Pawns aren’t silent mercenaries, their dialogue is surprisingly well-written and filled with nice Old English-isms, but it’s repeated far too often. Sometimes they’ll all chime in at once, saying nearly the same thing, to obnoxious effect. Also, there appears to be a rather low number of actors voicing the Pawns. Some of the performances have been digitally altered to try and produce more variety, but it has a strange, speed up “chipmunk effect.”
All in all, set dressing is not a strength of Dragon’s Dogma. It’s a rather bland high-fantasy world, so unless you’re truly in love with the game’s combat (and it is easy to love) you’ll have few other reasons to inhabit this world. At least the game has an odd sense of humor that makes up for its less than engaging story. On our travels, we encountered an ogre who flew into a frenzy if we had female characters in our party, found a foul berry whose description promised it would “ravage the bowels,” and laughed at the Coin Purse of Charity, which turned gold into a throwing weapon.
Dragon’s Dogma is also filled with gameplay choices that may scare away more casual players. Combat requires your undivided attention, calling for strategy and precision to survive even modest encounters. There’s limited fast travel, and a day and night system that makes adventuring without a large stock of lantern oil a protracted suicide attempt. Dragon’s Dogma is not for the faint of heart, or for those who can’t walk away from a battle they’re not prepared for. None of its choices are “wrong,” but merely divisive. Dragon’s Dogma may be destined for an impact among players who thrive on challenge and replay value. Others may be driven nuts by the time cycling.
It’s also for gamers who don’t demand perfect visuals at every turn. Dragon’s Dogma is full of clipping issues and speech that’s not synced to character’s lips. When you climb up a giant cyclops to stab out its eye, it’s not a slick quick time event like in God of War. You’ll have full control over your hero, who flops about like a rag doll. It doesn’t look as cool as watching Kratos go to work, but for some gamers, more control is preferable to slick spectatorship.
Dragon’s Dogma is a fascinating and odd game. The core of its combat is geared more toward action gamers than players of more plodding RPG titles, and yet it’s full of big breaks in the action. There are long journeys on foot, plenty of inventory management, and trips back to the capital city to swap vocations and pick new Pawns. After spending a few dozen hours in this world, we’d definitely describe it as a great mix of action combat a la God of War fused to a high-fantasy role-playing game. If you’ve ever wanted an experience like that, give Dragon’s Dogma a try -- there is a demo, after all. It’s a game destined to find an audience among that rare action junkie with extensive patience, or Elder Scrolls fans who are tired of swinging swords in the first-person. If you’re someone who falls in that category, jump in.
This game was reviewed on Xbox 360 as the lead platform.