Dragon's Dogma Review
- Posted July 27th, 2012 at 11:18 EDT by Timothy Nunes
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Neither Monster Hunter nor Dark Souls--but a great combination of the two.
- Full, challenging experience
- Simplistic, engrossing leveling/enhancing system
- Innovative use of companions with other players
- Deceiving auto-save function
- No fast-travel
- Some issues with companion compliance
The thing about challenging games is that it becomes hard to really deliver the full experience in an explanation without complaining a lot. The great thing about challenging games like Dragon’s Dogma, however, is that it promotes toward a demographic that really enjoys games like Dark Souls. I can't say for sure, but what was intended by Capcom to be a Monster Hunter game on consoles became something much better, but without the fanfare and the gameplay mechanics of the successful handheld title. Capcom has skipped over a Monster Hunter for most next-gen consoles, but the potential for a stronger console IP is all here.
In the world of Gransys, you are destined to save the land and are titled The Arisen. You become aware of this after a massive dragon attacks your tiny beach village and steals your heart. Literally. The entire showing is great, considering that the dragon is almost born through the cloud formation which accompanied it. After a "bout" with the dragon upon finding a rusty sword on the beach, the dragon takes over the fight. It pins you down, claws into your chest, and then removes and eats your heart. You lose consciousness and wake up in the home of one of your neighbors and overhear that you're still alive, but she’s astonished, because you don't have a beating heart. Upon becoming an Arisen, you set out on a journey to overtake the dragon that has “stolen your heart” and free the land of Gransys from the fear of the dragon and the land-wide overrun of monsters.
Capcom has done some really great things with Dragon’s Dogma. Vocations, or roles, are chosen at the onset of the story, which are the mage, the warrior, and the rogue. Each vocation has two options with which to play. The warrior can be either a tank or a melee damage dealer, the rogue can be either an archer or a traditional rogue, and the mage can be either a healer or a damage dealer. These vocations can be truly specialized, but the sub-vocation options aren’t exactly forced either. Players can be both of the vocation options, such as being a fire mage with healing abilities or a rogue that is skilled with a bow. The best part about vocations, however, is that they can be changed, almost at any time. This is done at an inn; the inn you will use most will be located within Gran Soren, the heart and soul of Gransys.
Gran Soren is a hub where you can enhance equipment, rest, and buy materials. In games like this, it’s traditional to combine gathered and purchased materials to construct and enhance items, and Dragon’s Dogma does a decent job in this respect. Though players can’t necessarily create weapons and armor, looted and purchased gear can be enhanced at the blacksmith with money and materials gathered from the environment and monsters. It’s a bit disappointing that Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t have any full-fledged crafting mechanics, but, since it’s sold pretty well, it’s not weird for game companies to developer sequelitis.
Gransys is massive, especially since it has to be navigated on foot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing on its own, since monsters frequent the land and gatherable items and equipment can be found in every nook and cranny in the world. In fact, after every significant fight, take a few seconds to look around that area. Chances are that a chest lies in hiding with uncommon items and scads of cash ripe for the picking. The major drawbacks to this game lie in transportation, being the ability to quickly go from place to place and return to Gran Soren without having to run back. In order to go anywhere, you have to go there on foot—that’s right, no fast travel function—and the only way to quickly return to Gran Soren is to buy an item called the Ferrystone that costs 20,000 of in-game gold, or happen across one that may rarely be lying next to key areas in towns.
Players create a companion at the onset of the game, and that companion goes through the same beginning customization steps as the player character did, selecting vocation and aesthetics. These companions are not mere additions, however. Companions can be fully suited like your main character can, and their equipment can ... (continued on next page)