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Dragon's Dogma review

Solid

Dragon’s Dogma is like a precociously intelligent teenager, in the sense that it has ideas beyond those of its peers, but struggles to explain itself. There’s no better example than the game’s rushed opening, which drops you into the armored boots of a warrior about to face a giant chimera. Then suddenly you’re at a character creation screen, wondering what happened to that other warrior. Then, a second character creation screen. Even though the game explains that you’re designing a Pawn -- an AI sidekick meant to assist the user-created main character -- we were left wondering who the hell was going to be our protagonist, anyway.

Dragon’s Dogma is an attempt to breed the open world exploration of Skyrim with the fierce combat of Capcom staples like Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter. You play as the Arisen, a hero chosen by fate to rid the world of an evil dragon that stole his heart. No, we don’t mean he fell in love with the dragon. That evil nuisance clawed his heart right out of his chest in the game’s opening cinematic.

 

While Dragon’s Dogma gets off to an awkward start, we recommend you power through it, since the good stuff isn’t far off. The choices you make during the hurried opening are not permanent, and once you reach the capital city of Gran Soren, you’ll soon be able to respec yourself and your primary Pawn, or select new classes entirely. This was lucky for us, since we found our initial pairing of Fighter and Striker to be ineffective. More importantly, being able to swap vocations easily is a boon, because each of Dragon’s Dogma’s specializations plays in a spectacularly different manner.

Fighter, Striker and Mage all serve as your basic warrior, rogue and magic-user set-up. Leveling different classes allows you to choose new skills that you map to the X, Y and B buttons. Upgrading an ability gives it a faster execution, wider area of effect, or some other perk more immediate than the typical “+1 to fire spells” of most RPG’s. Choosing new skills will let you design your own combos, rather than working a stat sheet.

There are also fantastic hybrid classes, which you’ll want to check out immediately. The Magic Archer’s enchanted bow lets him highlight multiple targets and unleash a flurry of homing arrows. The Mystic Knight can enchant his shield, allowing him to damage enemies while blocking. He can also summon a “magic cannon,” a sphere of energy he strikes with a melee weapon, flinging projectiles at his foes.

Making sure that you and your primary Pawn complement each other is essential to winning battles. Combat is built around the relationship between you and your AI team. It replicates the standard tank, healer and DPS structure of any MMO, but Dogma’s slick, real time combat gives it an immediacy other games lack.

The primary Pawn you design will be your lifetime sidekick, but you can adjust their class, behavior and equipment. The other two Pawns in your party can be swapped to suit your changing needs. Just visit a Rift Stone in any town to select new Pawns for your party. You can even use another player’s custom Pawn, which adds a great bonus. Dragon’s Dogma has an online feature that we used to select Pawns other gamers had designed. Our own Pawn was loaned out as well, but we were never without them. Other players simply used a copy of them, which synced with our own whenever we rested at an inn. Our Pawn would often come back with knowledge of a quest we hadn’t tried yet, eager to offer advice that was sometimes actually helpful. It’s an excellent feature.

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.

More Info

Release date: May 22 2012 - Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Adventure
Published by: Capcom
Developed by: Capcom
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Violence
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

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24 comments

  • Squander - May 25, 2012 7:09 a.m.

    hey guys,what do you think about the music?? are the score and soundeffects an aural treat?
  • Person5 - May 22, 2012 3:12 a.m.

    picked the game up, and I gotta say I'm liking it so far, I especially really like the Pawn system. I'd say this game is definitely a game anyone who likes RPG's should play, even if waiting for a price drop it should never be completely passed over, I believe it deserves that much
  • patbateman17 - May 22, 2012 11:15 a.m.

    Do would you say you're addicted to Pawn? On a serious note - I'm loving Dark Souls, haven't really played much of Skyrim and was looking to pick up Amalur...the demo for this didn't really do much for me as the combat sometimes felt floaty but after multiple playthroughs I liked it a little more. Just not sure if I want to pick this up or not...a lot of reviews indicate the world is a little dull and I really don't want to have to wait in real-time for the night to cycle.
  • patbateman17 - May 22, 2012 11:15 a.m.

    Damn typos ruining my jokes.
  • jt-gutting - May 22, 2012 12:20 p.m.

    I don't know who you are and I created an account to say this... but Person5 your display pic is amazing. Earthbound is and will always be my favorite game! and I agree so far this game is really fun and there is definitely a lot too it which is good cause a lot of RPG's that have been coming out seem simplistic. But yes... awesome pic! You're the man!
  • Person5 - May 22, 2012 1:51 p.m.

    jt, thank you, I think Earthbound is one of the best RPG's of all time. On a topical note, patbateman, the night cycle isn't a big deal since you can stay at an inn until morning. Also you got torches and stuff so when you get more powerful you can survive the nights and continue exploring.
  • darron13 - May 21, 2012 7:52 p.m.

    Well I really DID love the demo...I think I'll get it.
  • larkan - May 21, 2012 5:45 p.m.

    Looks and plays like a party version of Dark Souls, but pretty boring on top of that.
  • jeremy-warner - May 21, 2012 5:33 p.m.

    Meh, I'm iffy, it looks good but I don't want the combat to get boring like Kingdom of Amalur. I think I'll try the demo first.
  • XanderGC - May 21, 2012 1:26 p.m.

    I'm still gonna give this one a go once I get me some more cha-ching. Was one of the games I was most excited about this year.
  • Hydrohs - May 21, 2012 11:58 a.m.

    From what I played of the demo I really enjoyed it, I'll definitely be picking it up eventually. My only real gripe with it is the lack of co-op, it's very reminiscent of Monster Hunter to me, but with more combat options. I would have loved to play with my friends.
  • samsneeze - May 21, 2012 11:47 a.m.

    Pre-ordered this about a month or so ago after playing through the demo and watching the OXM coverage they had on the game. While it is regrettable that the story isn't very good, the combat and enemy variety seemed good enough to carry the game. Definitely can't wait to pick this up tomorrow. "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." You're right, I do enjoy having control over my character rather than sitting through a QTE.
  • birdro - May 21, 2012 2:53 p.m.

    I'm picking this up new as well, even though I neglected to preorder since none of the bonuses were exciting enough to really make me. I definitely agree with the bit about always being in control over slick cinematic takedowns though, part of why I got so excited for this was the monster mounting being similar to SOTC, and watching Wander getting his ass thrown left and right hanging on for dear life was my favourite part of that game :P
  • Person5 - May 22, 2012 1:53 p.m.

    What really surprised me about the OXM coverage, the guy seemed to be infatuated with the game, yet they gave it six. Go figure.
  • samsneeze - May 22, 2012 7:07 p.m.

    There are two OXM teams(As far as I know), one stationed in the U.S. the other in the U.K.. The guys that were infatuated with the game were the ones in the U.K. and they gave it an eight.
  • Person5 - May 23, 2012 5:10 a.m.

    And after playing it for a few hours now I'm inclined to believe the UK team then, but thanks for that enlightening tidbit, the more you know. This game truly is awesome despite its flaws, yet I see it being nothing more than a cult hit that won't amount to a franchise being born, especially if people believe that joystiq review. I also can't seem to stay on topic of whatever I was talking about, I can't help but gush over this game.
  • ObliqueZombie - May 21, 2012 11:41 a.m.

    With all the other games I'm playing/will play, I'll give this one a good, hearty pass.
  • FlyinMachine - May 21, 2012 11:06 a.m.

    It's a shame it didn't stand up to some of the other titles. Through a few gameplay previews I saw of it, it looked spectacular! However, I can see where it fell flat. When I was playing the demo I was disappointed when my slashes looked like they did NOTHING to the monsters. No blood, no gashes or cuts that should've been on their body, nothing. I was hoping for a more free roaming Dark Souls but it seems the difficulty and visceral nature is more toned down than I'd like. Ohwell
  • boondocks50 - May 21, 2012 10:30 a.m.

    i heard the ps3 version better (for once) as far as issues and graphics go
  • samsneeze - May 21, 2012 11:17 a.m.

    Lower framerate, less tearing. Which ever you can deal with more apparently. Neither is particularly perfect.

Showing 1-20 of 24 comments

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