Game review: Dragon’s Dogma
Over the last few years, several big RPGs have defined the genre and (rightly or wrongly) gamers’ expectations of what makes a good roleplaying game.
Right from the title menu – with its blend of synthesiser keyboard and electric guitar rock that brings back memories of hours spent in gaming arcades or watching anime cartoons – Dragon’s Dogma from Capcom is different from most Western RPGs.
While these traditional titles tend to try and have a cohesive, overarching story, with Dragon’s Dogma it’s unclear as to whether there are big gaps in the storytelling, or just deliberate omissions of material deemed irrelevant to the gamer.
In a nutshell, you play as the ‘Arisen’, a character who is one day minding his own business in his fishing village when a massive dragon kills half the town, then for some reason recognises him, says something in dragonish, and picks out and eats his heart. Strangely enough you survive this, and after recovering a bit, embark on a quest to track down the dragon and get back your heart. Righto.
The game does offer direction for the first hour or so, but after that the main storyline becomes a lot harder to track, with multiple side quests vying for your attention.
Starting out, you get to create your character and choose from one of three different classes: Fighter, Mage or Strider (a mix of dagger and bow combinations).
Control- and combat-wise, Dragon’s Dogma follows a fairly standard hack and slash format, with skills being purchasable and mapped to either buttons or specific button combinations. One nifty feature is the ‘grab’ button, which can be used to either pick up and throw barrels and enemies, or more awesomely to grab onto a massive monster in order to climb up its back like Legolas in The Lord of the Rings. Combat for the most part is satisfying; however, ranged abilities like archery are rather difficult to aim, leaving you feeling that an NPC companion might do a better job, and perhaps you should stick to smashing things. Boss battles, when they occur, are particularly good fun, and give a real sense of accomplishment.
It should be stated at this point that Dragon’s Dogma is hard. Maybe not Dark Souls hard, but certainly harder than many other RPGs on the market at present. While it’s good to have a game that is a challenge, it’s also nice when a game ramps up the difficulty at an appropriate pace, like walking up a nice hill.
Dragon’s Dogma, in comparison, is closer to parkour. Often you will encounter enemies that are far too difficult for your companion, requiring you to bring out your best ‘Sir Robin’ impersonation (in other words, run away) until you have levelled up enough to take on the challenge.
Unfortunately, Dragon’s Dogma never gives you any indication of how difficult an enemy is until you start fighting them. In some places you will also find a group of enemies that are harder than the rest of the enemies in the area; in one instance these were frustratingly blocking a path and proved impossible to sneak around.
Still, in Dragon’s Dogma you are not alone. When you start the game you get to create not only your character, but also a companion for the entirety of the game, called a Pawn.