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Dragon's Dogma hands-on preview

Without a doubt, Capcom knows how to craft a great linear experience. Hits like Devil May Cry and Resident Evil place you on a collision course with inescapable enemies and inevitable plot points, rarely allowing you to deviate from their well-structured (but predetermined) paths. With Dragon’s Dogma, Capcom hopes to repeat the same fervor and atmosphere those games are known for, but in an open-world medieval landscape bustling with side quests and, most importantly, titanic mythological monsters.


 

The odd name is actually quite literal – an ancient dragon has returned, and it’s chosen you as its pupil to fill with arcane dogma. What those teachings will be and why the dragon chose you, however, remain a mystery for now; instead, our first look focused on combat, specifically a battle involving your three AI teammates (called pawns) and a really pissy griffin.

Grabbing foes, even those as large as a griffin, is one of the key combat features in Dogma. Any enemy, regardless of size, can be latched onto by holding the right trigger. When grappling small monsters, you merely restrain them; against large creatures like the griffin, you can nab any point of the body and crawl all over the bastard, stabbing it until it either dies, crashes to the ground or bucks you off.


Above: KILL IIIIIT

It sounds a bit like Shadow of the Colossus or God of War III, except it’s all free flowing – no prompts, no specific path, just a giant obstacle you can grab at will. This made the ensuing battle with the griffin feel much more involved and strenuous than typical boss fights, where you’re usually hacking away at their heels, or the boss continues to act out its pre-programmed attacks even though you’re slashing it in the face. Holding down RT, desperately clinging to a flying beast as it thrashes dirt and debris everywhere, was a thrilling moment – we can’t wait to see how it works with other, larger monsters.

The battle is not yours alone though – you have three customizable AI partners (called pawns) that come in three flavors: fighter, strider and mage. Interestingly, mages do not have magic points or limitations on their spells; instead, the power and duration of a spell is determined by how long the mage chants, replicating how a “real” mage would presumably handle a powerful spell. Spend more time preparing a fireball, for instance, and it erupts into a wall of flame. As for the other two, striders use daggers up close and arrows from a distance, while fighters… fight. With swords and stuff.


Above: The Strider main character, with a mage pawn in the distance casting a fire spell

Each pawn can be also ordered to attack, defend or gather around your location. Standard team controls, sure, but what sets the pawns apart is how integral they are to the action. While you’re busy diving out of the way of the griffin’s swoop attacks, the pawns may notice a weak point or even offer specific assistance. In one case, a pawn motioned for us to come over so he could alley-oop us into the sky, where we grabbed the griffin mid-air and dragged his beaky ass back to earth, sinking flaming daggers into his back the whole way down. Cool stuff.

The pawns played an even more important role in our second round with the griffin. Instead of assisting us into the air, one found his way onto the griffin’s back and called for us to shoot its wings with arrows. Doing so sent the monster back to the ground, where our mage conjured a massive explosion that rattled the screen and set the whole damn griffin ablaze. Boom, quest complete.


Above: Truly, riding on the back of the griffin was the highlight

Granted, when the pawns had all the fun, it did kind of feel like all the best stuff happened without us. But we can’t deny how chaotic and exciting the experience was, even when we didn’t deliver the final blow. Now, if the pawns were co-op friends instead of AI, that’d be another story, but Capcom withheld multiplayer talk, stating Dragon’s Dogma would have a “spin” on traditional multiplayer.

Next page: A look at the towering hydra boss, plus more details and screens

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16 comments

  • Bluefox - April 15, 2011 8:41 p.m.

    Very good, I'm currently playing Demon Souls but I want something with a little bit more action in it, Dragon's dogma looks like it's where its at.
  • ElGrinchoid - April 14, 2011 3:25 a.m.

    Seeing all 4 characters reminds me a lot of monster hunter on the Wii. I wonder if Capcom would consider the multiplayer that they did for MH, because that was excellent. No more than 4 in a team and can be made up of anyone and you all need to work together. Could be massively awsome!
  • philipshaw - April 13, 2011 2:58 p.m.

    The game looks a bit ropey in the trailer but the climbing and killing of creatures reminds me SOTC so this could be cool
  • sumrandomgeezer - April 13, 2011 2:45 p.m.

    A few more videos of this and i may have to go and purchase a lute and a robe.... looks friggin sex-ay
  • BladedFalcon - April 13, 2011 4:24 a.m.

    This looks very promising. I like the art style, the animations, the monsters, I even dig the read headed Faramir lookalike protagonist. What i really hope though... is that whatever they bring in for multiplayer, won't detract in any way from the experience if you choose to play it on your own... So in other words, make the single player campaign top notch, and it's a day one sell for me. Also, the way they describe magic should work? That has me excited as hell, should be interesting!
  • ChiefLethal - April 12, 2011 9:42 p.m.

    I stopped watching that trailer once the guitars started wailing. *sigh* Game might be good, but please stop trying to sell me a high-fantasy setting with guitar solos. Does nothing but take me out of the experience.
  • insertdisk - April 12, 2011 8:08 p.m.

    I've not been waiting for a game like this to come out but you know im intrigued. sigh that's more money I need to put aside, im meant to be going on holiday soon too. Goddamn
  • Gameguy94 - April 12, 2011 7:43 p.m.

    finnaly! An open world Medieval game that's not an RPG!
  • TheManTheMythTheCountryKerzikstan - April 12, 2011 6:37 p.m.

    Damn, this is the third Capcom boner I've had today and it's not even noon! Thanks Brelston.
  • TheCanuck - April 12, 2011 6:25 p.m.

    Looks awesome, I'll be keeping my eye on it!
  • JuliePeesgood - April 12, 2011 6:06 p.m.

    That trailer was amazing. Except for the weird guitar solo in the middle (wtf?). This game looks very interesting, to say the least. This is definitely a game I'd love to see succeed.
  • GuinnessGamer3 - April 12, 2011 5:12 p.m.

    WANT!!!!!!!! wow really cant wait for more of this to show up. Hats off to Capcom this year
  • dcbernman - April 12, 2011 4:41 p.m.

    I wish this was coming out on the PC as well T^T
  • Swindleton - April 12, 2011 4:08 p.m.

    To me it looks something in between what I imagine Dark souls and Skyrim will be, with a bit of Drakengard, capture that macabre atmosphere and combat as fluid as that of DMC and you've got what could be my favourite open world game. I'll keep an eye on this one.
  • clubsandwich - April 12, 2011 4:07 p.m.

    I love that jump animation too much.
  • Yaro - April 12, 2011 3:17 p.m.

    Shadow of the Colossus meets Dragon age meets Oblivion meets Demon's Souls? FUCK YEAH!

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