Wot I Think: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

Originally released on PS3/Xbox 360 back in 2012 and then updated to Dark Arisen in 2013, Dragon’s Dogma [official site] is a tough game to pigeon-hole. It’s a bit Dark Souls, a bit The Witcher, a bit Skyrim, and a bit Shadow of the Colossus. But is it a bit good, especially coming to us after a generational upgrade? Here’s Wot I Think.

Speaking as the world’s worst Dark Souls player, the mere idea of playing Dragon’s Dogma gave me a deep case of The Fear. Especially for a review. “Well, the first boss is quite impressive,” I could imagine myself typing in shame. “I’m sure whatever he’s guarding is probably pretty neat too. Um. Metacritic says people liked it!”

But that’s reputation for you. Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t have too much Dark Souls in it, as promised/threatened. A little of its flavour, yes, but only as part of a much bigger recipe, and even then, served up from a more compassionate point of view. Where Dark Souls takes pride in how much it’s going to grind your face through a steel mesh, Dragon’s Dogma at least strokes your hair and makes soft, soothing noises during the process. Yes, it starts by demonstrating exactly what happens when a plucky peasant decides to take on an elder dragon with nothing more than courage and a rusty sword – to whit, “ouch” – but after that, it’s got a sense of mercy. It understands the concept, anyway. It’s not actively a dick to you. Usually not. It even has an easy mode!

It can be an oddly relaxing experience for a game that will happily end you with an arrow from a distant shadow, especially early on, or for the crime of thinking that the first quest you get in the first town is something to actually do now instead of putting on the back-burner for a few levels. Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t hold with recommended quest levels or colour-coded enemies. If you hit a guy and your sword clangs off as if to say ‘haha, no’, it’s time for some energetic cardio and a note to come back later with a bigger sword or tougher friends. There’s always something else to do for XP, including Witcher style monster hunting quests and smaller pest control contacts.

Part of the mood there comes from the main story, which is the least interested I’ve seen an RPG been in its own tale since… well, Fallout 4, but this game did get in there first. It’s bizarre. You get killed in the intro by a dragon, and then yes, some people will bring that up in the following hours. Mostly though your continued existence and new abilities may as well have come in the mail from the Famous Adventurer’s Correspondence School. What’s that? You’re an RPG hero now? Well, here’s a long list of all the Shit To Do that’s just been building up over the last few years. Monsters in the town well, bandits in the hills, ancient temples under the capital city, and if you wouldn’t mind escorting this cart, that’d be swell. We’ll get to your big destiny eventually.

But it does play well, and simply cruising around and getting stuff done is an enjoyable experience. Despite a few oddities in the controls, notably the lack of a target lock, and scenery that loves to get in your way, the raw melee feels great. The Fighter’s charge attack quickly became a personal favourite for its speed and the raw ‘thunk’ of knocking a small group of enemies over like skittles, though there’s a big bag of classes to choose from (which you can unlock and switch between in the capital city) with a ton of other cool abilities like levitation, hurling fireballs, imbuing weapons with elemental charges, and knocking foes high into the air and making it literally rain men, hallelujah. Also the occasional wolf, though I’m not sure that’s as welcomed.

Bigger enemies also offer a mini-version of Shadow of the Colossus’ main gimmick in letting you climb onto and around them, to hack at the different parts of a chimera or try to slice one of a hydra’s heads off, though honestly I found this very fiddly and annoying with the camera constantly swinging around and never feeling very precise. I generally preferred the smaller scale tactics, like cutting off saurian enemies’ tails to make them more vulnerable, or rushing to take out archers before they could pepper the battlefield with fire. It’s not as novel, but it feels far more satisfying.

The larger enemies also tend to take forever due to needing the HP to endure four characters beating on them simultaneously, with all the weapon effects and movement making the battles irritating rather than epic. A fight with a golem really wore me down, not for being difficult, but for his last voonerable spot (a subtle giant pink crystal) being in his clenched fist and so almost impossible to actually land a hit on.

What’s that though? Four characters? Yes, Dragon’s Dogma’s biggest gimmick/twist though is that you’re never alone, and without having to team up with smelly humans. As the Arisen, to use the game’s rather generous term for ‘he who got totally owned by a fucking dragon’, your main power is control over a race of people called Pawns. You create one from scratch, much like your own character, and can rent two more to create a party of four – rented incidentally from other players, which boosts their power and takes gifts across to their own games, though all that is handled automatically via a magical nexus thing rather than forcing you to deal directly with other players.

It’s nowhere near as interesting as the way that Dark Souls tries to integrate online action into a single player game, though on the plus side, it does mean all interactions are positive – aside from the tedious bit every time you sleep and it has to upload your Pawns to the online meat market for other players to quest alongside. Even so, Pawns are a very clever concept. Those at your level are free, so you’re never left without. You can pay to recruit higher level ones though if you need assistance for a specific area, and there’s some subtleties to them beyond just the skills their creators chose for them.

A Pawn who has done an early mission to get through the sprawling Witchwood for instance learns the route, and so can automatically guide any player who recruits them to the end without any messing about. Each player can also customise their AI by playing and giving instructions on how they should behave, as well as kit them out with equipment and a custom load-out of traits and attacks. You’ll never mistake them for a crafted group of actual characters, but they’re not just robots in boob-plate either.

Your own created Pawn sticks with you for the whole game, levelling up alongside you. The other two don’t, encouraging you to keep swapping them out for new ones and creating new party balances as you see fit. Having some trouble with an area full of archers? Go grab a couple of your own. Need muscle to take out an Ogre? Swap those archers for two hulks of beef, or pay extra for a ringer. The catch is that if you lose these rentals in battle, they’re gone, and you have to go recruit someone else to fill their spot.

It’s not a perfect system, starting with the fact that while Pawns aren’t quite dumber than rocks, it’s still too equal a fight for a party you’re supposed to rely on to watch your back and not, say, explode barrels in your face. The attempt to make them feel like real characters by having them chat and comment on the surroundings also quickly goes from cute to infuriating. Yes, wolves attack in packs. Got it. Yes, the road is indeed splitting, but I’m sure we’ll go in the right direction because we packed Mr. Map. At least very occasionally they have something worth saying, and they’re not dicks when you fail miserably for the tenth time. So, Pawns: 1, Humanity: 0.

Despite the flaws though, they help make Dragon’s Dogma a much more endearing place to spend time in. That tends to be the pattern throughout the experience, really, with the general rhythm of going out and exploring becoming oddly compelling despite all the bits that have been done better since it first came out back in 2012.

The world for instance isn’t a patch on The Witcher III, being mostly bland rolling hills speckled with such economic use of a few stone textures for cities and spots of civilisation that it’s as if Capcom was on a recycling kick throughout. There aren’t many memorable characters or truly great quests. The Dark Souls element of challenge soon fades away, until by mid-game taking out whole teams of bandits feels more like popping bubble-wrap in both difficulty and satisfaction broken up with occasional sudden bursts of challenge to the back of the head instead. Hell, after a while I even stopped being massively irritated by the use of renaissance faire talk, which isn’t as bad as Two Worlds back in the day, but does act as a reminder that Ultima was the last and very last series allowed to talk like that without getting a smack on the nose.

Very little is memorable, but much is more-ish, with just enough moments speckled amongst the heroic day-to-day. The sudden appearance of a griffin outside the capital city for no particular reason. Encountering pawns on the road and casually trading up. Fleeing from a slightly comically rendered but more importantly completely unstoppable tentacle assault. A handful of moral choices and hidden things to discover, all of which soon counter moments of grr like being invited to see the Duke, and promptly being arrested by the night’s watch that has hitherto not even been mentioned, or realising too late that yes, there is fast travel and that all that walking back and forth was more or less unnecessary, if quite good for the bonus XP.

Later in the game of course things do get jacked up a notch – in particular with a place called Bitterblack Island, which comes across as Dragon’s Dogma sighing a bit at its own reception and going “You want Dark Souls? Here’s your goddamn Dark Souls.” I’ve not spent much time in it myself because while it’s available from the start of the game, that’s in the same sense that you can technically go skydiving with a concrete parachute. It’s one giant dungeon haunted by Death, and while you can apparently cheese it with throwable explosives and ludicrously expensive Pawns at a pretty early level, you’re looking at being about Level 50 before heading over to play properly.

This being Dark Arisen rather than raw Dragon’s Dogma, some of the harder core elements of the original have also been toned down – in particular, that fast travel thing. The main locations now have portals, and while supposedly you need limited ‘Ferrystones’ to hop around between them, at some point I apparently collected an unlimited use one without realising it. Probably my bad, but it was in an item storage screen I’d never looked at before, which went nicely with how little the game wanted to even acknowledge the idea that it even has fast travel in the first place. You can almost hear it sniffing whenever you use it. Too bad though, because repeatedly walking back and forth across the map through the same enemies takes sodding ages.

Port-wise, this is a decent job, starting with the fact that it has no problem with alt-tabbing in and out. Hurrah! I don’t have a system that lets me test its 4K support, but it has it, the action isn’t capped at 30FPS, and it ran smoothly throughout. You can see its age, or to be more accurate, its generation target in quite a few of the details, with the bland landscapes being the biggest reminder. Its monsters can still impress though, from the wobbly bottom fat as you stab an Ogre to the sprawling snakes on the back of its chimeras when they make their occasional appearances. It’s no The Witcher 3, obviously, but it holds up better than a lot of JRPGs that come our way after a protracted gap. There’s no option to play with Japanese audio though, if you prefer the subbed experience over the flat, though not painfully terrible English voices.

Control-wise though, while you can play with a mouse and keyboard, I’d stick with a controller – I played with an Xbox 360 one – as it’s by far the best way to handle the multiple attacks you build up on each weapon/the lunge that I spammed more than probably intended. Stab for you! Stab for you! Heck. Stabs for everybody!

Dragon’s Dogma’s big flaw is that in trying to draw from so many different inspirations, it can’t help but fall short of them. Even if we ignore The Witcher 3 out of deference to its release date, it’s far more a Risen than a Skyrim, it doesn’t commit enough to really be Shadow of the Colossus in anything more than a ‘the climbing mechanic is a bit Shadow of the Colossus’, its monster hunting is no Monster Hunter, it doesn’t have the raw focus and deep sublety of Dark Souls, and what little plot it offers after the intro comes so late as for the set-up to be forgotten. It involved a dragon and… a dog’s mother? Something like that. Oh, hey, killed enough ogres to unlock a reward!

What it offers though is a solid combat system backed up with enough different flavours, little moments of triumph, pats on the head and surprises amongst the very, very quickly familiar terrain to be compelling, like a big bowl of popcorn sprinkled with chocolate. It’s unfortunate that as a hybrid, The Witcher 3 does so much more with a lot of the same elements, including trying to make monsters worthy of respect and nailing the feel of being a wandering hero taking odd-jobs in a much prettier world, because it is ultimately the game that casts a shadow over both good and bad.

However, that doesn’t mean Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t make a decent fist of it as well, with the slightly off-beat quirkiness that characterises many JRPGs and no shortage of content to devour, work through, discover, and enjoy… and perhaps even feel good enough about to consider giving big bad Dark Souls one more try after all.

Maybe.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is available on Friday.

83 Comments

  1. Ringwraith says:

    Excellently flawed game. So many things to do with it.

    Though the lack of Japanese audio is weird, as the game originally never had it (it being Capcom, who tend to do this randomly), and the Dark Arisen re-release including it.
    So the omission in the port is strange.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      It’s likely a licensing issue. Japanese VAs are notoriously fickle about licensing their voicework.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Oh, probably, it’s the most common reason.
        It just gets even weirder when it’s for the same game, and you can even have the menus in Japanese!

  2. int says:

    What cruel animal handler bent that poor lion’s teeth outward!?

    Give him braces I say!

    • Jokerme says:

      It’s not a lion, it’s actually a chimera! OOOOOOHHH! You got corrected, sir!

    • stairmasternem says:

      Mr. Chimera also needs a nail trimming. Some are popping out on top of his knuckles.

  3. UncleLou says:

    “The world for instance isn’t a patch on The Witcher III, being mostly bland rolling hills speckled with such economic use of a few stone textures for cities and spots of civilisation that it’s as if Capcom was on a recycling kick throughout”

    I’ve got to disagree somewhat, I’ve found the landscape almost eerily real and distinctive. A bit like the Armed Asault games, it feels like they transformed a real landscape (it lookd like somewhere in Northern Italy ) into a game, rather than create a game landscape. It felt a lot less “gamey” to me as a result.

    And it has fantastic dungeons.

    I’ve said it before, the story is pants, interesting NPCs are non-existant, there are barely any proper “quests”, and yet this has been one of my favourite game in years. It’s the original Bard’s Tale in modern, it’s the best bits of Ultima Underworld, and how you always imagined D&D would look as a kid.

    I’ll buy it a third time now, and happily so.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      On the one hand, your dismissal of the narrative makes baby Jesus cry. (It’s a damned sight better than bloody Skyrim, for starters.) On the other hand, yes, I am frustrated by the idea someone can’t see how the world design here has a hell of a lot of the exact same things that makes The Wild Hunt’s world map good. The whole Mediterranean vibe isn’t quite so novel now, but it still felt far, far more like an actual plausible geographical place than countless other games I’d played. Still does, in fact.

    • LexW1 says:

      Here here, frankly. Everything you say is true and particularly so re: the landscape, which is far more real-seeming than most games, including TW3.

  4. C0llic says:

    It seems prudent to link this video from Cool Ghosts. I think I’ll be checking this game out:

    • GWOP says:

      Thanks for the link!

    • Phantasma says:

      Yeah thanks for the link.
      Gameplay looks nice, but the caster got on my nerves pretty fast. Doesn’t have much to say but tries to substitute that with an extra portion of emphasis in EVERY sentence instead.

      “You’re there. You’re THEEERE!”

      On another day i would have laughed though.

    • Phantasma says:

      “Fireworks in the sky”!

      Hahahahaha.

      Well, NOW i laughed.

    • frightlever says:

      It’s a good video, but the guy (Matt Lees?) is deluded, or very tongue in cheek, if he thinks his original review video “made” the game back in 2012. It sold about ten times more in Japan than in the West originally and I kinda doubt his video had any effect on Japanese sales. I see Quintin Smith is the other half of Cool Ghosts so I must check out the rest of their stuff.

      Still, after 100+ hours of tardy NPCs on Xbox 360, I am excited(!) for this game to unlock on Steam.

      • DeepSleeper says:

        Matt Lees’ review is why I bought the game, back then. It’s why a number of my friends bought it. I remember it being talked about quite heavily at the time.
        Just because you didn’t notice doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

      • C0llic says:

        I can’t comment on how important the review was back in the day, but do you really imagine anyone thinks an English foreign language review has anything whatsoever to do with how well it did in japan?

        It comes across as a bitter, irrelevant observation honestly.

  5. golem09 says:

    I liked the world in this a lot more than the one in Witcher. Sure, the overworld might look a bit bleak, but the dungeons, still party of the open world, have fantastic level design, and the different segments of the world have wildly different atmospheres.
    Also no word on the story in the second half? That was one of my favorite things about this game though even talking about it is almost spoiling it. But rarely has a game drawn me in with such an atmosphere as this at the end…
    It’s like no other game even dares to do this.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Not desperately taken with either half TBH, but figured the second half was best kept quiet about for folks who don’t know what happens to be surprised by.

      • frightlever says:

        Spoilery stuff:

        The first half feels like a long, faintly generic pisstake of traditional tropes, to set you up for the “Whoa, I did not see that coming”, second half. Even then the first half is just full of sly humour.

  6. Jokerme says:

    One of the best open world RPGs I’ve played. Playing this game I did feel like I was living in a fantasy world as a warrior hero unlike some other games… *cough* skyrim *cough* actually all bethesda games *cough* fallout 4 sucks *cough* make dragon’s dogma 2 already *cough*

  7. baozi says:

    »If you hit a guy and your sword clangs off as if to say ‘haha, no’, it’s time for some energetic cardio and a note to come back later with a bigger sword or tougher friends.«

    Sounds like it’s a bit Gothic, too. (And probably games I haven’t played.)

    • Bradamantium says:

      That’s actually a pretty good point of comparison. Much like Gothic, there’s almost no gates and no enemy leveling to prevent you wandering into a place you really shouldn’t be. One of my favorite bits of playing the game was going ’round a tree and seeing a gigantic goshdamn dragon rushing right towards me. Couldn’t even make a dent in its health bar, and the ensuing mad dash as my pawns were killed off one by one made for an excellent thrill. Even moreso when the first spot I found to evade the dragon was a bandit camp amidst some old ruins that I had to clear all on my lonesome.

  8. Orillion says:

    This is the first time I’ve preordered a game since 2006.

    And, actually, I pre-ordered it because I had the original on PS3 but really, really wanted to play it at a higher resolution and with the potential for modding. DD coming to PC is pretty much a dream come true for me.

    It is a bit of a shame that Dark Arisen makes the fast travel so trivial. It’s true that it can really bog you down, but there’s something special in the original in knowing that you’ve got to wait till the early hours of the morning to head out from the starter town to Gran Soren if you want to get there before nightfall–and, at the start of the game before you get a lot of powers and don’t have great equipment, you want to get there before nightfall.

    I expect to forget to eat tomorrow. I’ve waited for this a long time.

    • Orillion says:

      P.S. I also haven’t enjoyed a main-series Elder Scrolls game since Morrowind, go figure. I love games that let you encounter stuff that’s so far beyond you you don’t even get the chance to understand how much stronger you have to be before you can compete. Dragon’s Dogma certainly has that in spades.

  9. stairmasternem says:

    The game is severely flawed, but easy to lose yourself in. It also has one of my favorite re-uses of existing assets – the Griffin and the Cockatrice sharing the same model skeleton, but fighting in VERY different ways.

    Climbing onto enemies is awesome. Here’s hoping the eventual sequel does everything bigger.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      There’s unlikely to be a sequel. Capcom followed this up with the dire MMO Dragons Dogma Online.

      The MMO has zero of the charm of the original and is extremely pay to win.

      • BlackMageSK says:

        I recall they have come out and said that this PC release is also a way of them gauging interest in a proper actual sequel which isn’t DDO.

  10. Arexis says:

    I never played the extra content, but I really enjoyed my time with this on the 360.
    It didn’t really need the extra content anyway. I was thoroughly satisfied after the last boss. A lot of people may disagree with me(for good reasons), but I thought that last fight was awesome.

    • LacSlyer says:

      I don’t understand why people would disagree with the final boss fight being one of the best boss fight experiences in video games. I guess the length may be an issue, but overall it was definitely at the very least one of the most memorable and enjoyable bosses.

  11. Maxheadroom says:

    This is one of the few games of its ilk ive actually stuck with to completion (and im old enough to remember the first Ultima).

    That said once I was done with the main story and started on the Dark Arisen – bitterblack isle stuff (which was a stand alone expansion back when I played it) my interest trailed off a bit. I found that to be a bit of an endless monster grind without any of the interesting NPCs or quests present in the main game

  12. Farsearcher says:

    I always remember the first time I met an ogre in the mines. It’s huge and it doesn’t lumber but charges towards you, grabs you and hurls you through the air or smashes party members from their feet. The sense of movement and energy in combat isn’t quite like anything else, lighter than Dark Souls but heavier than Devil May Cry.

    The story is fairly thinly spread but it’s pretty good and the endings (as it’s worth playing all of them, you don’t need to restart the game to see them all) took an unexpected direction.

  13. Bradamantium says:

    I absolutely loved this game when I first played it on PS3. Prior to The Witcher 3, it was absolutely everything I wanted from a fantasy RPG, hands down. Grandeur, scale, a sense of reality rather than pointy-eared elf unreality, and dark fantasy that revels in forgotten majesty instead of grimness. The story was a bit weak, but inoffensive at the worst of times with a dollop of bright spots, and the very end of it was unexpectedly resonant with me and tremendously emotional. It got a few tears out of me, even.

    It’s the perfect example of my favorite kind of game – nowhere near flawless, but completely singular as an experience synthesized from the best parts of a handful of other games.

  14. Eight Rooks says:

    Better than Skyrim, oh God my sides – oh, wait, you’re serious. No, I’ll take “A Japanese pop culture spin on European fairytales” over “bland, flavourless recycling of Nordic myth with nary an ounce of passion”, ta. Also a proper combat system over Skyrim’s half-assed flailing around, an actual naturalistic world, monsters that feel as if they exist there and who don’t spend half their time trying not to get stuck on something, story quests and a reveal that feel like someone actually put some effort into them…

    …yes, yes, opinions and all, whatever. But jeez, it still baffles me how much people fall over themselves to praise an RPG simply because it can’t stop telling them how awesome they are. Oh, and there’s mods, I guess. Me, I’m comfortable calling DDog one of the best games – not “one of my favourites”, one of the best – of the past ten years, easily, and despite the obvious gap in the tech I’d rate it alongside, quite possibly higher than, The Wild Hunt.

    • Sian says:

      “But jeez, it still baffles me how much people fall over themselves to praise an RPG simply because it can’t stop telling them how awesome they are.”

      Hm? I haven’t played too much of Skyrim, but if what here is correct, the game not acknowledging your awesomeness is part of the problem for at least some people. I distinctly remember TB saying something along the lines of: “I’m the fricking archmage of the entire universe and nobody cares.”

      • Sian says:

        “If what here” was supposed to be “if what I heard”. I need to get out of the office as fast as possible and give my brain some rest.

      • Nasarius says:

        But you’re still the freaking Archmage after doing about five real quests.

        • Eight Rooks says:

          Yep. You kill a near-mythical creature inside a couple of hours’ playtime, you’re explicitly told you’re the reincarnation of some legendary hero, you take a key role in a civil war that’s divided the kingdom – you’re plainly the most important person in the universe, regardless of whatever smoke and mirrors Bethesda choose to deploy. DDogma, sure, you stood up against a dragon, but it ripped your heart out, essentially said “Meh” and flew away. All manner of things will kill you in seconds until you’ve power-leveled quite a bit. People are curious about you, but they don’t go out of their way to explain at length how the entire world revolves around what just happened to you. You’re important, but you’re not the be-all and end-all until the home stretch, and even then the point of the story negates that somewhat.

    • Laurentius says:

      Oh cool, I was inclined to pick this up but if it’s Eight Rooks’s favourite game, it means for me “stay clear” and save your money.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        I’m glad that you’ve found a way to instantly discover if you like a game or not. Just listen to what a particular commenter on RPS says and take the exact opposite stance. Well, whatever works…

        • Eight Rooks says:

          Hey, to be fair, going by his posts here I’m pretty sure I don’t share his tastes either, so I can’t exactly blame him.

  15. bit.bat says:

    I loved how the combat feels like it requires just enough precision while still retaining a great sense of chaos. Maybe not including a lock-on mechanic is part of that, I’m not sure. Also night is great in this game, properly dark and scary.

    I wonder if there is way to transfer saves from a PS3 to the PC version, it might be too much to start all over.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    I really need to finish this on PS3. My big criticism is that it can actually get pretty easy on Normal (and no, I’m not some macho-awesome-gamer, I am mediocre at best at these things) but higher difficulty significantly buffs HP of enemies, and as noted the fights with them are ALREADY long and irritating, so fighting an ogre on high difficulty is just an exercise in irritation and boredom. So really should just go back to normal and clean house :)

  17. Shadow says:

    Control-wise though, while you can play with a mouse and keyboard, I’d stick with a controller – I played with an Xbox 360 one – as it’s by far the best way to handle the multiple attacks you build up on each weapon/the lunge that I spammed more than probably intended.

    A shame. I thought I heard the M+KB implementation was decent.

    Moving on.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      How illogical

      He says he likes using a conmtroller better.

      That in no way contradicts what you heard.

      Oh well. Your loss.

    • Zelos says:

      It is, but a controller is better for classes that utilize melee attacks. Analogue movement is a pretty big advantage. Similarly, the mouse is better for classes that require aiming.

      But ultimately you can use any control method with any class if that’s what you want.

    • Immobile Piper says:

      Didn’t Cobbett just imply that KB+M is decent?

      He just prefers a gamepad, just like a significant portion of the PC playerbase when playing console ports.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      I am currently employing KB/M with it and as an archer find it far more accurate for precision shots at weak points. It is however, more clunky on the UI, which is Two Worlds levels of bad, almost enough for me to put down the game. Having to escape to access functions like saving, the map, quests etc is annoying, not to mention the inventory and crafting system is like laying bricks. I like that it automatically shares inventory among your pawns, but then to make sure any saving grace is promptly swallowed up by another horrible design choice because it had to fit on a console – accepting any change you make forces a press of “backspace” not enter, which resets your choices.

  18. Crane says:

    “Wolves hunt in packs, Arisen!”
    “Their kind hates ice and fire both!”
    “Walking bones!”
    “Wolves hunt in packs, Arisen!”
    “I see aught of use!”
    “This passage links south and central Gransys.”
    “Agh! I am drenched in water!”
    “Wolves hunt in packs, Arisen!”

  19. Wulfram says:

    How bad is the M/Kb? I mean I’ve played through DS and DS2 with Kb/M and didn’t feel the controls were a problem once I got past the weird bindings and the Xbox button prompts, so should I be OK with this?

    • neuroxia says:

      I’ve played it on the ps3 when it originally got out and i’m playing it now on pc with mouse and keyboard and i’ve felt no need for a controller. You can also customize all keybinds.
      It plays really well and it’s a solid port, give it a try;

  20. MrNash says:

    Have this pre-loaded on Steam now and the day is just going to crawl by as I wait for the thing to become playable. T_T

  21. Thornback says:

    The best part of the whole thing is the Dragon of the title, with the eventual boss fight.

    It. Is. Glorious.

  22. ShatteredAwe says:

    I’ve got to say that it sort of annoyed me how much the reviewer compared this game to TW3. Obviously TW3 is a great game, but can we have this game be judged on it’s own merits? Not every single game has to be the Witcher.

    • f0rmality says:

      It’s an open-world medieval fantasy themed RPG that is far more similar to the Witcher and Dark Souls more than Skyrim in terms of comparison, with the Witcher out now, every open-world medieval fantasy themed RPG will now be compared to the Witcher as Witcher set the bar. Just as cart racers will be compared with Mario Kart, monochrome platformers will be compared to Limbo, Sandboxes will be compared to GTAV, MMOs will be compared to WoW and GW2 and Spectacle Fighters will be compared to Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. Things will always be compared to the set bar in their field. That’s how review processes work. Otherwise watch_dogs would’ve been a 10/10 had GTAV not come before it and set the bar a million times higher than what watch_dogs offered after the fact. Or Fallout 4 would’ve been mind-blowing had New Vegas not been far deeper and more interesting.

      • C0llic says:

        Well, you have realise that TW3 is now the open world game all others are going to be measured by until something better comes along, much like the gta games own open world city games.

        I think it was a good review and the comparisons to the TW3 and Bethesda games are inevitable.

  23. thanosi says:

    Fond memories of this on PS3. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

    Dragon’s Dogma is a game of stark contrasts. There are so many things wrong with it that it really shouldn’t work. Yet it’s probably my favorite game of the year so far.
    Dragon’s Dogma is an open world, Japanese RPG with heavy western influences. If you’ve just come off a couple hundred hour play through of Skyrim, as i had, you may be surprised to learn that this game also features a talking dragon as the main antagonist, and that your main character has connections to the dragon that will ultimately enable him or her to defeat it. Coupled with the open world setting and the so similar they’re indiscernible RPG tropes of item gathering, treasure chests, crafting and mining, comparison’s with Skyrim are inevitably drawn. This is unfortunate.

    If you spend you first few hours with Dragon’s Dogma comparing it to Skyrim, you will find it lacking. It’s environments, set in the entirely derivative land of Gransys, can be drab and lifeless. Mountains in the distance can be walked to but when you hit them they’re just borders for the game world, and worse, just feature a flat wrap texture rather than any physical definition. There’s no real sense of anything particularly epic happening. Not least because the main story all but disappears after the first half hour. The character animations when interacting with NPCs are either so stiff as to be non existent, or the arm gesture animations intended to convey emphasis are simply looped, turning the conversation into some sort of elaborate one man dance routine that saps all drama from whatever dialogue is being spoken at the same time. Quests given to you by characters supply no emotional investment in their consequences and frequently see you traipsing back and forth over areas you’ve already covered, encountering the same group of monsters in the same location as the last five times you were there. There’s only one major city, Gran Soren, with only one major shop of each type. You’ll always go to the same places to sleep, buy weapons and upgrade your equipment.

    And yet, if you accept all this, and, most importantly, stick with the game for a good few hours, you’ll discover that Dragon’s Dogma has just as many charms, some of them so effective that everything I’ve just written about ceases to matter, or bizarrely, actually adds to the overall experience. Rarely have i played a game where striking out on adventure is so compelling. The single city and lack of fast travel mechanic, far from being bad or neglected aspects of the game’s design, are actually intentional decisions essential to how the game plays. You have to be prepared every time you leave the city, as it’s going to be a long time before you’re back again. Almost every time you strike out you uncover a little more of the map, another dungeon, another abandoned castle or hoard of treasure. Sure, you could just keep wandering further away, but chances are you’d never make it back. The leveling system does not auto adjust to your player level like in Skyrim, the further you go, the harder the monster’s get. And if you’re stuck out in the wilderness at night it gets even harder. When it gets dark in Dragon’s Dogma it really gets dark. If you don’t have a lantern or a constant supply of oil to top it up, you won’t be able to see anything, and even if it’s lit you still won’t be able to see more beyond the circle of light a few feet around your character. Trying to make it back from a mission, not knowing whats out there in the gloom is extremely compelling gameplay. And when you do encounter monsters in the world, and you frequently will, it is where the game shines the most.

    Dragon’s Dogma features the best combat system ever put into an RPG, hands down. This makes Dragon Age’s combat look and play like Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots. The game was developed by people who had previously worked on the Devil May Cry games and boy can you tell. Your character handles like they’re in an action focused game rather than RPG, only with a significantly larger arsenal of moves at their disposal. You might be fighting the same group of goblins you’ve passed six times already but it’s still fun to finish them off in a variety of ways. The game has the usual mage, rogue, warrior classes, advanced versions of each class and then three hybrid classes. Best of all, you change your class at any point during the game, provided you want to throw down the cash. Fortunately it isn’t very expensive. My character for example started out as a rogue, changed to a magic archer and is now an assassin able to wield sword, shields, bows and daggers. Each monster also has specific strengths and weaknesses you can target to take them down. Bigger bad guys like cyclops and golems can even be climbed in order to attack their weak points. Clinging on to a Cyclops’ head, hacking at it’s eye while your mage supporting characters level him with fireballs is superb.

    Which brings us to the games much discussed Pawn mechanic. You have one main supporting character, or Pawn, who you create near the start of the game and who sticks with you through the whole game, leveling up with you. Neither your main character or your main pawn are going to have much personality beyond what their looks and what you imagine them to be like. There’s no Final Fantasy like party camaraderie here. Your party is rounded out by two other pawns who you select in a mysterious void call The Rift. These characters are actually other players Pawns. Every time you stay at an in your Pawn’s current status is uploaded and other players can then select them from the Rift and use them in their own party for as long as they see fit. When they’re done they are rated, gifted with an item and sent back to you with thanks. The best part of this is that a pawn learns about the world as it explores it so your pawn can learn about areas it hasn’t been to in your game, and you can specifically hire a pawn who knows about the current mission your trying to accomplish. They will then offer advice for the mission you currently have selected while you are out in the world. Unfortunately they also like to offer more general advice. Constantly. Reaching a fork in the road? Then you can guarantee one of your pawns will give you a friendly reminded to be doubly sure you are on the right path. Even when it’s a fork right outside the city. After hearing how useful Gran Soren wold be for a base of operations for the hundredth time when you’re forty hours into the game this can get a little tiresome, but it’s easy to ignore.

    Dragon’s Dogma is a strange beast. Simultaneously one of the best RPGs I’ve played and full of weird idiosyncrasies and sub par design. It’s not going to shower you with various riches every five minutes as Skyrim does. Yet in it’s more forced structure it can be just as compelling. Quite simply, the more you put into it the more you get out.

  24. Phantasma says:

    This does sounds interesting.
    I’m not sure if i am in the mood for a flawed gem right now, but at least it piques my interest more than, say, Fallout 4, where i’m exactly sure how it will play and what i can expect before even buying it.

    One question, how about non-combat activities. Are there things to do that make the world feel a bit more alive? Or is everything built around fights and the pawn mechanic?

    And i hate myself for asking that but i’ve got a soft spot for it even if the implementation is often quite tedious… is there any crafting *winces*?

    • Phantasma says:

      Argh, edit button, edit button, edit button…. enchantments!

      • Alevice says:

        The game is quite combat oriented, and the crafting is rather minimal: you collect drops from monster types and have a guy who wanders all over the world map to upgrade your armor and craft new sets iirc.

  25. damoqles says:

    Could we just stop with the ‘Dark Souls is so really very the hardest’ thing already?

    • UncleLou says:

      Only if we can also stop the “you know, Dark Souls isn’t really so hard” thing.

      Because that one really is annoying l.

      • UncleLou says:

        No idea where the “I” came from.

      • damoqles says:

        Let me guess, you haven’t played it (for more than an hour or so).
        Anyway, the truth is annoying sometimes.

        • UncleLou says:

          Your guessing is as great as your judgment of what establishes “truth” or “difficulty”. Not very.

    • Replikant says:

      Here’s the thing with Dark Souls:
      It definitely isn’t easy. In particular, there is a steep learning curve at the start. Also, some boss-battles are really annoying (I am looking at you, Ornstein and Smough).
      In addition:
      – DS has some sort of checkpoint system, instead of saves
      – if you aggro too many enemies, you may die
      – if you get greedy and try to get in “just one more hit” on a boss, you may die
      – depending on your built, you may get-stunlocked and/or two-shotted by some enemies (Dark Knights, bosses, e.g.)
      – some situations require try and error: boss battles (e.g. capra demon, bed of chaos), resurrecting skeletons in the crypt, etc.

      However, if you know all pitfalls, know which enemy to expect where and how to fight them, if you are patient and careful, the game becomes much, much easier.
      Constant blocking with a good shield makes most one-on-one non-boss encounters managable.
      And if you happen to have mastered parry-and-riposte (I haven’t, I keep screwing up the timing now and again), a lot of fights are trivialised, including the final boss-battle.

      Also, the option to summon NPCs and other players for boss-battles is really, really helpful.

    • mukuste says:

      Yeah, seriously. Dark Souls really isn’t that hard once you get over the initial hump of “what the hell is going on and what do I do”.

      Here’s a nice article I just read which seems like a much fairer representation: link to gamesradar.com

    • C0llic says:

      Dark Souls is hard, but it isn’t too hard. That’s why its so popular. It’s tough enough to be satisfying, and all about learning enemy patterns and timing like lots of video games used to be.

  26. mukuste says:

    Curious, the review is rather meh (probably because Richard is a more of a traditionalist RPG player and this sounds more like an action RPG along the lines of Dark Souls?), but the comments of people who’ve played it are mostly glowing praise.

    I’m nearing the end of my first successful Dark Souls playthrough and am actually tempted to give this a try.

    • Suopis says:

      I loved Dark Souls, this game has the same “hey, it is me BERSERK!” feel to me and it sure has unique elements. Namely the dark nights, strange forging and romance systems, really Japanese plot and unseen Pawn system.

      It is an experience, a unique game. Think Shadow of the Colossus. Nothing as deep or calculated as Dark Souls though.

      Recommended.

  27. Bobtree says:

    I loved Dragon’s Dogma, flaws and all. Here’s where the comparisons fall short: for all the borrowed elements and flavor and repetition and less than perfect remixing, the core combat is fantastic and this is a great game. It’s an epic fantasy beat-em-up action romp, with beautiful lighting, big set-piece fights, and some cool locations, and everything else is window dressing. The final dragon boss is not fun (though it was very satisfying to kill that smug bastard), but the subsequent event that sets up the world-changing post-game is INCREDIBLY GREAT, maybe best-ever (I suspect the RPS reviewer may not have gotten there). The difficulty is always manageable, but you will probably die to carelessness and surprises on occasion and then retool to triumphantly return and kick ass.

    Other unmentioned DD things: you can often recruit free Pawns who are found in your world instead of going to NexusMart, there is a lot of random upgrade-able loot and rare stuff to collect and craft, the worst quests (FedEx, escort, talking, etc) are pretty much all skip-able, cut-scenes are short and the plot is minimal, there’s a New Game Plus mode and hard mode, some side-quests will be lost if you advance the main plot, saves are manual (at inns) and by checkpoint (map transitions), and travel and situations can get very interesting and dicey when night falls, particularly if you’re already engaged in a long battle.

    I would buy a proper sequel in a heartbeat, and may well pick up the PC version because I never played the Dark Arisen expansion and always wished it were prettier and smoother than what the PS3 could deliver.

    Here’s the DD RPS forum thread from 2012: link to rockpapershotgun.com

    • neofit says:

      So save locations and checkpoints then? Thank you for the most pertinent bit of information on this whole page. It should have been near the start of the article, would have saved us some time.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        Uh, no, you can save whenever you want outside of combat.

        And I do know the second half twist. But it’s a spoiler, so not mentioned. Because a spoiler.

  28. Monggerel says:

    Aught
    aught
    aught
    aught
    aught

    Dragon D, you keep using that word.
    You’re fucking stupid.

  29. Disgruntled Goat says:

    I beat Dark Souls.

    If a doofus like me could do it, anyone can.

  30. Josh W says:

    This review is pretty much as I remember it, great to watch as well when a fight starts to descend into chaos, and you feel like you could probably start shouting advice, but you will almost definitely make things worse.

  31. Duoae says:

    This is one of my favourite games of all time. I bought the original twice (okay, the second time was by accident! :) ) and Dark Arisen… now I’m buying it again on PC.

    Just love it. The game’s community is great and they help each other above and beyond anything else I’ve seen for any other game.

    If anyone’s interested, I went into quite a lot of detail for my “review” of the title.

    link to hole-in-my-head.blogspot.com.mt

  32. EhexT says:

    “There aren’t many memorable characters or truly great quests. ”
    and
    “and what little plot it offers after the intro comes so late as for the set-up to be forgotten. It involved a dragon and… a dog’s mother”

    Ding Ding Ding. Here’s the Reviewer didn’t finish the game bell going off.

    It’s really handy that Dragons Dogma has a built in “did the reviewer actually play the game to completion” check in the form of a HUGE plot and mechanics twist. It goes from generic fantasy quest to slay dragon to something that suddenly ties everything together and subverts the expectations at a certain point and you can tell with every review if the person writing it actually played that far or not.