Video Game Review: Dragon’s Dogma
From the creators of the Resident Evil series!
During its raid on the small fishing village of Cassardis, a dragon plucks the heart from a villager attempting to defend their home, claiming that he or she is ‘the chosen one’. After eating our hero’s heart, the dragon vanishes leaving our character in the clutches of death; but a miracle occurs and we are resurrected, heartless, back into the world as an ‘Arisen’, destined to find and destroy the creature which stole our life.
Developed by Capcom and directed by director Hideaki Itsuno (Devil May Cry 2, 3 and 4); Dragon’s Dogma is a massively open world fantasy role play game with both hack and slash and survival horror elements reminiscent of the team’s Resident Evil and Devil May Cry (supervised by Hiroyuki Kobayashi) roots but also playing homage to Western RPGs such as the Fable series and Elder Scrolls franchise. Unlike previous RPGs however, Dragon’s Dogma concentrates on action and fighting style game play making it an exciting addition to the RPG family. Many modern RPGs, notably the Fable series, sideline action and fighting in favour for button bashing hack/slash and concentrate on the story and character development; while the Elder Scrolls series focuses on a largely multi-class system with players able to complete the game without the need for major combat if they wish, perhaps favouring stealth or magic trickery. Dragon’s Dogma, however offers a smaller range of classes, favouring combat based vocations, but does not skimp on the story or character because of this.
From the very beginning of Capcom’s newest foray into the RPG genre, the 2012 release Dragon’s Dogma, it is evident our choices and customization options are endless. The character creation screen is impeccably detailed from the simplest gender option to the choices of body type (dwarf to giant). The character classes or vocations also evolve throughout gameplay, from the initial Fighter, Strider and Mage to the more honed Warrior, Ranger and Sorcerer; there are also hybrid vocations for those players who cannot choose between their favoured styles of gameplay: Mystic Knight, Assassin or Magick Archer. This open style of class creation allows you to pick and choose the way that you would like to attack this epic game, be it ranged, close combat or magically. However, if you manage to choose a vocation which doesn’t suit the situation you find yourself in then you always have a wide choice of ‘Pawns’ who are designed to help you through every scenario. Perhaps you will hire a party of mages, strong with destructive attack magic? Or maybe ranged archers with a healing sorcerer designed to buff and defend you as you rush head first into the fray. Whatever you choose you are sure to have a very different gaming style to every other player out there making your game completely unique.
The ‘Pawns’ are otherworldly immortal creatures who you summon to aid you in your adventures. While they can be knocked to the ground in battle, you are able to revive them, making them invaluable tools in combat. That being said, the Pawns are incredibly infuriating; often getting in the way of objects and pushing you into places you did not necessarily want to go. They are also constantly talking, questioning and generally stating very inane comments such as ‘Oh, there is the sea’, when you have been navigating a seaside town for over an hour! While you are able to lower the constance of this annoyance by sitting your pawn down and having a long hard chat, this is sadly not an option for the pawns you pick up along the way.
Unfortunately, they are also unable to revive you, making your life much more precious and causing you to defend a lot more than you would in say, other, co-op 4 player parties such as Gears of War 3 or even Castle Crashers, where the revive option is available down to the last man standing. With the pawn party gameplay echoing co-op 4 player party gameplay so closely, it is surprising that an Xbox Live Party option was not included in this massive game which focuses more on single player campaign. However, with the sheer scale of the single player campaign, this is understandable, as Capcom were able to concentrate on a richer single player experience.
This social aspect is not lost, however, as you are able to pick and choose Pawns to accompany you from your online friends in-game Pawns. Consequently you may use a Pawn who has already aided their own maser with some quests and therefore knows how to help you better if you should enter into the same quest. This can, however, lead to some unfair gameplay when you borrow a Pawn from a friend who may have already completed the game or trained their Pawn to a high level as they will have better armour and skills and generally be more blessed to help ease your game play. But this option is down to the player and how easy they would like to make their experience.
The autosave feature can at times be infuriating if you don’t constantly remember to manually save yourself, as you are often transported far back in the game on the off-chance that you die and have to load from the game’s auto-saved check points. Manual saving is also a bit of a chore due to the time involved, most likely once again due to the sheer size of the game. However, perhaps this could have been easily remedied by a more frequent autosave feature; either way it’s beneficial to load the game onto your console before playing to slow down the save time.
The music and soundtrack to the game is both atmospheric and inspiring, with ambient fantasy tracks reminiscent of Zelda mixed wonderfully with modern Japanese pop and rock to create a fun and adrenaline pumping experience. The voice acting is generally good with some great performances from the NPCs and the Pawns voices are relatively varied with a few vocal options available for each gender, so though you are surrounded by their chatter, it needn’t always be the same. That being said, some of the translations are a little trite, with overly ‘Olde Worlde’ language thrown in to create an ambience of medieval fantasy, but if Game of Thrones has taught us anything, it is that such language is not necessary to create atmosphere; instead it creates an overly cutesy, sometimes laughable language which doesn’t seem to gel well with the world around it.
The art style is breathtaking, with some wonderfully designed maps and towns you could lose yourself in. The monsters, inspired by every fable and myth from Western mythology, from hydras to furies, are beautifully animated and fearsome adversaries. The gameplay option of ‘grabbing’ is a wonderful addition to large scale boss fights, where one can, for example, hitch a ride on a Chimera and hack away at its head whilst grabbing hold. Unlike most RPGs where you are forced to hack away at the ankles of your foe, this interaction with larger scale creatures adds a new dimension to RPG fighting which is both exciting and adds to the survival based fighting style as you avoid the destructive parts of the creature in favour for a laboured but effective approach.
Players have access to an astonishing 50 hours of main quest play, with an additional 70 hours of optional side quests. While the main quest itself is not overly engrossing in its plot, the huge amount of side quests more than makes up for this. Capcom are also already in the process of regularly updating content via DLC with added ‘Chapters’ being included in the game for an additional cost. For those among you looking for a suitable replacement drug for Skyrim, this game is most definitely it.
Game: Dragon’s Dogma
Release Date: 25th May 2012
Genre: RPG, Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Open World, Hack and Slash
Director: Hideaki Itsuno
Anastasia Catris is a freelance illustrator, writer and actress based in South Wales. After graduating in English Literature from Royal Holloway, University of London she studied for a year in comic book art and design in The Kubert School where she nurtured her love of Japanese animation and cartooning as well as its cinema, video games and culture. You can keep up to date with Anastasia’s activity via her website www.anastasiacatris.wordpress.com or her Facebook page www.facebook.com/acatris. You may also follow her on Twitter at @acatris.