Dragon’s Dogma is hard as nails, that’s a fact. It’s a third-person action bloodfest, but it’s also a deep and impressive RPG which will have you fighting against huge dragons, cyclops, goblins and all manner of other creatures. No matter where you are in this expansive and impressive world, you’ll be in trouble, which is why it’s just as well you have some hired help by your side, fighting for you, protecting you and showing you the way.
Dragon’s Dogma is one of Capcom’s most impressive adventures yet. It’s a world rivalling that of Skyrim and The Witcher 2 in size and nature, but it’s so much more hardcore. It may not be as pretty as the two aforementioned games, however it’s just as good and is certainly one of the better games to release this year so far.
The story behind Dragon’s Dogma starts of fairly simple. A Dragon is awoken and roams the land, causing chaos by terrorising land dwellers and burning towns to the ground. Thankfully, though the Dragon has a nemesis, the Arisen. This is where your character comes in, you are the Arisen, a chosen one whose destiny it is to rid the world of the Dragon and restore peace back to the land.
Once you have discovered your fate it’s then time to create your character, which takes the same form as many other RPG’s where you can choose between many male and female physical forms before going on to choose your class, be it a Warrior, the bow wielding Strider or Mage.
Choosing your class is obviously important, but the genius of Dragon’s Dogma is the pawn system. Pawns are magical creatures whose job it is to accompany and protect you on your quest. They look human in appearance and also carry many of the same attributes, therefore as you play throughout the game they’ll rank up, collect equipment and follow any command you may wish to bestow upon them. You can even sit down and at inn and give them an idea of who you would like them to behave. It’s brilliant.
Using pawns can become quite tactical as you can swap them in and out of your party, allowing you to fill your group with fighters or have a mixture of different classes, such as mages for healing and magical attacks and striders for long range attacks. It is important to plan your party well; if for example, your party is full of fighters then how will you take down creatures flying over your head? Also, what if you’re up against a rather tough creature, how will your party recover without a healer? These are decisions you must make throughout this sprawling adventure.
Swapping pawns is easy, you simply visit the Rift Stone, a mystical area covered in fog that can be found in most towns and cities.. Here you can wander about, recruiting up to two pawns at a time in addition to your main companion whom you create at the beginning of the game. There is also a menu system which allows you to search for pawns based on class, skills and more or even downloaded from the internet; yes, you can actually download pawns which have been created by others and use them in your adventure. People can even download your pawn, gaining you cash and new items. If it sounds like a fantastic idea, that’s because it is.
This pawn system not only work wells when choosing your party, but also in action. The combat in Dragon’s Dogma is brilliant; Pawns will shout out strategies which help you win the fight. For example when fighting a Cyclops they told me to attack it’s eye, so I grabbed its leg and climbed up it’s back (yes you can actually climb up monsters – amazing), after being thrown about I finally got to the head, at which point I attacked the eye. Eventually this resulted in me being thrown to the ground, but it was a very effective attack. The talking continues throughout all combat, with pawns telling you if enemies are vulnerable to certain attacks, it’s very clever and works well, with the only drawback being that it can get a little repetitive sometimes.
The pawns are definitely what makes Dragon’s Dogma’s combat special, they’ll support you with healing and by attacking the enemy. If you choose a character who is weaker in the combat stakes, they’ll do the fighting for you. When your character is in trouble you can even issue commands using the D-Pad, such as ‘Help’, ‘Go’ and ‘Come’.
Throughout the game your main mission is to get that Dragon, however much like many other RPG’s you can deviate and take on other missions, allowing you to crawl dungeons, fight against mercenaries, partake in some pest control or find yourself taking part in some fetch and collect missions. All of these quests will gain you experience and coin, allowing your character and the pawns to grow stronger and gain new weapons and equipment.
Wandering through the towns is where you’ll gain most of the side missions, and it’s here you’ll also be able to equip your character, changing their look with a new set of armour or weapons. You can even ask the blacksmith to enchant your weapons, making them stronger and therefore allowing you more strength when taking down the enemy. Other equipment such as herbs, will allow you to heal during battle, although you can find different collectable plants on your journey also.
Dragon’s Dogma is packed with many brilliant moments, be it random encounters with Cyclops, wolves or flying female hybrids. Throughout you’ll continue to be challenged and no will doubt find yourself pressing that retry button again and again, as the enemy continues to get the better of you. The thing is, you’ll never know whether you’ll be able to defeat enemies in a certain area without going there first. If you continue to die then perhaps it’s time to try a different tactic, such as recruiting new pawns, or maybe you should just wait until you are stronger? It’s incredibly tough to get your tactics spot on, but once you do it feels very rewarding.
Frustration will no doubt creep in throughout your travels in Dragon’s Dogma, it’s so unpredictable and not for those who throw their controller at the screen at the first sign of a reload screen. If you stick with it though, you’ll love it because it’s such a great, innovative RPG, which is well worth anyone’s time.Capcom’s never been short of great franchises in the past, what with Street Fighter, Monster Hunter and Devil May Cry all sitting proudly in it’s back catalogue. Now it can add another title to that impressive list, because Dragon’s Dogma is here and it’s wonderful.
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy(version tested: PS3)
Dragon’s Dogma is scheduled for release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in North America on May 22 and across Europe on May 25, you can pre-order your copy here.