Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dragon's Dogma Review

This odd mix of Monster Hunter, Devil May Cry and your typical open world RPG was released back in May on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, since then I have put in fifty hours and experienced the majority of what it has to offer. I was initially interested in Dragon's Dogma because you could climb giants, scale dragons and fight enemies of grand scale in epic battles with a party by your side, a party that can learn tactics against every enemy in the game. This is the first attempt by Capcom, to my knowledge, to try to do a RPG of this scale and in they did a pretty decent job at tackling this type of game, but there is plenty to like and dislike about the game.

One of the most enjoyable parts of Dragon's Dogma is the combat. It is smooth, satisfying and well done. Smaller enemies are a more typical affair, but even they have different weaknesses and strengths. It is exhilarating when you are fighting a huge enemy for the first time, like a dragon or golem, and trying to figure out how to kill it, especially when none of your party members have any knowledge about how to kill it. Being able to climb up the tail of a dragon as it flies through a forest breathing fire down onto your panicking allies is fun, to say the least. Large enemies are a lot more complex than the smaller enemies and can be mutilated in many different ways. For instance, cyclops can be armored and you need to knock off their armor in order to hit that specific body part. You can also stab them in the hands and make them drop their clubs, hit them in the eye for extreme damage or attack their tusks to make them panic. While all of those different ways to attack a cyclops do specific things, like more damage or changing the stance of the cyclops, they also each drop specific items, which you use to upgrade your equipment.

Every enemy in Dragon's Dogma drop it's own unique materials and items. You use those items continuously to upgrade your equipment and the equipment of main your pawn (companion). You can have two other pawns in your party on top of your main pawn and you may upgrade their equipment as well, but if you do so you cannot remove it and it goes back to the owner when you stop using them. Your main pawn levels up and is just as customizable as your main character, but the other two pawns come at a fixed level and they cannot be customized. Despite the fact that you have to periodically recruit new pawns, the whole party system works very well and the it is just as easy to get as attached to your main pawn as it is to your character.

Now onto some less exciting parts of the game, the story and the setting. The story starts out like a typical bland RPG; big dragon comes, attacks your village, your the chosen one, you have to go kill it, sounds about right. You go around doing side quests from the two tavern boards in the game and take some missions from the Duke of Gransys, who is basically the king. Some of the main quests missions are a little more interesting than others, like one where you retake the Shadow Keep with a retinue of the dukes soldiers, but quests that strive to make these great scenes make you realize just how sub par the story and quests are in comparison to the rest of the game. This is a AAA title, but it lacks much of what you might expect from a high quality $60 RPG. The whole world feels fairly lifeless, despite the monsters inhabiting it. There are no random encounters you might run into, no random chests, everything that is there is set specifically to be there. The one thing that you can find in all parts of the world is other pawns, which you can recruit, but they are indifferent to your suffering or your journey, unless you recruit them.

The story in Dragon's Dogma takes forever to become the slightest bit interesting, not until about halfway through specifically, and it becomes very weird. Just because it's weird doesn't necessarily mean its good, but it does match the craziness of many other Capcom games and if it had they had kept the same theme throughout the whole game then it would have been much more engaging in the beginning. That isn't to say the first half of the game is terrible, especially since you can have a lot of fun exploring the whole world and ignoring the main quest. One of the most interesting characters in the game is The Dragon, especially once you learn the whole story. The story is hurt a bit by the voice acting, which is all over the place, and there are a few times when it makes you seem like you might actually get to choice something, but they merely present you with the illusion of a choice.

The world becomes a dark place halfway through

The side quests in Dragon's Dogma give you extra incentive to go explore the whole world, but other than a few significant side quests, most of them require you to merely kill x number of creatures or collect some specific item. Usually exploring the world in any open world RPG is one of the most interesting features, for people that like to explore that is, and in this it is quite stunted. There are only a few times in the game where you actually feel like you made an impact on the world and that is mainly due to the respawn system. Every enemy in the game, except for a few particulars, respawns and this is done for three reasons: one, so you may continue to harvest experience, two, so you can continually harvest materials for upgrading equipment and three so you will always have enemies to fight as you go through the world. This system isn't terrible and it is easy to see why they did it, but it destroys all sense of persistence and the same enemies spawn in the same spot every single time, even drakes and huge enemies.

Dragon's Dogma is definitely a RPG that has a lot of content. It took me about forty hours to go through the game the first time and I explored as much as I could and did as many as the side quests as I could find, but once you beat the game you get a new game plus. The class system lets you switch to any class as long as you have the skill points to do so, which are easy to earn through combat, and when you beat the game you keep all of your equipment, your level, all of your skills points and all of your class experience. So, if you beat the game as a master Sorcerer, you can immediately start the game again as the same character with all of the same equipment. You can choice to change your appearance the second time around, but otherwise everything else is the same. If you want to experience some new quests or get some powerful equipment then Capcom has you covered with far too much DLC, but you don't really need to do that since the new game plus has a bunch of new enemies in the world, new equipment to find and the Ur Dragon to fight. Players collectively fight the Ur Dragon and those who contribute to its death get some of the best equipment in the game. Take a look at that.

Last Comments
Dragon's Dogma is a unique RPG that tried to bring a new style of combat into the open world RPG genre. The world is flawed, characters have stagnant personalities, and much of what you might expect from this type of game isn't done very well, like fast travelling, but this is Capcom's first attempt and they definitely have created something worthwhile. Graphically the game is rather good looking, especially when you see a Griffon flying over head or even in the far distance, but there are plenty of bland textures, lackluster environments and clunky character designs. There are a few bugs in the game, mostly related to some side quests, but it is a mostly bug free experience. This is a hard game to recommend for full price and it is almost worth it, but Dragon's Dogma definitely isn't for everyone and the demo doesn't do a very good job representing the game. However, The combat system is good enough to pull you through boring side quests and a story that takes way too long to get going. I very much appreciate Capcom trying new ideas and I can't wait to see the sequel, which has been confirmed for development. 

Violent Score: 7 (out of 10)

-Written by Sean Cargle


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