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Dragon’s Dogma Review

Sean W. Jun 25, 2012 1
4.5 out of 5 Rating

Dragon’s Dogma is an incredible new third person action RPG set in an open world environment.  It takes place in a land called Gransys, a land ran by a Duke and full of large monsters and creatures to do battle with.

The game begins with a prologue that is the same found in the Dragon’s Dogma demo and, thankfully, can be skipped when starting a new game plus mode.  After the prologue, it will be time to create a character with a robust character creation screen.  Besides skin color, eyes, hair, body shape and facial hair, the mode even allows you to add battle scars only on certain parts of your body.  After settling on a character, the game actually begins showing the arrival of the dragon. The Dragon rages through the land of Gransys bringing destruction and fear.  As the dragon attacks your home village of Cassardis and people are running away, you take up arms and challenge the beast.  After getting some hits on the dragon, the beast knocks you down, says something in an unfamiliar language then proceeds to take out your heart and swallows it right in front of you.  You’re character doesn’t die but instead awakens as Arisen, one who’s destined to battle the dragon.

When setting off on your journey, you are met by an individual to help guide you and support you.  This individual is called a pawn and will be the first you meet on this trek to slay the dragon that stole your heart.  After a short trip to the next area, you get to create your main pawn, one that will stay with you throughout the journey.  Your main pawn will upgrade along side your character and you’re able to customize their items, armor, vocation and personalities freely.

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At this point, the game stops holding your hand and sends you out in the world with vague descriptions of what to do to kill the dragon.  The progression is mission based, meaning you’ll walk up to an NPC (non-playable character), speak to him / her and they’ll give you a task to do.  The variety of tasks include fetch missions, kill missions, defend missions and more.  The game allows multiple missions to run simultaneously allowing you to tackle them in any way you want and when you want.

Which missions are side-missions and which ones are story missions is not easy to tell in Dragon’s Dogma.  Taking a page out of the Demon’s Souls / Dark Souls book of storytelling, the game doesn’t hold your hand or direct you to the completion of the game.  Though this may give a feeling of “what do I do now?”, it also encourages exploration.  Nearly every corner and every mile of area in this game either has some chest or prize waiting.  Taking side roads, detours and brisk walks around the world map will yield you countless weapons, armor, consumables and materials to use with your characters.

Dragon’s Dogma is a singleplayer game but the inclusion of the pawn system removes the feeling of isolation.  The pawns are not humans but rather beings from another world that are looking for a purpose in life.  They are found on the roads, in the cities and in rift stones.  Speaking to any pawn will allow you to enlist their aid in your journey.  If you find a random pawn that you like but do not want in your party at the time, you can add them to a favorites list that can be accessed later at a rift stone.  Rift stones allow you to select any particular pawn for your journey.  They could be selected by level, vocation, gender and more.  Selecting pawns of a higher level than your character will cost rift points, which are obtained by finding rift crystals, which are randomly dropped by enemies and earned from the experience your main pawn gets when visiting other players games.

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In Dragon’s Dogma, your main pawn will visit other players worlds the same as other players pawns will be visiting yours.  These are the pawns that get recruited for your party and are accessible all around the world and in the rift stones.  These pawns come with whatever knowledge they’ve gained from other games they’ve participated in and verbally give that information at every chance they get.  Your main pawn will visit other worlds also and return to your world with any items, knowledge and some money from the other game.  These gifts are received when you stay at the inn and the items are put in your storage box automatically.

Your pawns are full of knowledge but are very verbal.  Even though the information they give is useful, for the most part, you’ll hear the same sentences repeatedly throughout the game.  Many of these sentences are triggered by location and which direction you heading is not taken into consideration.  For example, when passing a bridge, one of your pawns will say, “This road leads to Gran Soren” even when you just left Gran Soren heading in the other direction.  The sentences the pawns speak are also triggered by approaching enemies, which is helpful to know what is approaching your party before the enemies reach you.  If you just do not want to hear the pawn’s chatter, then you can turn down the voices level in the options menu but that turns down all the voices heard so, not really a good fix.

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Dragon’s Dogma has an incredibly fun fighting system.  Your character, your main pawn and the two additional pawns will work as a team to defeat any foes that you’ll encounter.  The game has a hack and slash style of gameplay and uses dramatic cameras to highlight particular elements within the battle.  The combination of these two elements with the ability to scale the larger enemies make even the smallest encounters a enjoyable and exciting fight.  Like in games like Shadow of the Colossus, your team will be able to scale the creatures and attack different parts to take down the enemy.  This can lead to some daring battle sequences with your character holding on to the side of a Griffin striking it while it flies in the sky.  All of these elements make the long trips from location to location anything but boring as the entire world area has monsters, wolves and more to do battle with.

There is a lot of walking in this game. There are no readily available warp points or easy method to transport around  the world map except for an item called a ferrystone that can warp your character back to Gran Soren.  Later in the game, you’ll gather another item  called a portcrystal that will operate as a mobile spawn point for the ferrystone.  Ferrystone’s are not readily available except for at a single store and for a pretty high price when starting the game.  This pretty much guarantees you’ll be spending most of your time  walking the countryside collecting items, battling foes big and small, leveling up your characters and completing missions.  To be honest, if this game featured a robust warping system, many people wouldn’t explore the world of Gransys and discover all the hidden areas, secrets and caves all around.  It would also mean that people would level up more slowly and players would need to grind to take down enemies toward the end of the game.  If a person plays the game without using any warp system but rather walking everywhere, then by the time they reach the end of the game, your character will be powerful enough to defeat the main dragon.

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The game features a complete day and night cycle which one must mind while traveling this world.  Traveling is safer during the day.  The enemies can be seen approaching and usually consist of snow harpies, wolves and goblins.  At night, ghosts, skeletons and the undead wander the lands and all of these creatures are more difficult to defeat at night.  Also at night, the game is near pitch black.  Your character has a lantern that will light up the area around you so you can see, but that also attracts enemies to focus their attacks on the big bright target.  Your lantern is fueled by oil so it’s helpful to stock up on extra oil on long trips for safety.  While fighting some of the larger enemies like the cyclops, the battles will take some time to complete so a battle with one may start in the afternoon and the beast will finally fall in the middle of the night.  Staying at the inn will allow you to awaken when it’s daytime or nighttime so if your looking for drops that only appear from ghosts or skeletons, then it is easily doable.

The element of Dragon’s Dogma which is key to the games immersive nature is the customization.  The game gives you the ability to design your own character, their fighting type, the weapons they use and how they fight in battle. This gives a sense of ownership that has been lost in other role playing games.  Dragon’s Dogma also gives you the ability to decide which missions you do if you choose to do any missions and leaves it up to you to decide if you even want to progress in the story.  Want to run around near naked and punch your foes to death, you can do it.  Want to be a little person with a lot of holy spells, go for it.  Want to be a six foot woman that fights with a small melee weapon, possible also.

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Your character’s vocation can be changed in the inn at Gran Soren.  Dragon’s Dogma allows you to purchase the other classes for next to no cost in the game and it gives you the freedom to switch between them at any time while at the Gran Soren Inn.  Want to be a Ranger for one mission then a Mystic Knight the next, you absolutely can.  If there are some physical elements that you do not like on your character, there is a barber shop that will allow you to change them for a small monetary cost. At anytime, you can change nearly everything about your character and main pawn which is fantastic in the game.

The game features nine different vocations but only three are available from the start, and only 6 are available for your main pawn.  The rest of the options will be accessible when you reach level 10 and only at the inn keeper in Gran Soren. There is a one time low cost fee to buy access to any other vocation but the specialized skills available for you to use will be limited  until that vocation is ranked up.  Each vocation can be ranked up to level 10 with the ability to buy skills along the way with discipline points.  Discipline points are gained by doing battle with enemies and leveling up.  Some skills will work with multiple vocations and so switching from a knight or a mage to a mystic knight (magic knight) will be more advantageous.  The melee heavy vocations are fighter and warrior.  The magic vocations are mage and sorcerer.  The long-range vocations are strider and ranger.  The last three are hybrid vocations, and they are mystic knight, magick archer and assassin; each one blending the elements of two of these vocations together.

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Throughout the game, you’ll find weapons and armor in chests and from enemy drops.  Most weapons can be used by only one or two vocations and are enhanced by the merchant in Gran Soren.  Even some of the most random items are used to upgrade weapons and armor so it becomes helpful to grab everything you see,  Just remember to deposit the items regularly as you’re character becomes heavier when you’re carrying more items.  Movement will eventually become restricted if you become over-encumbered.  It’s easy to dump items to someone else in your party so after just a minute of sorting, you can go back to collecting everything you see again.

Tools, consumable items, materials and more can be combined with other items.  For example, combining the standard greenwarish which yields a little health gain with the sweet pollen will yield potent greenwarish, an item that yields more health gain.  There is no real chart or order to find out what combinations work well together.  The best method is pretty much clicking combine and seeing what options become available.

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The faults within Dragon’s Dogma are technical ones.  The game world has constant pop-in that is clearly noticeable.  Bushes, shrubs, rocks may all pop in while the game is streaming in the content from the disc.  Enemies do not have such pop-in issues, just the foliage that fills in the world.  Sometimes in the biggest battles, the game will slow down a bit.  Other than these two issues of pop-in and slow down, the game performs well.

After going through the world several times, you’ll notice that many enemies will spawn at the same points.  Around the same rock will be a group of bandits that will attack, and some meters ahead,  some snow harpies will attack you.  All the enemies have a set level so after gaining enough experience, you’ll be able to nearly walk right through any enemies you struggled with at the beginning of the game.  By the time the game is completed and a new game plus mode has been started, your character and his/ her weapons will be seriously overpowered compared to most enemies.  Regardless of this, the battles still feel exciting and fun on the second journey through Gransys.

Dragon’s Dogma has a picture mode in the pause screen that will take a screenshot of the game and create a 1280 x 720 jpeg file.  This resulting picture is enhanced from what is scene within the moving game.  This mode has no way to rotate the camera around to frame the shot, it is literally a “take a picture of what is happening right at this moment” camera.

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The sound in Dragon’s Dogma works well.  Full surround is used in the game and it helps locate enemies that my have ran behind your character.  The monsters roar feel menacing and their attacks sound powerful as they knock your team back.  Music in the game is triggered by getting close to enemies and when returning to Gran Soren after any quest.  The Gran Soren music reminds me of the world map song in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it gives a since of accomplishment, carefree and pride when entering the city an running to the next destination.  This game is one where turning up the sound absolutely add to the experience and surround sound is recommended.

Dragon’s Dogma is a wonderful action-RPG in a complete open world environment.  The shining star of the game is the excellent and exciting battle system.  Each encounter with enemies, no matter how small, has a since of fun that makes you want to find the next Cyclops to fight rather than avoid them.  The flaws are the pop-in and, to some, the lack of a warp system, but both of these are minor in comparison to the action of Dragon’s Dogma and the rewards the game gives you.  The character customization gives you ownership over your character and the game does a great job making each of the vocations a useful and rich experience.  Dragon’s Dogma is an excellent game from Capcom that I recommend for any older RPG fans and third person action fans alike.