Dragons Dogma Review! Ride Or Die Baby!
Overview:Systems: PS3, XBOX 360
Pros:Great immersive combat, Tons of customization, Excellent animated monsters
Cons:Struggling game engine, Walking more than the Boston Marathon, Pawns that won’t STFU!
Strap on your codpiece and crank up the Dio! Capcom has delivered a quality action fantasy that blends several classics together. Do you dare take the fate of Gransys in your hands and become the arisen?
Capcom is back with an original title! Created by the makers of Devil May Cry 4 and Resident evil 4 this new endeavour might have the staying power to someday have a 4 behind its title. Heck, maybe even a Super Alpha Hyper to the front of it as well! So suit up and grab your gear as I give you a tour of this new land of Gransys.
It is a time of peace in the land of Gransys. Alas,the resurrection of the dragon is upon us! With it comes all sorts of beasts and demons that will terrorize the land. The dragon’s first stop is the small fishing village of Cassardis. As the Wyrm wrecks havoc throughout the village you take up arms to save your fellow villagers. Your actions do not go unrewarded. The dragon bestows you a gift of becoming the arisen. With it comes the small cost of having your heart ripped out and eaten by the dragon. This act binds you to him and thus starts your quest to rid the land of the menace. Unfortunately, that’s about as deep as the main story gets. There are some twists and turns near the end but I will leave that up to you to discover.
This will not be your only task. You will be bombarded with side quests from every town and encampment you visit. Some of these quests help flesh out the main story but most are self contained events. These range from escort missions to fetch quests. Capcom has taken a cue from Western RPG’s and padded the experience with a ton of these. After a while they will become redundant. If you are diligent you will learn to knock out many of them while completing main story events.
The game is a crazy mix of many classics. It has many traits familiar to Capcom’s Monster Hunter series. The fighting mechanics mix Devil May Cry with Demon Souls. Climbing the giant monsters are like the Playstation 2 classic Shadows of the Colossus. Also upgrading of equipment and potion creation harkens back to the Resident Evil series. Lastly, instead of adding co-op play or something similar to the Souls series, Dragons Dogma has created the pawn system. An inventive feature that could become great with some fine tuning.
Combat will vary with whatever class you choose. These classes can also be upgraded to more advanced ones later in your quest. Choosing your class and what pawns accompany you will be vital for survival. This combination in a way can make the game feel like a single player MMO. While you can pick the pawns that accompany you on your adventure, leveling them up is something you can’t do. Only upgrading your own pawn is available. These other pawns are the property of another player. So whenever you use one, it will gain knowledge of quests you have completed and take it back to their master. Your own pawn will also provide you with clues to quests that you have not yet finished after they have done so with another. It’s an awesome feeling when your pawn drops knowledge on you about a quest you have been working on. It gives the sense these guys have some kind of life of their own. But as helpful as these pawns are they won’t shut the heck up! Lines of dialogue will repeat often and in the very same location they said it the first time. It gets old very fast. My advice, don’t dwell on it. There is too much good stuff in this game to let it become a distraction. Once you find a knowledge chair you can at least tone down your own pawns constant barrage of known facts.
The fighting is fast and furious. It really blends the more methodical combat of the Souls series with the frantic styling’s of Devil May Cry. As you level you will choose to upgrade your skills (special attacks) and assign them to your hotkeys. This adds tons of variation when you throw in all the classes that are available. Setting up your special attacks in conjunction with your pawns is something spectacular to see in combat. The tactical side really won’t play into it until you get to the gigantic bosses. Looking for a weakness and striking will be your key to survival as well as the choosing the right equipment and specials. Add in that climbing aspect on the bigger foes and things can get wild. Watching your mage cast giant wind storms at a Cyclops, while you climb up and knock its helmet off so your ranger can finish the job with some keen bow attacks can be really good stuff!
Top this off with a day/night cycle that increases the presence and power of your enemies things can feel a little like a survival horror game. When night settles in it gets dark, I mean dark! If you don’t have a lantern and some oil to fuel it, you can be in a world of hurt. Couple this with the lack of a fast travel system. Also early on in the game you might be looking for a house or cave to hide out till the morning. While I applaud the lack of fast travel I do realize it will frustrate some. Once you acquire some ferry stones and port crystals this will alleviate a bit, but those items will be few and expensive early on. Another issue I have is that enemies will spawn in the same area. Mixing up spawn points for enemies could have broken up the monotony.
Once you complete the game it does offer a new game plus to keep the experience alive. This is bittersweet since you will start the game with all your godlike status and all the monsters will be as powerful as your first run through. A ramp up in challenge like the souls series would have been nice. Maybe this can be patched or added in some dlc down the road.
The old MT framework engine looks to be showing its age finally. With such an expansive world it just can’t keep up. Textures can range from good to bland and there is a ton of pop in. Some of that can be lessened when the game is installed to the hard drive. On PS3 this is a mandatory install and on the 360 it is an option like all games for the system. It’s very recommended on the 360. This will cut down in some of the graphic shortcomings and also decrease the load times. Also, like many games that use the MT framework there is another difference between the PS3 and 360 versions. Either you go with the v-synced PS3 version that has no screen tear and decreased frames, or you go with the 360 that will have screen tear but run at a faster frame rate. So pick your poison. Whichever way you go there is still awesome things to feast your eyes on. Massive undead filled tombs, dense forests that hide unseen horrors, and vast crumbling embattlements to name a few.
The animation on all the monsters is fantastic. Truly some of the best I have ever seen in a fantasy game. Riding on back of a Griffon while you hack on it till it comes crashing to the earth must be experienced. Not the same can be said about the animation of the city’s denizens. The beasties definitely got the chimera’s share of attention in this category.
Sound: Things could be better on this end. Background ambience and monster noise are fine as well as the sounds of combat. But I can’t for the life of me even remember if there was a soundtrack (except for the epic J-rock menu song!). This might have been in part to the pawn’s idle chatter. Also most NPCs have horrible accents. You might sometimes wish for the days when everything was text delivered.
I have to commend Capcom for stepping it up and delivering such a bold new adventure. It’s been confirmed that Dragons Dogma has indeed become franchised. Adding co-op would be great, but if they just expand and perfect what is here, we will still be in for a serious treat. Even with its faults I still recommend a full price purchase. We live in a time when many new ideas are passed over for sequels. When a company so guilty of that, like Capcom, steps up and takes a chance, we should reward them.
Dragon’s Dogma comes with a demo of Resident Evil 6. It’s a rough demo and might further splinter the fan base with its new features and gameplay. Capcom does have until October to get all the kinks worked out and hopefully deliver a solid product.