy seaside hometown of Cassardis and things don’t end well. While many of your peers scarper, fearing for their lives, you grab a blade and do your best to down the beast. It doesn’t end well and the winged one emerges victorious, skewering and then swallowing your heart in the process. Oddly, you don’t die but awake some time later to become one of the “Arisen”. Rather than just counting your blessings and getting on with life as best you can without a heart, our protagonist takes it upon him or herself to track down that pesky dragon and retrieve it! Cue plenty of exploration and combat as your roam the vast realm, coming across all kinds of fantastical creatures along the way.
Within minutes of leaving the menu screen you get a good idea of the kind of adventures you’ll be enjoying during your playthrough. You’re certainly thrown in at the deep end, and before long you’ll have seen off the mystical Griffin, downed an Ogre and dispatched a huge three-headed Hydra. By this time you’ll have spent some time on the comprehensive character customisation screen, adapting your appearance, physical attributes and skills. Do you fancy being a warrior, strider or a mage? Chiselled chin or stumpy legs – it’s entirely up to you. Capcom proudly states that every decision has an effect on gameplay too, so careful thought is required even at the start of the game.
Soon after, you’ll also have assembled a group of like-minded warriors to assist you in your various quests. Three companions will assist you in your escapades, one permanently and two others who can be switched. It’s a clever mechanic, primarily because these sidekicks – or pawns – are borrowed from other players through an online portal called the Rift. What this means in practise is these hired pawns may already have passed through the part of the game you’re playing – and will therefore have the required skills or be able to offer advice to pass through safely. In turn, your pawns will also be borrowed and benefit from learning news skills and abilities in someone else’s game.
That’s not to say they’re the brightest people in the world… pawns are notoriously annoying. It’s their inane chatter that starts to grate after a while, all the constant repetition and pointless comments. What’s more, their “helpful” dialogue pops up onscreen, which is very distracting and eats into your already crammed display. This can be turned off but it’s irritating nonetheless. On the plus side, they are handy to have in a battle and do their bit to assist you in combat.
And the combat is hugely satisfying… especially as you can leap onto even the biggest of enemies to see them off. Grab an ogre’s leg to slow his movement or scale a Hydra’s neck to get some head shots in. It’s well animated and adds another tactical element to each confrontation. Inspired.
Sure, there are flaws, such as the occasionally irksome camera angles, slightly ropey textures and the backtracking mentioned in the review above. Nevertheless, Capcom has set the groundwork for a fantastic franchise in Dragon’s Dogma – one that it will no doubt aim to capitalise on and develop for some time to come. All in all, it’s highly recommended for RPG lovers as well as newbies to the genre who are willing to invest the time. And who doesn’t like slaying Goblins and Cyclops? Definitely worth an 8.
Spectacular lighting. Lot of enemy and environment variety. Generous amount of content. Player is given a lot of freedom to craft his own adventures.
Backtracking is an issue. Technical problems. Is not accessible to casual players. High learning curve.